Thirdeyemom

Getting to Bolivia

When I checked in my bags at the airport on November 25th, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Unless the plane broke, I was going. It seemed like some kind of minor miracle after all we’ve been through trying to plan this crazy one-week trip.

A year ago, our trip was booked and planned. We had our plane tickets, hotel reservations and trek booked for October however our trip had to be placed on hold indefinitely while my dad battled cancer. Fast forward a year later, he thankfully recovered and got himself back into tip, top shape. We rebooked our trip and were overjoyed that it was finally going to happen.

Then came the issue with my passport.

I had sent it in two months prior to a visa handler who would hand carry my beloved blue book along with an exorbitant amount of paperwork over to the Bolivian Consulate in Washington DC. I felt like I was signing my life away with all the silly forms and had to come up with a just amount of money for my bank to tell them was in my account. I had never had to give out that kind of financial information before to a foreign country and it just felt strange. Like an unwanted intrusion into my privacy.

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I kept busy preparing for the trip and checking on the status of my passport. The consulate kept coming back with more demands of information they needed. I brushed it aside thinking it was fairly odd they were being so difficult. I have obtained travel visas from such countries as China, Cuba, Ethiopia and India but had never had so much paperwork required or delays.

As time started dwindling down and my visa was still not ready, I started to get worried. Each day I called my passport agency and they continually had no information. I even tried calling the consulate myself yet got nowhere. A week before we left I spent hours on the phone trying to figure out where it was until finally I heard the dreadful news. It was lost.

The Bolivian Consulate had lost my passport and denied it. It was Thursday and I was leaving in four days.

Panic set in and I spent an entire day running around getting all the information required for a new passport application. New passport and visa photos, a certified copy of my birth certificate, endless bureaucratic forms, you name it. I was about to send in my emergency passport and visa application on Friday morning when I received the call that lo and behold, the consulate had miraculously found it. You can imagine my relief!

I kissed it when I got it back into my hands!

I kissed it when I got it back into my hands!

I was going!

I spent the weekend packing my bags and making sure I had everything I needed. The stress of leaving for a big trip and ensuring everything was in order at my home combined with the passport mess truly raised havoc on my already crumbling nerves. I always get nervous leaving my kids.

The day before our departure somehow we discovered that the our flight had changed by 12 hours and no one at American Airlines had informed us. We never got a phone call or email. We just happened to see the time change on our printed reservations from 8 pm to 8 am.  Once again, stress kicked in. The time change was going to change our entire trip because at 8 am we were supposed to still be in the Andes Mountains finishing our hike.

Hours were spent on the phone with American Airlines  whose system had not been updated to show the change that was readily displayed on their website. It was just another Bolivian mishap that was making me not as eager to go on the trip. After wasted time, we finally were able to get our reservation changed but little did we know it was never changed and that American Airlines would call me three times at three in the morning the day of our departure!

One red suitcase, a green oversized backpack and a carry-on later, I was at the airport and ready to start our trip. I couldn’t believe it. It was the trip I felt was never going to happen and there I was completely unprepared physically and mentally. I had a glass of wine and realized that sometimes the best trips ever are the unexpected ones. The ones where you have never even cracked open the Lonely Planet Travel Guides to.

I was going to have to just go with the flow and wing it. And that I did.

El Alto Bolivia

Arriving in El Alto, the highest international airport in the world.

Stay tuned….My photos from Bolivia are by far my most colorful ones! I can’t wait to share them with you!

24 comments

  1. years ago i read that bolivia was raising the bar one had to clear in order to visit, at least for north amerians… the explanation at that time was basically, ”tit for tat.. that’s what we have to do to visit your country.’
    i don’t know if that’s true or not, but i have witnessed so many good, nice and decent people from latin america who have horrible stories about being turned down for visas to the usa. several of those people are my friends, and i am still amazed and appalled and embarrassed that they were turned down. one, a sweet kind perfect-grade student, was insulted, and she left the embassy crying.

    anyway, i am so glad that you finally cleared all hurdles and were reunited with your old passport, one that bears the glory stamps of an amazing travel history.

    • That is terrible! I don’t understand why they make it so difficult. I often wonder if it is a power thing. I’m glad I got there ok. Wasn’t sure if I would! They were really hard to deal with (i.e. the consulate) but I heard that they were having lots of issues! No kidding!

      • your record should have spoken for itself,; i sometimes think that people in power often enjoy flexing their muscles and making people squirm.. why? because they can. sometimes i think it’s not about the person but about the person’s country.. it’s a bit scary these days when so many hate our country… we have to be smart and humble and careful. z

  2. Sas

    Sorting out visas and paperwork is fun isn’t it? The first time I experienced it was when I went to work in the US. I had to have enough money in my bank account, fill out countless forms and even answer a questionnaire confirming I’m not a terrorist. In Greece I spent hours queueing at the tax office and immigration office trying to sort out my papers (and I can’t read Greek!). On the other hand, when I arrived in Canada with a year’s visa, no money and only one night’s accommodation booked they just said ‘welcome to Canada’. I’m so happy you eventually made it to Bolivia, I love that feeling when you eventually make it somewhere that you’ve dreamt of for so long 🙂

    • Yes it was quite the hassle. I wish it was easier at times to travel but now I see what many people must experience trying to get into the US. I’m sure for some countries it is really hard to get approval!

  3. Can I put in an edit? The expression is “lo and behold”…kind of Biblical and old fashioned and very much a favorite of mine. I don’t see it often enough! Thanks!

    • Yes it was very stressful indeed! I am very glad it all got sorted out. The ironic thing is that I started the whole process two months early to avoid anything like this happening and it still did! Oh well. 🙂

    • Yes….I was really stressed out. I felt bad for my family! But once I got that blue book via fedex I kissed it. Oh the stress and yes the memories of the stamps too! Irreplaceable!

  4. What an absolute nightmare, Nicole. I can just imagine your state of mind over those few hectic days. So glad it all worked out for your. We flew into El Alto airport and drove down the hill to our hotel in La Paz, which is where I experienced the altitude sickness.Thank goodness for the Coca tea and headache pills. 🙂 They also lost one of our suitcases, but it miraculously appeared the next day.

    • When did you go to Bolivia? Did you enjoy it? I felt really dizzy the first day but am not sure if it was lack of sleep as our flight left Miami at 3 am and I was just exhausted. After the first day I was fine thankfully. It is really quite high up isn’t it?!

      • We were there eleven years ago in August. Yes, it is very high altitude stuff. I was also fine after that first night, so maybe it was the flight combined with the sudden change in altitude that affected me.

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