Sanjeev Midha loves to take his family on lavish, multiple-month international vacations. Each year, he sets aside $150,000 to $250,000 just to travel the world. Clearly, money isn't an object for the owner of a technology company.
But space in his passport for all those stamps is.
Most travelers never think twice about the size of their passports. Only about one in every three Americans even has a passport, according to the U.S. State Department.
But Midha has had to add page after page to his, which at 96 pages, is considered one of the largest in the United States. He had to get a new one in 2009, because it was full and Midha, 49, couldn't add anymore pages.
"Each page was crowded, crowded, crowded. There were stamps, stamps, stamps. We travel as a family, a lot," he explained with modesty.
And these vacations involve a lot more than sitting on a beach or riding an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
"I strongly, strongly believe in experiences. We do a little bit of sightseeing, like most people," he said, "but we like to eat only local food, go to local people's houses for dinner and try to speak local languages as much as possible."
Take this past summer. Midha, his wife, Sunita, and their two sons Ashim, 18, and Akhil, 16, spent nearly 3½ months on the road. (Ashim recently graduated from and Akhil attends the private Peddie School, in Hightstown, N.J., which has six-day school weeks but lengthy breaks.)
The family started in Paris, journeyed through the Champagne and Burgundy regions of France, then hopped around Switzerland -- Geneva, Bonn, Zermatt -- before heading to Italy. After spending some time in Torino, Verona and Venice, they moved on to Austria, stopping in Salsburg and Vienna.
Midha and his family then flew to Istanbul and on to eastern Turkey before heading west to Barcelona just in time to see Spain compete in the World Cup finals. A few days hopping around Spain -- Valencia, Toledo and Segovia -- and the family headed back to its New Jersey home for a night.
Family Travels Around the World
Then they were off to China and Mongolia, where there was a safari, and nights spent in huts in the Mongolian wilderness. They walked the bustling streets of Beijing, spent time in the Chinese countryside and with the terra-cotta warriors in Xian. Then it was off to Expo 2010 in Shanghai, which hundreds of thousands of people a day visit.
"So you can imagine the lines," Midha said.
Chinese citizens bring little folding chairs and umbrellas to protect them from the sun as they wait five, six, seven hours to enter the pavilions.
"We had nothing," he said.
But the people in line were very friendly, and let the family borrow seats and umbrellas.
China was followed by two weeks in India.
"Then we came back home, again, literally, for one day," Midha said.
Next up: a wedding in Toronto, then snorkeling for a week in Belize.
That was just one summer.
Midha tries to go on eight to 10 trips with either his wife, one or both of his sons or the whole family. "We loved the snorkeling so much that we've already planned our Thanksgiving trip to the Cayman Islands," he said.
His company also has offices in Singapore and India, which Midka visits from time to time.
Passport Overflowing With Stamps
The State Department used to limit passports. The initial one, plus two additions of 24 pages each, according to spokesman John E. Echard Jr. Passports issued after 2006 are a little different, and the maximum is now 100 pages.
The State Department doesn't keep track of how many people reach the maximum number of pages, but Midha
is part of a small group of American pilots, business travelers, celebrities and random jet-setters who have reached the maximum. His new passport doesn't have additional pages, but that will soon change. And Midha still has to travel with his old passport, since there are still valid visas in there. That's a lot of documentation.
Most travelers try to get stamps in their passports -- it's sort of a badge of pride. While Midha is happy to have one from the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, "I try my best ... not to get stamps."
With a trip planned to Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar in December, Midha will bring the number of countries he has visited to 100. Sixteen-year-old Akhil has already been to more than 80. And in case you were wondering, his passport has reached 72 pages.
"If people were to travel more to all parts of the world," Midha said, "there would be more camaraderie and less distrust, for more people would be getting authentic experiences, getting rich in all aspects of life, including culture, art, architecture, history, languages, science, cuisines, climates, nature and religion."