Breaking in a Passport

It has been nearly a decade since I first acquired my little blue book. I went to South Korea. It was not exactly a dream destination when I was growing up. When your husband has been there for ten months though, it becomes your number one vacation destination.

I flew commercially from Florida to Seattle. From Seattle, I planned to take the military hop for the final journey. Do you know anything about military hops (or Space Available travel)? If they have space available, and if you have twenty forms completed correctly, and if the stars are aligned, you get to fly nearly for free. Can you see where this is going?

If you know me personally, you know that my control issues were one thousand times worse then. I called every day for over a week trying to make sure that they really thought there would be room on the flight. When I arrived in Seattle, I spent the day with my husband’s aunt and took in the view of the amazing mountains on a sunny October day. I had to be back at the airport by midnight. That is when I found out there was a problem. There often is with Space A travel.

Turns out the staff was right, there were plenty of seats. Unfortunately, there was so much cargo on the plane, it was already at it’s weight capacity, so I would no flight to Korea.

God sent a team of angels to me though: the USO and another military spouse who’d flown that exact route several times. The USO not only gave me food and internet access, but a comfortable place to sleep. I will never forget waking up to find out that one of the older gentleman volunteers had stood outside my bunk just to make sure none of the guys could try anything. (Just for the record, every one of the airmen and soldiers acted as complete gentlemen that night too.) For several hours into the early morning, that military spouse was scouring the web and making calls until she found airline tickets direct to Seoul for about $600. To have the time planned with my husband instead of waiting for the next possible military flight? Easy decision.

That turned out to be the single most comfortable, enjoyable flight of my entire life. There was one flight attendant for every five or six people. The best part? Getting off of that plane after nearly 24 hours of flights and layovers to see my husband for the first time in months!

We ate at his landlord’s little restaurant…

Then she took us out with her family for traditional Korean food…

Where we met a Korean man taller than we thought possible…

I went out to the field where they ran exercises…

Shopped the local market and found some things we were pretty sure weren’t authentic…

…and generally just spent a lot of time together. I walked from his apartment to the base, then caught the bus to have lunch with him. I saw the first and only bakery that didn’t offer one tempting treat. I couldn’t even stand the smell from outside, much less go in and try something. I rode on the single craziest bus ride of my life as we went into the city of Seoul to tour and shop. We walked up to the gates of the military base there just as a protest mob was approaching…and just barely made it inside the gate before they shut the entire area down. We shopped a lot, a few of the things we even have still. Then, before I knew it, two weeks were gone and it was time to go home. Except…

…the customs agents did not stamp my little blue book correctly when I entered the country. I had no idea they had done anything wrong because I had never used a passport before that time. When it was time to board the plane for the flight back, we had to wait in a separate booth while the officials tried to verify what happened. I actually wondered for a short time if they were going to keep me. As much as I would have loved to stay with my husband longer, I had two little kids being cared for by their grandparents and I certainly did not want to be in Korea after my husband left.

They finally figured out what happened and I was on the Space A flight home. Three more commercial flights and I was in Florida again. I know what it is like to be apart from your husband, your best friend for a year. I am so glad we were able to talk regularly, that we were able to visit each other a couple weeks out of that year, and I am so glad I was not worried daily about his safety. There are a generation of women (and men) who know more about worry, separation, and anxiety than they should in their early twenties. If you are one of those spouses, know that I am praying for you. For strength, peace and faith. If it feels you can only survive this minute, then focus on that. When you get through a whole day without being overwhelmed, celebrate.

Have you ever used a passport? Where did you go with it the first time?

For a much more difficult, and beautiful Space A travel story, head over to Heart & Home.

7 thoughts on “Breaking in a Passport”

  1. Oh, the first part of this almost made me cry. I used my passport to go to South Korea the first time, too, and I also flew out of Seattle, and I also had an insane time getting to Korea! What memories. I know that Space A was supposed to be a huge benefit, but I must say that I don’t miss it one bit. It was always waaaaaay too stressful for me. The second time I went to Korea I flew commercially on Korean Air and MAN do they know how to do it! Such a nice flight! :)

    1. Oh Cameron, that is the airline I ended up on for that flight out – amazing flight yes! This and other Space A experiences are part of why I won’t be trying to go to hubby’s destination with him next week, can’t imagine taking a flight right now, especially one with no guarantees.

  2. What a great flight! I went to Switzerland when I was 22 and just out of college.Went to France a couple yrs later. Haven’t used passport since.

  3. My first flight was to Milan in route to England. I still recall walking into the airport bathrooms and finding not toilet seat only the base. Little did I know, I would be returning to live in Italy 2 short years later and would find plenty of other unusual toilets. Among other things like food and cultural differences and life in general. I loved all of our travel but the thing I miss most is the people I met while living there like you! I love this post! Miss your face!

  4. Awww the not so joyous memories of Space A…I think any military spouse who has utilized it has a memory! Mine is on the other coast at McGuire AFB and my angel was a sweet retiree named Jerry who made a life kong impression on me! And I did get “out” after a tense 36 hour wait an many prayers along with a few tears!

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