I am going round the world in January. Exactly three months from today actually which is, in part, what spurred me on to write this entry. It's all very exciting and I constantly find myself telling complete strangers every aspect of the trip in so much detail it's almost as though they had actually asked me about it without coercion.
Despite my imminent departure, there are still a few tiny glitches in my plan – and a plan it is, I assure you – this is not some unfounded flight of fancy. Just a few short days before Christmas I have arranged to be homeless and unemployed so, unless I wish to indefinitely live at home with my parents (which, for the record, I do not), I have to leave the country, there's no two ways about it. However, all other preparation on my part has been somewhat lacking, I have to confess. Below, a summary of my progress, thus far:
Things I have: raw enthusiasm
Things I don't have: money; ticket; rucksack; insurance; geographical accuracy; fixed itinerary; immunity to any of the hideous maladies which, if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to be believed, I am certain to die painfully from should I set foot in any country that isn't the UK, unvaccinated.
Things that arrived this morning: passport
I think you'll agree, it's all a little worrying. Although the arrival of my passport is quite frankly a triumph – and a credit to the system, given that I only sent it off last Monday. However, never one to let reality stand in the way, I am going to London on Friday, confident that I will walk into the travel agents and will, without fussing, be able to book a ticket. Failing that we should be able to get some jabs while we're there. There's nothing like paying someone a ridiculous amount of money to stab you in the arm to make you feel like you're getting things started.
No, the most troubling aspect of the whole thing is the visas. These, as if you couldn't have guessed it, belong in the Things I Don't Have list, right alongside 'first idea about how to get them'. Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly bright individual – bit slow on the uptake maybe, but I usually get there in the end – however the subject of visas is one that can, and frequently does, cause me great distress. I mean, how hard can it be – it's not rocket science presumably.
You have to have a visa to get into a lot of countries. Some of them you can buy on entry and some you have to apply for before you arrive. They have a limited validity (usually 30 days). All this, I understand. However, what no one will tell me is how to get ones you have to apply for beforehand, if you're not going to be in the UK 30 days before you want to go to that country. This information is nowhere. Nowhere. I assume you get them from the UK embassy of the country you are in at the time – but it doesn't actually say that anywhere. Is it withheld deliberately? For a wheeze? Are there officials everywhere doubled up, clutching their sides with mirth every time someone like me asks this question, unable to answer for the tears streaming down their cheeks? Is it just one of those things that only real travellers know? Or am I just missing the point? None of these would surprise me quite honestly. But if anyone out there has done this sort of thing, I'd be grateful if they felt like sharing their wisdom. Before I have to air the lack of mine.