Half-stuck in dreamworld, I hazily lifted my limbs from their nightly repose, figuring I might already be running late. Before leaving the house I checked my phone to make sure I had all the necessary papers for the Russian visa in my backpack. I remembered to cut the photos into their proper 2×2 squares, and even ordered the documents according to the list the website advertised. I made two peanut butter-jelly-honey-cinnamon sandwiches and grabbed two of all the other snacks I required. Said refreshments perfectly placed in my knapsack, I finally left the house.
Once I arrived in New York, I made my way to the Consulate Services Agency at 1:00 pm, only to be told they were away on a technical break, which was technically lunch. I returned an hour later and sat on one of their black cubicle chairs to wait my turn. Again, I checked my phone’s screen and compared it to my documents. It told me that everything was still in order. When I heard the gentleman before me say “Spasibo”, I got up and walked to the smiling lady sitting across from me. “I’m here to get a tourist visa”, I offered politely, “I hope I have everything”. The pleasant woman took my papers, glancing at the first two for a few seconds. In this space of time, I felt the need to explain, “It was kind of hard getting everything together. I hope I did it right!” The clerk barely looked up from my papers and laughed. “An American tourist visa eez the eeziest to get. So few papers!” I hope I smiled at that.
It seemed everything was in order (as if I weren’t prepared!) so I paid the cashier, was told my passport would be mailed to me in ten days, and left. It was 2:20; in twenty minutes, my passport had been quickly gleaned for information, along with my Invitation Letter and Visa Application, scanned, and a self-taken passport photo glued to my Application, with a glue stick no less. Hours of worrying, images of myself being refused because I had cut my passport photo at an 89° angle instead of a 90° one had plagued me in the week leading up to my actual visa appointment. Comparing my expectations with reality, I chuckled to myself. The Russians didn’t care nearly as much as I had thought they would about letting me in their country. I began to think that US citizens might have exaggerated the difficulty of getting a Russian visa. And once I thought that, the whole thorny world of precautionary travel tales faded away.
On the bus back to Boston, I thought about my day’s experience. The accumula of years and years of travel advice now seemed better suited to people who had never set foot outside their neighborhood. As a somewhat more seasoned traveler, I figured I could start to ignore some of that guidance. And though you are often better safe than sorry, travel is all about turning the unforeseen into a good bar story. So I’ve decided to dismantle the hallowed halls of Trusted Travel Tales that torture your thoughts and twist your perceptions. Throw out the guidebook, forget what your aunt told you, and definitely don’t listen to those who heard from a friend whose mother told them….Just do it. Explore. Get lost, maybe hurt, probably sunburnt, sick, and scared, but most importantly, get out there. You know I am 😉