Obtaining visas – a chore or pure excitement as it takes you one step closer to your travels?

As we all seek to explore some of the most far-flung places, we have to increasingly check the visa requirements for our next destination. It goes without saying that for both of us we are very lucky. The British and Australian passports are two really good ones to have, meaning in a lot of instances visas can be obtained on arrival or better still, are not needed or are free.

Our Passports to travel!

For our most recent trip we not only researched the visa requirements for our adventure using various websites, but also by visiting the various embassy pages and via the Real Russia pages. We had plenty of pages left in our passport – phew what a relief as we were going to need a few visas!

For me, I’ve always enjoyed dropping my passport off at a consulate or embassy. In my experience the task provides you with the first glimpse of what to expect when you reach your final destination.

I remember back in 2005 when I was heading off to India, I trotted down to the embassy on Aldwych (this process and application procedure have long since been superseded). I duly queued for an hour before the allotted opening time and no sooner had the doors opened, the bun fight began. I think it’s fair to say India isn’t the most organised of places, and the slight chaos that greeted me as the embassy opened was good preparation of what awaited in India!

On another occasion I obtained my Ethiopian visa from the embassy in London and the quietly spoken ladies processed it without delay. The building was a little old fashioned, but none of that matters as long as the service you receive is good. Again, the embassy was a reflection of the place – I would later find the same gentle, softly spoken ladies in Ethiopia.

Sometimes it’s not possible to obtain visas before you go. We experienced this with our Myanmar visas. As soon as we arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, we headed out in search of the Myanmar embassy. No one quite knew were it was, but our taxi driver kept stopping and asking and eventually found it. Once inside the gates the polite and helpful embassy staff greeted us. The serene atmosphere inside the grounds and attitude of the staff were truly a reflection of the Myanmar people – polite, gentle and kind. We duly returned three days later (this time I directed the taxi from the back seat!) only to be given back our passports with some tourist information!

Above all one thing is for sure for us. When we get to an embassy to pick up our passports its a race to flick through the pages with excitement and see the new stamp. Our passports really are our one of our most prized possessions, and for us obtaining visas is all part of the excitement of travel!

– Natalie

The Rehabilitation of a Four-Letter Word

Over the last 14 months there has been one dirty four-letter word that has been used more than most in our home. It has caused stress, distress, the occasional heated discussion, (not an argument), late night emergency phone calls, and two last minute mad dashes to Australia. Love it or hate it, every international relationship and adventurous traveller will have to utter it sooner rather than later.

That word is… VISA!

The word ‘Visa’ can elicit many different responses, and over the last year we have experienced them all.  This post is in no way meant to be a rant, but trust me, if David Cameron was reading this blog the tone would be totally different.

‘Visa’ became a regular part of our vocabulary after we got engaged in November 2011. We knew that to get married in England I would have to obtain my settlement visas.  Not one, but two visas, laying our relationship wide open for someone to go over with a fine toothcomb. The bonus of applying for my first visa was it gave us an opportunity to return to Australia to visit family and friends.

But then we submitted the application, and the waiting began. Waiting is the worst part of the whole visa process, particularly for one as important as a settlement visa. The longer you wait, the more self doubt and negative thoughts start to creep into your mind. It was close to two months before the UK Fiancé Visa was granted, and not before Natalie had booked last minute flights to return to Australia over Christmas, (Little did we know the visa was approved the same day we booked her flights out).

However this was only half of the process.  As soon as we were married we had to apply for the next visa. If you think planning a wedding is stressful try doing it when also trying to gather everything required for your visa application. In fact I was printing my application at 7am the morning of the wedding!! The Monday after the wedding we spent at the Home Office applying for and being granted my right to remain. So it was off on honeymoon we went safe in the knowledge that we wouldn’t have to think about that dirty little four-letter word for the next two and a half years, or so we thought.

Our Passports

Then planning for the big trip began, and that word resurfaced again. Since the wedding it was almost uttered with distaste and hatred every time we mentioned it

This time things were different, this time the mere mention of the word elicited a totally different response. Visas were talked about with almost a reverence, an excitement that once again our passports would look cool.  Russia, Mongolia, China, and India all requiring visas, however it was something to look forward too. Every time we received an email confirming that our passports were ready for collection, there were hugs and high fives, another one ticked off the list, travel plans finally confirmed, and excitement levels continued to build, the rehabilitation had begun.

There is something incredibly gratifying about receiving your passport back from an embassy with a new visa in it. It does not matter whether it is your settlement visa or a tourist visa you still get quite tingly when you open up to that page and see it there, shiny and new.

That is because the visa is like a promise.

A visa promises new experiences, new cultures, new adventures, and new beginnings. Many travellers are put off visiting a destination because of the need to obtain a visa. It is easy to be disheartened by the amount of paperwork, supporting documentation and standing in queues. Many people question is it all worth it, or perhaps file it under the too hard basket. To be honest this had probably happened to us over the last twelve months. To put it simply we had just forgotten the promise.

Every visa we have obtained in the last few weeks has made our big trip feel more real, that air of expectation ever increasing. The word visa no longer has the negative connotations of the previous year and the mention of the word certainly doesn’t create the sense of dread we had experienced.

When we cross over the border into Russia in two weeks time we will proudly hand over our passports, in two weeks time the promise of the visa will turn into the reality of the adventures that lay ahead. In two weeks time the rehabilitation of that four-letter word will be complete.