Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
The most stressful, most tiring part of travel for me is what I do in the comfort of sitting at a writing table in air conditioned room – it’s the paperwork. As much as I hate it when I have to do it, I am glad and secretly proud that I hire no agent in getting this accomplished. One learns a lot about a country from their Visa rules. What I was learning about Saudi Arabia astounded me.
On one hand were these extremely difficult rules that wouldn’t allow a single woman traveler to enter the country and explore it on her own while on the other hand, thanks to the European Union, traveling across Schengen countries for an ordinary solo traveler as me is now super easy, very convenient, less expensive and offers great freedom.
Why was I trying to get to Saudi Arabia you might ask.
While looking up tickets to go to London, I looked up Kayak thinking it would give me all available options. Kayak disappointed me when I checked with another domestic travel website with the same search criteria and found that the cheapest ticket I could possibly get was on a Saudi Arabia Airlines. It was an extraordinary schedule, with 23 hours in Jeddah on the way to London.
I am embarrassed that I couldn’t imagine what 23 hours of waiting should be like. What I did imagine out of my pure, shameful ignorance is that I’d spend the 23 hours in Jeddah, outside the airport, exploring. How naïve, uninformed, reckless and stupid should I be that I assumed the most impossible things about a country, not knowing anything about it though I had a desire to see the place, I booked my tickets to London on Saudi Airlines – a non-refundable ticket.
With the ticket to London via Jeddah booked, I had to do the paperwork for a Saudi Arabian visa. And with over a dozen flight tickets booked to all over Europe, I must also get down to getting the Schengen visa. Who does this really? I wonder which budget traveler books international flight with such massive uncertainty, and most of them non-refundable. I knew I’d lose a lot of money if I don’t get the Visas.
As a solo traveler would be, I was alone on this. I made all decisions on my own, did all the planning on my own, did the paperwork, reading up, research, everything – on my own and it is was great. As I began reading up on Saudi Arabia’s visa rules, I sensed danger. None of what I read suggested that travel in this country is possible for a woman traveler like me. The rules amused at me first, my most natural reaction being – lol, really? Which soon turned to frustration and anger.
Applying for a Schengen Visa on the other hand was fairly easy but there were things about that process too that seemed to disappoint me greatly.
As much as it could be tiring and stressful, the joy of doing one’s own paperwork is rewarded when the process is gone through. For every homework and paperwork done on aiding travel, it becomes a pleasurable experience when you see the visa you want stamped on your Passport, if Visa is denied, this paperwork is a learning experience. I suspect I am now having a stranger love affair with travel-related paperwork, I can’t wait to work on the details of my next travels.