My Days Are Numbered And I’m Nervous
November 22, 2008 by rtwsenior
Yes, my days are numbered and I’m running out of time…but not in the way you would suppose when a Senior Citizen makes such an announcement. My time pressure is all artificially-induced, at any rate. The thing is, I plan to leave in early January, 2009, on my next big exploration, and all I know at this moment is that I’ve chosen the continent of South America to bop around in, rather than the entire Southern Hemisphere.
It would actually be much easier if I had just decided to go all the way around and booked a string of one-way tickets like I did back in 2005 when I went around the upper half of the globe. Sitting at my table with maps, I picked out likely cities as entry and exit points, and then I let the chips fall where they may. It worked fairly well, though I did have to re-arrange a few flights, as well as spend big bucks to get to my take-off airport at least once, when I got down deep in Southern Turkey and needed to get to Athens so that I could fly to Cairo. The ferries I’d counted on had stopped running a few weeks before, so I had no choice but to fly on two expensive, last-minute bookings.
Now, I’m still dithering about which country to begin my journey in and whether to go “open jaws” instead of round trip. It’s such a huge landmass and I don’t want to miss anything, but at this point, I’m beginning to counsel myself to take it easy and not bite off too much. Shall I enter in Columbia, which someone has recently raved about, and then take on Ecuador, Peru and Chile? Or shall I hop onto a cruise ship going around the horn from Santiago, Chile to Buenas Aires, Argentina, offering the trip at 75% off? That would mean skipping all of those interesting sites farther north.
Brazil is rapidly falling off my list for this trip because they have sticky visa requirements for U.S. citizens. We must have angered their government by charging $130 for Brazilians to enter the U.S., so they are, quite understandably, soaking us for the same amount when we come to their country. They charge other nationals $35 and $40 and some don’t need any. Americans now can feel some of the border injustice that we so cavalierly dole out. My problem is that I don’t have time, at this late date, to send off my passport and application to our Brazilian Embassy, as it can take as long as six weeks and it must be obtained before one enters South America. I was planning to apply in Argentina, like I got my India visa in Egypt, but that doesn’t cut the mustard in this case. So, it looks as if me and Brazil are not going to get cozy on this trip.
I owe all this knowledge to our local Book Club. Someone mentioned that Brazil required a visa during our chat period after they reviewed my book. That country was still unstudied by me, since it was to be late in the trip. Now I know not even to swing that far around. Oh well, if I live long enough and the “crick don’t rise…” maybe I’ll get there another day, as it’s a fine and fantastic country. Luckily, all other South American countries either don’t require a visa or will sell me one at the border.
Travelers have so many flight options these days…really information overload…and I’m learning that often you have to plug in all of your sensitive credit card data to some travel site or other, before you definitively find out whether that seat is actually available. (See my previous tale of woe about Spirit Airlines.) And yet, Spirit’s flights always pop up as the most attractive. Not just because they are the cheapest (so says the listing, anyway) but because they fly in a southward fashion all the way along and don’t require one to fly far north to Newark, New Jersey, before heading back south. Though I might eventually wind up doing it, something inside of me simply rebels at the inanity of it. Inane as far as every single factor known to man in this era of carbon footprint sensitivity, to say nothing of simple body wear and tear.
I’m also working with a very nice guy named Lucas at Exito Travel, which is what you get when you dial the number for Multi-Stop South America, 1-877-788-1311, who has been very patient through my changing itinerary ideas. Heck, I was ready to just go in on a one-way ticket and then see where I wound up when it was time to leave and purchase another one-way home over the internet, but Lucas reminded me of a fact that I had read and forgotten. Most countries won’t let you in if you don’t have a return flight home to prove that you aren’t planning to land on them permanently. Those are things that these do-it-yourself sites don’t tell you.
So, my days are numbered and I’m nervous, but I think that probably happens every time, until I can actually visualize something concrete about this most amorphous traveling style of mine.