why i never travel out of the country

Today I went and had a passport picture taken.

Holly passport photo



Because the camera at our local post office has been out of order for years, we stopped by a nearby CVS drug store to complete the photo step of the passport renewal process.   It was then that I realized what a difference 13 years makes in technology.

Last time I got my passport picture taken it was 1997.  My husband  and I had been married for 6 years and we were really excited to be taking a trip to London.   I had never traveled out of the US and was in need of my first passport.

We went to a local photography studio to get the necessary pictures.

Before digital photography.

I distinctly remember that they were $20 and once taken they ‘magically’ appeared in 20 minutes…20 minutes was almost instant in 1997.

So, I posed in front of white background wearing my favorite plaid shirt buttoned up to the very top button (I can promise you that I was wearing it with my favorite pleated jeans and faux-crocodile ankle boots because I was hawt like that).

1, 2, 3….


I paid the $20 during the wait for the final product.

Meanwhile we basked in the bright light of 20 minute film development.

1997 was super modern.

The photographer handed me my photos in a cute little passport-like folder and I opened them up and gasped.

In horror.

I couldn’t be seen in OTHER countries in a photo like that.

I was hideous.

The problem was that it was 1997.   A re-take was $20 and 20 more minutes.

$20 and 20 more minutes that we didn’t have.

I swallowed my pride and decided it wasn’t that big of a deal.   We went directly to the post office and applied for the passport.   A month later when it arrived in the mail I cringed and vowed not to open it up unless asked by a uniformed agent.

It turns out that the London trip was the only trip in which a passport was needed over the following 13 years.

And so today, the CVS employee took my picture with her hand-held digital camera and turned it around to give me a look.   I shook my head and said, “Can you please take another one?”

Just because it was digital.

Just because I could.

Just because I didn’t want to spend the next 13 years looking like this:

passport photo bad of Holly

It really makes me wonder if   the reason we didn’t travel in the last 13 years was embarrassment.


  1. That picture made me laugh. OUT LOUD. Not because it’s so hideous. )Although, it is pretty bad.) But because I can totally relate to your story. Who doesn’t have a photo that looks like that on a drivers license or a passport. Too funny. Thank the Lord for today’s technological advances. I’m all about a do-over!

    1. it is OK to say it is hideous…but my SAM’s card is a GREAT picture. Wish I could use that everywhere.

  2. Can I just say I am so so sorry. That looks like my DL picture, on my 18th birthday. I looked drunk.

    1. and I look stoned! It is amazing they let us operate heavy machinery!

  3. I had to get a new military ID about six weeks after child #3 was born. My hair was pushed back in an awful headband, I had huge dark circles under my eyes…oh it was bad. So bad that the lady asked, “Oh, honey, do you want me to re-take this?” I told her I was still six weeks post-partum and had gotten a total of four hours of sleep that week. A re-take was futile. People are still shocked when I show them. Ohhh, the humanity.

    1. ugh! I can’t even imagine…I have blocked that time period out and deleted all pics :).

  4. BAHAHAHA! Holly! I just busted out laughing. This is the funniest thing I have witnessed today, and we already discussed that I witnessed some funny things today. That picture is AWESOME! This page is bookmarked under “encouragement” and I will look at it when I need a little pick me up.

  5. That’s what my military ID looks like! Only mine was in 2008. And I wasn’t allowed to há?ek a do-over. Sigh…

  6. Oh man, Holly. It’s a darn good thing that I had put down my glass of water before getting to the end of this post, because I haven’t done a choke-laugh-guffaw like that in a while. Seeing someone who is so clearly not-hideous look so… well, let’s just say that picture didn’t exactly capture you in the best of light, as you mentioned. Holy geez, it sure is hilarious though!

    1. ha! Glad my pain could be helpful…

  7. Oh.sweet.Mary.

    I’m gonna have nightmares now. It’s a lock.

    1. Oh ya, Halloween 2011…Holly’s passport picture will be the HAWT costume.

    1. We have a matching set?

  8. Thank you. I have finally seen a picture worse than my driver’s license. Surprisingly, the Texas DPS will not retake your picture. They simply don’t care. Pffft.

    1. WHAT is up with the uncaring government folk? Weird.

  9. I am cracking up. And also my passport is under lock and key, never ever to be revealed.

    1. You really should post it. It has been liberating. Of course, someone has been tagging it all day on FB and I have to keep untagging, but other than that it has been liberating…?

  10. Oh my goodness. My old passport photo was taken nearly 10 years before yours. 80’s big hair and I look like I am stoned & vaguely guilty of something. It looks like an arrest photo. Charged with shoplifting hairspray while under the influence of illegal drugs.

    1. We must have had the same photographer!

  11. Wow.

    My photo is also pretty bad. And will likely not be seen by anyone before I have to get a new one.

    1. Luckily the passport has a cover…so it isn’t exposed to the world.

  12. Oh my gosh Holly! I was waiting for it, I knew it had to be coming but then, as I scrolled down the page, there it was & I nearly peed my pants.
    That is the BEST picture EVER!!!!! You are one brave woman for showing it. I am gonna make this post viral, BAHAHAHA!

