When I got my passport back in 2005 I had no idea how I would come to rely on that little blue book. I had decided to go on a study abroad trip to the island of Dominica in the summer of 2006 (check the archives if you're interested). Before that trip I had figured the tallgrass prairies of the central US was what held my research interests and other than this one trip (which I was going on since a number of my friends were also going on) I had though I'd be spending my field work running around the southcentral US. Boy was I wrong. It quicky became apparent I inherited the Tokar traveling gene. Many of my aunts and uncles on my mom's side have spent large protions of their lives wandering the globe for work and play. As many of them are into developing agriculture in underdeveloped nations these locations were usually less resort style vacation and more wild adventure. I grew up listening to stories of finding cobras in trucks, getting diseases most US doctors have at most read a paragraph about, and landing on dirt runways where a mistake sends one into the canyon walls or ocean. When I told my parents I was going to Dominica the first responce was talk to Matt, he's been there a few times. In the process of that trip I found a calling. Even though that trip was overseen by a couple professors who had been working on the island for over a decade, field work in a developing nation is never predictable. This unpredictablity, presence of situations that require quick thinking, and need for ingenious solutions made for an incredibly exciting time, and something I found I was pretty good at. International field work has become my addiction.
Falconry, being the rather rare and idiosyncratic passion that it is, has given me a way to interact with locals in a way most field biologists don't get to. Often, before I head off someplace I get in contact with the local falconers and when it works out we meet up and go hawking or at least talk birds. If I've learned one thing it's that falconrys the same the world over. As soon as company shows up the birds fly off, the dogs run amuck, and the quarry fails to fly fair. But when it all comes together the joy is the same be it sage grouse in Idaho or frankolin in South Africa. Even more amazing is the ability to cross the language barrier. I don't understand a word of Arabic, but walking into the falconry store in Abu Daubi was walking into the merchants room at a NAFA meet. Once I pulled out my phone and showed the shop keeper a picture of my peregrine I was instantly "in the club".
So now that passport I wasn't planning on using more than a time or two is literally full. I already don't have enough blank pages to enter many countries, and once I get back from my December trip to New Zealand (and Australia) I think it will officially be full. It's more cost effective to get a new passport instead of adding pages to my existing one it'll soon be replaced. Since it has been my trust companion for the last 6 years the prosepect of getting a new one is a bit sad. As Peregrinus means wandering (and is the name of a bunch of early Saints, my parents major critera for names) it would have fit quite nicely.