People travel for many reasons – new experiences, physical/spiritual growth, photo opportunities, food, culture, history, making new friends, relaxation, shopping – these are just part of a much longer list of aspirations and goals depending on the individual. To achieve these you often have go outside comfort zones, reconnoitering around different languages, customs, unfamiliar/dangerous terrain and the like. The rewards, in my opinion, are always worth overcoming these obstacles.
Journeys are unique – each country presents new challenges. My next adventure is no exception and although I don’t actually start my travel until July, I have already tackled quite an onslaught in the preparation stage. Let me share with you the steps taken so far.
Destination: Kenya and Tanzania. Africa has long been on my must-see list and finally all the proper stars are aligned. Per usual, I took the reigns of planning and organizing the trip – I actually enjoy this stage. One – it fits into my OCD (or as my Alaskan guide J pointed out, my CDO) need of being in control and keeping all in order. Two – I find there is an extra element of excitement built into the pre-planning stage of a trip – others might consider this more stress/anxiety but I actually get an extra kick out of it. Usually.
Booking the trip was a snap – my friend and I quickly agreed on the type of journey we wanted to take – ie as comfortable as possible, so we chose a firm which offers “tents” that are air-conditioned, with running water including shower and toilet facilities and frankly gorgeous accommodations. Here’s a sneak peek of what it might look like:
Yeah, that’ll do.
Once the trip was booked I researched how to fly to Nairobi, Kenya, which is our first stop. Unfortunately there isn’t a direct flight from NY, but with the help of a wonderful travel concierge at American Express, points were engaged and flights booked – NY to Amsterdam to Nairobi.
Now things get a little more complicated but I am not deterred. Both Kenya and Tanzania require visas for entry. I have obtained visas previously for Russia and China, but in those cases I was able to visit their respective embassies in New York to get them. The visas for Kenya and Tanzania cannot be obtained in person. Kenya’s can be done electronically online but Tanzania requires your passport to be sent to the country’s embassy.
Online? No problem (hold that thought). The thought of sending my passport in the mail however, upsets my OCD/CDO, as I do not want my passport out of my possession. This is WAY outside the accepted limits of my comfort zone, but the travel company has a service I can use which will expedite the applications. Yay!
I started with Tanzania visa application as that in my opinion is more difficult (wait for it). All that is needed: passport, additional personal passport sized photos, proof of travel arrangements and hotel accommodations, visa application forms and an embassy registration form. The visa application questionnaire is a number of pages long, but the inquiries are fairly basic, personal info, time of travel, where and so on. A brief trip to my local pharmacy to take the additional photos and in no time the papers were ready to be mailed to the embassy in Washington D.C.
In a few days my friend received her passport containing her Tanzania visa back. Mine? another story, even though I had prepared and sent them both out exactly the same way. Upon inquiry, I was told that an incorrect date had been put on my application by the travel service so the embassy rejected it and it had to be resent. Anxiety spike, but within an additional few days I received this:
Ah but what of the Kenya application, which was uploaded to a secure website? It disappeared into the ethernet. Second anxiety spike.
Fortunately a travel representative was able to take all my information personally and made sure it was uploaded safely. Next wrinkle – wait until beginning of May as Kenya has a time limitation on issuing a visa prior to visit. Little anxiety spike.
All done? Not remotely. Traveling to certain less developed areas requires precautions to be taken to safeguard one’s health. No problems – I had taken the anti-malaria medication Larium previous to my trip to Malaysia, so I am confident I can deal with that again.
However, the CDC recommends more than malaria protection:
Hepatitis A with booster
Cipro, an antibiotic just in case
MAJOR ANXIETY SPIKE
Deep breath – These inoculations take several weeks to activate and need to be taken close to trip date, so an appointment was made for early May. Upon confirmation, another form was sent requesting medical history. Boy, I am documented up the wazoo by now, but I am hoping that this will be the last major hurdle before takeoff. We shall see.
This trip is going to be awesome. And barring that after taking all these shots I don’t glow in the dark, so will I.
To be continued.