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.
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.