Why And How I Started Solo Traveling: My Visa Adventures




Solo Traveling is the best way to not just discover the world but yourself too which i learnt during my travels. Solo traveling instilled my life with a breath of fresh air. But being a solo traveler is not easy if you belongs to a non-developed country. We don't have the liberty to make spur-of-the-moment international travel. As per MEA website, Indians don't need visa or have a visa-on-arrival and e-visa facilities for around 50 countries only. Out of which most of the countries are too far away from India that reaching there could be a really costly affair. My started out journey as a solo traveler was nothing short of a visa adventure. Here's my account:


CANNES FILM FESTIVAL


Cinema is my oldest passion. Being an introvert, my only refuge was cinema. World Cinema introduced me to so many different cultures, people, places, languages. At one point i wanted to experience them in real life. So, i decided to solo travel. I zeroed on Europe since at that time i was really fond of European cinema. As a first-timer i gathered all the necessary documents, booked flights (not fully refundable) , accommodation, prepared a fully detailed itinerary and applied for a schengen visa from Netherlands. With much excitement i waited for my visa! I applied on Monday and by next Monday i received a message from VFS (Outsourced agency for schengen visa) to collect my passport. I was really happy and surprised since i thought it would take 15 days. After collecting my passport, i search for the visa sticker enthusiastically but couldn't able to find one but i do find a rejection letter. I got really angry and started arguing with VFS staff which i realize shortly is a foolish thing to do since they have no power or say in this. I just couldn't believe my European dreams were thrashed. All the bookings and the plannings i have done were poof!



But i have not given up. As instructed by VFS staff, i send an email to given email id. I send a rather lengthy email to explain my situation. I received a reply in a day with two options: Apply Again Or Send An Appeal Letter To Netherlands. I don't see any logic in applying again and decided to appeal against my rejection. I gathered more and more documents and write a passionate letter to the Netherlands Ministry Of Justice & Security. The address where i send the documents refused to receive my courier because it exceeds the weight limit. I get in touch with their twitter account and they were quite helpful in giving me an alternative address. Finally, my courier has been received. Then, I waited, I waited, I waited. Finally, I send them an email asking for an update. I received an email stating "The legal period for making a decision is 19 weeks." 19 WEEKS! I lost all the hope and decided to cancel all my bookings while incurring a substantial loss. I thought being a solo traveler is not possible if you belongs to a third world country. I dropped the plan for good.




Meanwhile, my brother cajoled me to go to Thailand with him. I reluctantly agreed. He even teased me with "Visa On Arrival" slogan. At the day of our departure to Thailand, i forgot all about Europe. I was relatively excited about the upcoming Thailand trip. My brother reached my office to pick me for the airport. I was just setting up the "Not Available" message in my email account. Okay this may sound straight out of a Bollywood film but it is as true as it gets. Just when i was about to sign out of my email account i received an email with a subject line "APPEAL APPROVED." I read the email thrice and just couldn't believe it. My visa was approved! Well, going to Thailand was a stroke of destiny and I had a memorable time there.




In the following year i decided to travel to Europe. Since my visa approval was valid for only 3 months, I submit the fresh application with a slight change. I changed my route this time and applied schengen visa from Greece. How smart of me! This time i had an interview via Skype call. I waited quite confidently this time. After 2 weeks i went to collect my passport and found the rejection letter. I was dumbfounded. Thankfully, i have booked a fully refundable flight this time. I was really confused and agitated. I get in touch with Greek embassy on phone. Again, two options were given: Apply Again Or Hire a Greek Lawyer to appeal against the rejection(Not Kidding!). I literally laughed at the options. I send Greek embassy an anger filled email which was basically a "Go *Beep* Yourself". I thought about two realistic options: Forget Europe Or Apply Again. As a last and final resort i decided to apply from NETHERLANDS. After 10 days, i received an email from Netherlands embassy which was a call for an interview. I need to visit their Embassy in Delhi for an interview. Since i left with no other option i went to Delhi. Before the interview i was kinda irritated as i have to travel to Delhi all the way from Mumbai. Below are the excerpts from the interview:

A Tall Bulky Guy and A Slim Short Lady entered the room divided by a glass frame. Bulky guy sat near to the glass frame and the lady was sitting far behind him in such a manner that both have a clear view of me. The guy did all the questioning while the lady did the observation.

Guy: What is the purpose of your visit?
Me: Tourism
Guy: *Expecting an elaborate answer* Hmmm and?
Me: *Explained in detail*
Guy: Single Or Married
Me: Single
Guy: *Asked about my work*
Me: *Explained in detail*
Guy: *Asked couple of questions about my work*
Me: *Replied*
Guy turned around and discussed something with the lady.
Guy: Any past foreign travels?
Me: Singapore (Long back) and Thailand.

I see some kind of confusion on his face. I pulled out my approval letter from Netherlands which i received last year and showed him the same. He was bit surprised after seeing the letter.

Guy: Do you know anyone in Netherlands?
Me: NO
Guy: Oh.
Me: Well, It seemed like a right thing to do at that time.
Guy: Oh yeah sure sure. Its your right.

Guy looked at the letter again and give it back to me.

Guy: Your visa has been approved and you're going to need a bigger jacket since its going to be really cold out there. *Smiles*

It did not hit me hard at that moment. I smiled back and thanked him before leaving the room. After leaving the embassy, the news finally sink in and i laughed out lot thinking about my visa journey. I took an auto to nearby restaurant to have a much needed breakfast.



Now, when i think about my visa adventures. It had more twists and turns than a fast paced thriller but with a happy ending or an exciting beginning. Sure, it may sound stupid on my part to be stuck with Europe but one thing led to another and i left with no choice. If i had given up in between i might not be a solo traveler like i am today. It took me an year to finally travel to Europe. It felt like an achievement but most importantly it was the stepping stone to my new passion. Since then i have solo traveled to Netherlands, Spain, France, Russia, Turkey, USA and many more to go!


On The Way To USA







If you have any questions, write them in the comments. I will answer them accordingly.

Comments

  1. Ohh I'm from Greece! Our paperwork here totally sucks (any kind of paperwork) I think you should've applied from some other country for that.. anyway I'm really glad you finally got your Visa

    Apostolia xoxo - www.simplyapostolia.com

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  2. I feel you! Our passport is not strong too. I'm from the Philippines and there are so many requirements in order to get a visa. Kudos for having courage to explore different places in the world. I'm looking forward reading more of your adventures.

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  3. I love that you are traveling the world on your own. Wishing you happy and safe travels regardless of what others may think. I love traveling alone.

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  4. I love solo travel and that's why I started to love traveling so much! It's a great way to test your own limits and to meet new people!

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  5. I am an introvert and I love going to the cinemas, especially on my own. Not travelled alone before. Need to try that soon.

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  6. Good for you! As a fellow introvert, I applaud you for stepping out of your comfort zone--literally. Happy travels!

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