Crazy Week Part I

 Ian is planning to spend his fall semester in Europe.  Actually, he’s planning to fund his own travels to Europe for the full month of October and part of November.  He’s been working and working and working and saving and saving and saving.  I’m so proud of him and so excited for him.  I wish I had traveled back when I was young and unencumbered.  I’ll be living vicariously through him come this fall.

His plans are to fly into Dublin and then move on to Edinborough, Paris, Versailles, Nice, Monaco, Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna and Prague and then flying back to Dublin.  Ambitious, but waaahhh I want to go with him.  (If any of you have experience traveling abroad, especially as a 19-ish year old person, please share in the comments!)

He’s applied for a passport.  Wednesday he received a letter from the department that handles passports stating that he needed to provide more info about his parents (we’re complicated, you know) and five supporting documents that he was a real person.  They already have his drivers license and his birth certificate.  In bold, and underlined, in the letter was the instruction that each of these supporting documents be at a minimum, five-years-old.  Ummm . . . the kid is 19.  This ticked me off.  Ian was ticked off at the part that explained how if they did not accept his documentation, they would keep his $200 and he would have to start from the beginning, fees and all.

They gave a list of suggested documents.  Ian has many of them – school id, voter’s registration, transcripts, and on and on.  Like I said, Ian has these documents, none are older than three years.  He called the number on the letter.  The first person he talked to had him read the letter he’d received “Start with Dear and end reading with Sincerely,” she told him.  They don’t have these letters on file for people whose sole job is to answer passport questions?????  Her best advice for Ian was to have him stuff anything he thought might help into an envelope and send it in and cross his fingers.  SERIOUSLY???????

Ian and I sorted through tons of paper and came up with five possible documents.  I told him to call back.  He got a different person this time.  That person thought his documents sounded just super.  He also told Ian to cross his fingers and maybe attach a letter stating that he had provided documentation but due to his age, it was not five years or older.  

I have a hard time believing that Ian is the only 19 year old to apply for a passport or that it is this difficult.  AND, because I watch the news too much, I proceeded to blame Ian.  “Have you been online saying unkind things about our president or our government???” And, then I backed off and thought about how insane that sounded.  Gah.  

Everyone light a candle to the passport god.  Ian took all his original documents and copies to a notary at our bank and had them notarized.  He wrote the insane letter about his age and attached the department’s original letter.  

Any other ideas?

6 thoughts on “Crazy Week Part I

  1. Ian….

    Pack lightly. Take a back pack. What you can't fit in there doesn't need to go. Seriously, 2 pr of jeans and 2 shirts. You'll be going to at least 11 cities in 2 months. Don't let luggage drag you down.

    Take Frommers or another Europe on a budget book. Good advice in there.

    Journal. Journal. Journal. Every night and every time you get on a train, take that journal out and write.

    Take time to get to know the locals. You'll remember the landmarks, but the people will make your trip.

    Linger when you want to linger. Be flexible enough with your itinerary that you can stay longer or leave early if you want to.

    At breakfast, pack extra rolls for lunch. Then stop and buy some meat or cheese and have a cheap sandwich for lunch.

    Some of your college-age peers will spend their nights in the bars and their days sleeping it off. Such a sad way to spend this precious time.

    Enjoy this trip!

    Call your mother.

  2. If you know someone who has an aunt/friend/cousin/etc. in a city you are visiting and they offer to let the person know you are coming and offer to meet you for coffee or have you for dinner or show you around in the afternoon….take them up on it!!!!! Some of my best visiting was done this way.

    Um….roll your shirts and pants up…they fit better in the backpack or suitcase that way.

    Don't go by pictures in cafes. I once thought I was ordering beef stew looking at a picture on a menu board in Spain. I had to throw the nasty stuff out after one bite. It was a dish with cow's feet and intestines. From then on it was ham and cheese for lunch, eggs for breakfast and paella for dinner in Spain with a lot of fruit from produce stands.

  3. Buy a rail pass. It will save you a ton in the long run. Are you going with someone? Please take someone with you. Try everything! That was the best part about living in Italy (OK, well and we didn't have so many kids back then and could drink A LOT) But, maybe don't show Ian that part lol

    In Rome, carry your money in your front pocket! Make sure you have money in 2 different locations on your person. Sounds hard but DO IT! OH, and convert money to travelers checks! And, call your mom!!!!

    Amy, tell Ian no matter what, if he finds himself suck or in trouble and can't get to a Embassy go to the nearest military base! As long as he has his passport they will treat him just like he was entering the embassy!! There are 2 on Main land Italy, I am sure he will be fine, but better to know!

    And, take TONS of pictures!! I mean maybe just wear a mini-recorder the entire trip.. 🙂 Oh, to be young and go off on a trip!!! WAY TO GO IAN!!!

  4. Sounds off – when my College Man got his passport three years ago, we did everything at the local post office, and no where near that many bits of paper, must less that old (for a then 18-yr-old) required. How much it has all changed in a few scant years!

    JFS in IL

    PS – Rome, etc. MONEY BELT! And NEVER access it in public – have a small amount of cash deep in a front pocket (or shoe) for immediate use.

  5. I did this when I was 19, and it was the best experience ever. We did 13 countries in 30 days. I'd love to do it again, and I'd like nothing better than for my son to do it!

    Try a hiking backpack – they're bigger and can hold more, but don't over pack. You don't need as much as you think. Pack it and walk around the block several times to see how it feels. Leave room for stuff you buy while you're there!

    I third the money-belt for Rome idea! Venice, too. A little girl about 8-ish stole my map, a tampon, and my sunglasses out of my purse while her sister tugged on my sleeve and shook a cardboard sign at me. I somehow doubt you'll be carrying a tampon, but the point is, thieves will take anything. 🙂

    Make copies of EVERYTHING important and keep them in your backpack, keep the originals in a moneybelt, and a third copy at home. Buy a youth hostel membership and a Eurorail pass. We slept at the train station and the airport (in cities we weren't flying from, mind you) when the hostels were full. They were safe and indoors, which is pretty important in the fall. Bring a blanket/pillow of your own (look for something that's meant for camping that will fold up small), in case you want to (or have to!) sleep somewhere other than a hostel or hotel. I think we spent 10 days of 30 at a hostel – all the rest were on trains, in airports, in train stations, etc. Sometimes we even went somewhere we didn't intend to so we could sleep through the night on the train.

    Let's Go Europe is an awesome travel guide for backpackers, or used to be. And it doesn't seem like it, but everything will start to run together so definitely keep a journal about where you were and what you did. Buy postcards and make yourself notes on them, then stick them in a book so they won't bend – it's a cheap way to keep track and to get those touristy shots of where you've been, if you want that.

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