Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Things to Know Before You Go

"Experience, travel - these are as education in themselves”

To say nothing else, planning this journey has been very educational. There have been many ups and downs, and I haven't even left yet!

I wanted to tell you a bit about what I have done so far, and how it has educated me. When I first started putting the gears in motion for this trip, I thought I was going to have to fill out a few forms, write some checks, and take off running. But when the adult world collides with the just-graduated-time-to-go-adventuring world, reality hits.

The first thing I did was apply for my very first passport. I have never been out of the country before, so this was obviously a must. I filled out all the paperwork, dug out my birth certificate, and took the whole thing down to the Portland Post Office. They took my picture there, and gave me a stamp saying I should expect it the first week in September. Keep in mind, this was July. I was nervous because most people I had talked to either got their passports later then they expected, or had to keep hounding the right people to get it. By some stroke of luck, 3 weeks later I get a little package with a slim blue book in it. Very snazzy with all the patriotic pictures on the pages and inspirational quotes. Dad was jealous.

First hurdle down. The second was to send everything into Bunac. Now, I had read the brochure so many times that I could quote chunks of it to you, but there was a confusing part about an Entry Clearance. It was my understanding that I needed to leave before October 1, or I would have to pay for this extra Visa. That was pushing it forward, as I hadn't been planning to leave until October, but ca va. I called the Bunac offices to confirm this is what I needed to do, and the young woman I talked to told me that if I left in September, I was off the hook. That night, I went home, mailed everything to Bunac, and booked an overnight flight from Boston to Heathrow on a Tuesday evening in mid-September. Second and third hurdle passed....or were they?

A week later, I receive my packet from Bunac. I was thrilled--the handbook laid things out in MUCH more detail then the website, with additional information about hostels, living arrangements, and job opportunities. I also got my Blue Card, my golden ticket to surviving across the pond for a year. I thought I was set--a little concerned about the amount of money I would have by my flight date, but more or less closer to shoving off.

Then the email came.

Apparently, the short version is that if I wanted to leave the UK anytime during my 6 months there, I would need this Entry Clearance. Without it, my Blue Card would become inactive when I re-entered after a weekend in Paris or something, and I would be considered a tourist. The four hundred and forty three dollar fee flashed before my eyes, as well as the requirements for a biometric scan, a possibility that I would need to go to NYC to sign things, and my whole plan for the next year beginning to dissolve. Fortunately, my fabulous (FABULOUS) parents stepped in to save me from myself. Merry Christmas, Em! Here is your Entry Clearance fee with a big red bow and the reassuring words of "You know we'd do anything to have you go. $500, $1000 bucks. Its nothing. We're just scared you'll live with us all winter if you don't go!"

So to summarize: I have my passport and blue card. I have an appointment for a biometric scan. I probably don't have to go to NYC to deal with it, but can just send it. I have changed my flight to October 20Th. This means another month of money, another month to look for the right job and living space, another month of plotting and planning, and ultimately, a longer summer in Ireland.

All is well.