The last time I left the country, I was about 10. That means that the last time I had to apply for a passport, it was done by my mother.
Now, as I prepare to leave for China, I'm on my own (well, other than my boyfriend Lee, who is travelling with me) and it's a much different process.
We began by having to renew our passports. Both of us had expired passports and had to get new pictures taken at the drugstore. Then, we had to visit our local post office, with the old passports and new photos, and fill out some forms in order to send away for a new passport. There was a $130 fee.
Today, I called the travel company located in Cambridge, Massachusetts called Cambridge Travel (no kidding). We have been working with them since Lee’s father contacted them about purchasing flight tickets. He's worked with them in the past, and somehow he managed to get us really cheap tickets to China, which were around $595 for a 14-hour flight with a two-hour layover.
The phone call was an opportunity to ask lots of questions, like whether we should bring our documents in person or mail them to the agency. (They suggested that I bring them in person since it's risky to mail important documents.) I also asked when our visa to enter China becomes active. (They answered that it is active for about a year, but once we land in China it is only active for the duration of our planned stay.)
However, I forgot to ask one important question: Since Lee’s mother was born in China (although she now lives in the U.S.) and is a Chinese citizen, will he need a different type of visa? I’m also still not sure how long it will take to process the visas, since different websites list different lengths of time.
Normally, I would ask Lee's father; who is a seasoned professional at going to China. (He was a Chinese language teacher and is now a freelance interpreter.) Throughout our preparation, he's been so helpful and we're so grateful. Unfortunately, he had a stroke a few weeks ago and has been in the hospital recovering.
Lee has been focused on visiting him and helping him to recuperate, instead of troubling him with more questions about the trip. Situations like this remind me that we are so young and rely on our parents so much.
However, this whole process has proven to me that at 22, I am capable of planning for the future and making good decisions. I guess that’s what I want to get out of this experience; learning what I'm capable of. In a little over a month, we will be leaving and I could not be more excited.Add this article to your reading list