The most valuable item on Earth.
In the year 1253, probably the most valuable item on Earth was known to the Mongol empire as the gerege—though to the rest of the world, it was more commonly called a paiza.
Taking the form of a rectangular tablet inscribed with flowing Mongolian script, a paiza was sometimes made of precious materials like bronze, gold, or silver. However, it was often more modest in design, being fashioned of wood or brass. But whatever its physical make, a paiza’s value came from its symbolic worth as a tool of bureaucracy and status, marking it as a must-have object for the elite.
In simple terms, a paiza was an early form of passport used throughout the Mongol Empire. Worn most frequently around the neck or at the belt, it communicated the bearer’s authority and rank that had been bestowed upon them by the Emperor, as well as their ability to travel unmolested throughout the realm.
In the hands of a merchant, a paiza allowed them to freely navigate the roads of the empire in order to ply their trade and distribute one’s wares. To a diplomat, a paiza carried with them the authority to negotiate and enact diplomacy on behalf of the kingdom. And in the hands of Abū al-Musta’sim, the paiza granted to him by Mongol Emperor Mongke Khan came with the permission he could rule the Abbasid Caliph, and also marked him as an ally to the Empire.
In simple terms, the paiza granted the bearer freedom: an elite form of freedom that allowed economic, travel, and lifestyle benefits that weren’t within the grasp of most normal people.
Still today, almost 800 years later, the modern passport allows similar benefits. At least, to those who have a good one.
Being born with a powerful passport can open up the world to someone who has one.
Take me as a perfect example: I put in absolutely no effort to be born with an Australian passport: the 8th most powerful on Earth. It grants me incredible freedom of movement to travel as I choose, which was nothing more than a result of my being born in a place with an extremely high quality of life, and substantial economic opportunities.
In other words, I won the genetic lottery that gave me benefits not afforded to 95% of our planet’s population; especially when compared to people born in countries like North Korea, Libya, or the DRC.
I’ve spoken innumerable times about the value of having a powerful passport—even better, ideally owning several of them. A good passport is essential to opening up new opportunities for travel and lifestyle, business and economic freedoms, or even just as a backup plan in case your home country starts to turn into something you don’t agree with anymore, or devolves into a shadow of its former self.
Thankfully, there are dozens of very desirable passports out there. The problem is, not all of them are easily attainable.
Take Japan and Singapore, as perfect examples. In recent passport rankings, they were once again crowned the two most valuable passports in the world. Citizens of these nations are able to visit 193 countries visa-free, meaning the global freedom of movement that comes with owning one of these little books is unmatched.
However, they’re also nigh on unattainable for the average person to acquire one. Japanese citizenship is almost impossible to get at all, and Singaporean citizenship is generally only possible if you’re wealthy and able to invest significant funds into the country. The big downside to either citizenship is also that in almost all cases, neither Singapore nor Japan allows dual or multiple citizenships, meaning that by acquiring one of these, you’ll have to give up your existing passport as well.
Want to become Australian like me? Short of marrying a citizen (which requires at least a 5-year time commitment), you’ve basically got no chance of moving to Australia to start the naturalization process unless you’re a doctor, engineer, scientist, or some other kind of desirable profession.
The United States? Forget about that one also. Although not impossible to acquire, the US is one of a handful of passports I’d never want, due to Uncle Sam forcing his citizens to pay tax on their worldwide income forever. A policy shared by only one other country on Earth: the north-eastern African nation of Eritrea.
And in what is possibly the only openly racist passport in the world today, you can only naturalise as a citizen of Liberia if you are black. However, due to this passport not being worth much more than the paper it’s printed on, people aren’t exactly rushing to become Liberian.
In other words, many passports are either hard to get, come with added downsides, or you wouldn’t want them anyway.
But the good news is there are some you would want to have, that aren’t necessarily that difficult to get.
By simply marrying a Brazilian citizen, you can score yourself a Brazilian passport in as little as one year. And although not at the top of many people’s lists, Brazil’s passport ranks somewhere around the 20th spot on most global rankings, with visa-free travel to 170 countries. Not to mention access to South America’s version of the EU: MERCOSUR.
Speaking of Europe, European passports are notoriously desirable on the global scene. This mostly boils down to most of these passports granting the bearer the freedom to live and work indefinitely anywhere in the Schengen area. If you’re lucky enough to have a European ancestor (in some cases up to a great-grandparent), acquiring citizenship by jus sanguinis (right of blood) is relatively straightforward.
Peru and Ecuador are also rising locations for digital nomads today, which also make it relatively easy to become a citizen. In both cases, you could find yourself the owner of a new passport in one of these countries in two or three years, by simply setting up residency, and spending at least six months a year there. The Ecuadorian passport may not be especially valuable, but the Peruvian one definitely is.
Long story short, you don’t have to win the genetic lottery to increase your freedom on the world stage.
Sure, getting yourself a second (or third, or in my case this year, a fourth) passport will require some kind of time and effort commitment on your part. But in my opinion, it’s always time and effort well spent.
In the time of the Mongols, you needed to be one of the born elites to achieve a level of travel freedom only a few possessed. Sure, getting yourself a second (or third, or in my case this year, a fourth) passport that gives you more elite status will require some kind of time and effort commitment on your part. But in my opinion, it’s time and effort always worth spending.
The only question is, how soon will you start taking action to get one? Or even better, another one?
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