Christmas 2017 pt. 1 – The original plan

Let’s keep the ball rolling! (Cameron is writing report cards at the moment – great vacation activity [not!]) so you’re stuck with me and my crappy phone pictures.

Before I go on about our Christmas break travels, maybe I should tell you the original plan…and how it fell apart rather quickly.

Ever since the early days of this Team, we’ve been talking about going to Europe. This, for a number of reasons: 1) Europe is super cool, and because it’s all close together, you get to see a good portion of it even if you don’t have a lot of time, 2) Cameron has gone to Europe and wants to return and see more – it’s been a while, and of course, does anyone ever get to see everything they want to see in Europe anyway?, 3) I really want to go! Europe has so many the things I love!

  • Old colonial buildings
  • Museums
  • Historical places
  • Narrow streets where you can get lost easily
  • Places with beautiful flowers
  • Parks!
  • History everywhere
  • European football
  • Delicious food!

One of the things we both do when we’re down the Interwebs’ rabbit holes is look at what plane tickets to random places look like. So one day, Cameron found really good tickets to Istanbul and Paris for Christmas break.

I’m married to a genius. Istanbul has got to be one of the most mysterious-in-a-good-way places on Earth. The bridge between West and East. The capital of the Byzantine Empire. And then, well, Paris. Paris is Paris is Paris. And Paris at Christmas has got to be magical.

After much deliberation, we bit the bullet, and decided to buy tickets. We found a super cute apartment on HomeAway in the 4th Arrondisment, around Le Marais, which is great for seeing all the important stuff in Paris. So, everything was off to a good start.

Now to the bureaucratic part of the whole thing, I need a visa to go to France. No problem, I’ve applied to Schengen visas before. It’s a lot of paperwork, and you usually don’t get them for very long, but it would do for this trip. In order to get one, I would have to take a day off (an unpaid one too!) to fly to Seoul and apply for the visa, to then return to Seoul and pick it up in three weeks (another unpaid day off). Not ideal overall, but still not horrible.

I had an appointment at the French embassy. I had my paperwork. A ticket to France via Istanbul. I was set to go. And then…

Plot twist!

The governments of the US and Turkey, in a tit-for-tat over some arrests that happened, and other arrests that weren’t quite happening, stopped issuing visas for each other. So at that point (mid-November), Cameron was not allowed to go to Turkey. Which meant either we didn’t go to Turkey and found a different destination for the first leg of our trip, or we scrapped the trip altogether. Going to Paris for two weeks was out of the question – much as we would have wanted to – too expensive. The dispute has been partially resolved, and visas for Americans are again available on a limited basis. Back then, however, we felt it was too risky to wait it out and risk not getting our tickets refunded if need be. See more information here: Americans can go to Turkey again

So we scrapped our trip. Luckily, United refunded our tickets, and our HomeAway host was very understanding. So with a little over a month to go before our break, we were left to decide what to do.

Moral of the story: Stay up to date on visa requirements for the places you want to go to! Check before you buy your ticket, and then check again after you buy your ticket. Can you go without a visa? Can you get an eVisa? (We’ve had some positive experiences doing this for two different countries – more on that on a future post) Can you get a visa on arrival? From experience, it’s not wise to count on airport employees to know whether you’re allowed into a country without a visa or not. It’s not their job to know – it’s yours. They will most likely let you on the plane and it will be up to you to find out when you get there if there are any restrictions. We know people who’ve been turned away from a country for not having a visa in advance, so always stay up to date on visa requirements.

Over the next few posts, Plan B: A 3-country, two-week vacation through Asia.



Published by Team McGregor

Living and teaching in the Middle East - previously in China, South Korea, and Hawaii (US). This is our blog dedicated to our travels and life living well as some other fun stuff!

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