When envisioning a trip somewhere new, what’s the first thing you think of? You might consider flight prices first – as many people do – or the price of hotels. If you don’t first consider the price of your chosen destination, you might picture the landscape of the city or town you plan on going to. It all seems like a positive process, as long as you have the funds to start it. Despite the positive connotations we associate with travel, have you ever considered that you might actually feel unwelcome, and that the destination you choose might not choose you?
It took a mere 4 days (which is less than the 7-10 days they say it normally takes) for my mother to receive her travel visa to a certain country she wanted to visit; 20 days after applying for my simple 1-month tourist travel visa to the same country, and therefore missing out on my flight, I discovered that my visa hadn’t even been processed – I had been waiting a lot longer than I was told I would, and I didn’t understand why. I had never been used to being singled out, surely not for anything travel related; in fact, it’s always been the opposite, as my travels have always gone well, as they should, considering there’s no real reason for me to be held up. Yet, here I was, calling up the high embassy, asking for my passport back. Why? Because, as I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to fly out to L.A. instead, and needed my ID back. I feel as though I missed a huge opportunity to visit a country I never thought I would visit (truly, in all my travel dreams, I never once considered going to this major BRIC country – hint, it’s the one that recognizes English as an official language), but part of me has to wonder – was it ever meant to be? From the moment I had decided to apply for the visa, something felt off; something in me told me that it wasn’t time to go yet, or that something just wasn’t going to go well if I did go. I might have been exceptionally angry with a seemingly ridiculous service demanding that I request my passport back – my passport! my freedom of mobility! – but a part of me knew that it just wasn’t meant to be. For someone normally up for a trip anywhere, especially anywhere far, far away, the bizarre feeling of not being sure of whether I wanted to go from the get-go threw me off. While I went through with the visa process anyway, I eventually found out that not only did I not really want it to go through, apparently someone on the other side didn’t want it to go through (at least, not in time), either.
Now, part of me did feel a little annoyed – I paid nearly $100 for my visa and photos, and for a student, that’s ridiculous (think of all the coffee I could have bought, or the snowboarding trip I could have gone on instead!), and I did have a moment of weakness wherein I told an official that I wasn’t sure I’d want to apply for a visa there again – but can you blame me? I didn’t want to go, but I’ve never felt the delays of bureaucracy and mobility laws like this before. All I could think of is, was it because I was born on what this country considered politically-controversial soil, something that, by the way, I had no control over and not to mention, somewhere I have no actual connections to? Was it because they didn’t think it was fair that I expected a visa so soon? Or was I just unlucky, with no special or specific reason as to why it all happened the way it did?
Regardless of the reason, one part of me feels confused, but the other part of me knew it was going to happen. Sometimes, things just aren’t meant to go through, and some of us can just feel it. Amongst these conflicted feelings, I almost feel grateful for things going the way they did, because we all have those places we need to work our way up to and might feel a little less open to, for what ever reason. Everything does happen for a reason, even in travel.
Still – and this is a question I’ve always had – how free is our freedom of movement, really?