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