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Who is this guy?

Most people don’t like their passport photo but mine is worse than yours, I guarantee it. It was taken a few years back when I weighed 30 pounds more than I do now, no doubt a result of my ongoing donut fetish. I had more hair but apparently it was combed with a garden rake. I displayed an odd, gleeful smile, like I was sitting on a massage chair that was set to full vibrate. It was also taken pre-facial hair and many chins ago. All in all, not a pretty picture: literally.

The good news is that I no longer look like this photo. This has become evident as I keep getting pulled out of immigration lines by suspicious customs officers. As we were trying to leave China I was sent to a separate area that I assume is normally reserved for suspected drug mules and arms smugglers.

A higher-ranking official was called over to make some sense out of the apparent disconnect between my passport picture and my actual face. Much discussion took place between the two officers as they focused on my eyebrows, the one feature that was apparently unchanged. I tried to replicate the weird grin in the photo but that only made me look demonic and heightened their sense of suspicion.

A phone call was made with many guttural comments back-and-forth. A third officer came over. All three started rapidly glancing from my passport to my face like spectators at a ping-pong match. The senior officer pantomimed to me to arch my eyebrows, at least that’s what I thought he meant, so I arched away. He took out a pencil and held it up to my eyebrows in an odd attempt to figure out if they were still crooked. (They are.) Trying to clarify the situation I pulled out my driver’s license but unfortunately that looks like a third person altogether.

Current visa photo, maybe not much of an improvement but at least it looks like me.

By now Larissa had gotten used to my immigration shenanigans and moved on to the boarding area, apparently “for better or for sticky customs situations” was not part of our marriage vows. She figured no use both of us spending time in a Chinese prison. The officials finally tired of the situation and let me go, satisfied that I wasn’t a Chinese national trying to leave the country illegally.

This problem has continued throughout the journey. When we enter a country Larissa goes ahead to get the luggage while I lag behind to deal with wary customs officials. Ironically, the only place we didn’t have any problem was in North Korea. They searched every bit of luggage to make sure we didn’t have banned items such as cell phones or newspapers. However, the official seemed satisfied as he carefully scrutinized me and gestured to move on.

My advice is if you don’t look like your passport anymore, get a new one. It will save you headaches down the road. By the way, Larissa has nothing to add to this discussion since she looks cute in her passport picture.

What are some of the worst pictures you’ve ever taken?

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.