    1. hahaha…you know me too well. I have been planning the unveiling in my head all day because I couldn’t stop laughing about how bad it was.

  13. Love the new picture, not that the old one was that bad. I really expected your eyes to be closed. I’m dying to take a trip to England. You’ve given me an idea. Maybe getting our passports would make the trip not seem so far off in the future.
    thewannabecountrygirl – Caroline

    1. true. and with a cute picture you might be motivated to travel…

  14. I just almost wet myself. That was hilarious. I thought my photo was bad because of my eyebrows. 1997 too. Only used it in London. Expired a few years ago…and I have needed one…and just didn’t get it updated (or go with my husband for work in Jamaica) because I was too lazy to go for the photo.

  15. LOL! I had my first passport photo taken in 1997 too! We were moving overseas (James Bond is Army) and the photo was HORRIBLE. I traveled on that thing for 10 years before it finally expired. Sadly, my new photo isn’t that great either, but it’s not NEARLY as bad as the first one. Yours is a big fat slice of awesome.

    1. I am using “a big fat slice of awesome” for my tagline from now on. genius.

  16. Wow- I needed this post today. The last few days we’ve had the plague and now we’re snowed in. In other words- I’m losing my ever loving mind! You totally made my day!

  17. Wow… is THAT how customs began to know you as Hot Stuff Holly???? And after only using it once. (well, twice with the return trip…)
    just kidding…

    Bless your heart for showing it. All photos like that… drivers license ones and Costco membership photos. there is a secret law that they have to catch you at your worst…

  18. Oh. Dear. Lord. That is awesome…and you look like you & Blog Steadman just polished off a bong in the car before you took pics. I’m just sayin’.

  19. O-M-G… I just laughed my booty totally off!!!!!!! My passport photo is beautiful. I look so young that I’m sad to get another one. I know it will end up like this.

  20. Girl, you were HAWT!

    *G* There is something to be said for modern technology. I love the “Does this work?” aspect and being able to retake. Sooo much better.

  21. Isn’t amazing we think we are the sh*t in our 20’s only to realize we are much better looking in our 30’s? And you look FAB in your new pic!

  22. Oh man. As someone who has to travel back and forth to the States every year (Im American, but I live in the UK) I have got used to the fact that passport photos are never supposed to look good. A good passport photo is like winning the lottery–rare, but wonderful!

    Just found your blog and love it! Im a new follower… 🙂

  23. I feel your pain!!! My first passport was in 1965 and I had my hair all “ratted” up and was just this big old round head of hair PLUS BANGS and this itty bitty face (with TONS of eye liner, of course).

  24. So have I ever laughed this loud in public? NO!

    You know how I feel about you so I can tell you that you look like Sarah Jessica Parker on drugs! Not a chance in H E double hockey sticks am I putting myself on the chopping block with my passport pic. It makes me look all shades of female mafia. I would be placed on the terrorist list, stat! Horrid. Brown people and white cinder blocked walls do not equal a good passport pic.

  25. lol, now that is an awesome picture. My only passport photo is me in a tan t-shirt because it was taken by the military and I had to take off my uniform shirt so I wouldn’t look like I was in the military. Because the slicked back hair and 1800’s school teacher-esque bun wasn’t a dead giveaway.

    1. I love that you had to disguise your military-ness…so covert!

  26. Ha! In my passport photo, I look scared to death. Don’t know why. I was trying to go for slim and sophisticated 😉

    1. ha! my slim and sophisticated often results in scared or mad.

  27. Seriously funny. That is an awesome picture and so 1997, too. I just had to have my passport picture retaken and the thing that made me the saddest was that I was simply 10 years older. How does time pass by that fast? I’ll be going to London in a few weeks so I’ll ask if they remember you. 🙂

    1. Oh have a good trip!!! Time does pass so quickly…

  28. Oh no, no, no
    I’ve been happy-ish with my passport photo for the last 10 years but my new one is pure horror. For me 2011 has brought torture – no glasses, push fringe back from your eyebrows, no hair in front of ears; result: shocked moon face – there’s no chance I’ll ever be allowed in a country with taste. And now you’ve scared me, will I be to embarrassed to travel? Aarrgghh


    1. OH no! Oh no! 10 more years of embarrassed to travel…oh no!

  29. LOL! My mom just sent me some of my teen years in the late 80”s photos and the HAIR… and the glasses that nearly covered my entire face. Flashbacks are great:) Wonderful post.

  30. In all honesty- I have not laughed that hard at a blog post in YEARS. I was reading it and thinking, well of course she won’t show us the bad pic, we will just have to assume, but it would be funny if…..(scroll down) and BAM! Comedy.

    I am so glad you are no longer a plaid wearing stoner Holly.


  31. just another reminder why I’m so happy to be living in the digital age. So funny!

  32. That blew all my expectations out the window! Classic.

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