Tuesday, November 15, 2011

visiting your national parks.

We were patrolling the souvenir shop at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devils Hill, looking for a Christmas ornament to hang on our tree, something to remember our little trip by. 

Then Jordan spotted it. 

I don't know how he thought I'd be able to resist it. 

$8.95 for a passport to the national parks? A way to keep track of all the parks you visit across the country? Essentially, a list, with pretty stamps and stickers?

Um, yes. Yes, we will take one of those. 

And you'd have thought the little old lady at the checkout counter was going to just bust with pride, so excited to be giving us our pocket-sized passport, instructing us on where to place stamps, how to get them at each stop, etc. 

The whole product idea and philosophy is genius. 

I treasure my "real" passport, the one that shows my stamps from Italy, that takes me back to 2005, when I was 19 and traversing a foreign land, full of excitement and wonder and anticipation. I cannot bear to get a new one, even though I am no longer legally Annie Sue Butterworth, even though passports expire anyway. I just don't understand why we can't collect all of our travels in one, well-worn map, so that we have something to show for the end of our days. 

But this passport doesn't expire. It doesn't have our names or birth dates or social security numbers. 

Instead it has maps and pictures of some of the prettiest places this country has to offer. It keeps track of where we've been, where we're going, and where we want to go still. 

When Jordan and I stood at the counter, carefully placing our first stamp on page 46, in the Southeastern section of our book, I got so excited. I love that Jordan and I travel together, and well. Travel companions are not always easy to come by, and I know that I am lucky that my husband and I happen to travel so easily and amiably together. I love that we both treasure things like parks and stamps and passports, that Jordan knew the moment he saw that book it would be something we could enjoy doing together. 

So far, we have four stamps in our passport (plus a couple of commemorative stamps, since this year happens to be the passport's 25th anniversary). We traveled long and hard to get those stamps, and at each stop we were greeted by wonderful park volunteers and rangers, eager to watch us embark on our journey of getting to know this nation a little bit better.

I realize this may all sound a little nerdy, maybe even a little gimmicky to you, like it's some ridiculous ploy by our nation's park's department to get people back into the habit of traveling across the country, visiting sites of historical and national importance. 

Well, if that's a gimmick, then please: Sign me up. 

I want to support and to see all this beautiful country has to show its inhabitants. Already, in this one trip, we were able to secure stamps at a national seashore, at the historic Roanoke site (which also happened to be a stop on the Underground Railroad), and at the site of the Wright Brother's first flight.

Each time we stopped in to receive our stamp, I was reminded of the trips my parents used to take me and my brother on as children, and I couldn't help but think about how much my parents would love their own passport, would have loved keeping a record of our family's travels across the southeast, through the Blue Ridge Parkway and Natchez Trace, up to Gettysburg and across to Colorado.

I'm glad Jordan and I went ahead and bought one, glad my husband loves this whole idea as much as (more than?) I do. I'm glad we're starting our own little record, glad my parents somehow passed this legacy of love and appreciation for nature and for history on to me. 

Sometimes, I bet parents don't think their lessons to us stick. I bet they think we're not listening, that we're too busy reading books or listening to iPods, ignoring the very things they're trying to get us to appreciate. 

Mom and Dad, take heart: There's a little black passport in our glove compartment that says otherwise. 


You can purchase your own Passport to the National Parks online here, or at most national parks visitors' centers across the country. 


monster cakes said...

I love you guys. Someday you must visit Yosemite National Park in California. It's so insanely huge and gorgeous and the hiking! Oh the hiking! The red wood trees are so big it doesn't even make sense. Ok my west coast bit is done. haha

our home to yours said...

what a cool idea!!1 we've been to the outerbanks a few times but never saw this. Thanks for the link. I'm off to get my own passport.
- ourhometoyours

mary kate said...

my mom has this rule that whenever any of us go on a trip out of state we have to buy a ornament for our christmas tree and eventually when we grow up and leave the house we can take them with us to remember all the places we've been. i love that national parks passport it sounds like such a great idea! and like something that leslie knope would be a part of ;)

Cindy P said...

Oh my goodness! Thank you SO much for talking about this Passport book on here. I'm totally going to have to buy one for Collin and myself. We love to travel and I love the idea of keeping track of all the national parks and places we've been! And it gives us places to look forward to going to!

I loved this post and it reminded me so much of us! We're very much alike, you and I. And Jordan and Collin seem a lot a like, too!

Hailey Marie said...

what a fun idea!! We pass through so many on road trips and vacations, what a fun way to remember each visit!

Brunella said...

one day, i realize this drem.

Brunella said...

oh Annie i forget: this passport is like "compostela", compostela is a "passport with stamp of every town in Spain visit walking (800 kilometri on foot) into Cammino di Santiago di compostela. It' s a special passport! A great idea!

Erin said...

oh! I am buying one for hubby's christmas stocking. Yay!! I love it!
the real passport issue saddens me. I have trips in my original passport should be able to be with me forever. I was so sad when I needed to get a new one. :(