“You have a visa, right?” the Delta ticket counter lady asked me.
“Like in the credit card?” I thought that was weird because I had already paid for my ticket. “Is there another fee?”
“No,” she said, realizing I was confused. “A travel visa.”
Her words punched me in the stomach and I couldn’t breathe and I know my eyes got big as I started to say, “I need a travel visa to go to…?” Ticket counter lady cut me off and explained, “You can get one right now. You’re lucky because Australia is the only country where you can get a visa within minutes and on the Internet.”
“But my plane leaves in two hours. No one told me I needed a visa.”
Clearly I hadn’t been listening to what she was telling me, so she repeated herself. “Really, all you need is the Internet and you can get a visa and then you give me the number. You have plenty of time.” She wrote down the web address on a little square paper and then I dragged my bags and myself away from the counter, crestfallen with tears welling up in my eyes, and plopped myself down on a bench near the window. I called Steve who had just dropped me off at the airport and told him of my stupidity and asked him if he could hurry up and get home and log on to the computer to help me out. He would be there in about 20 minutes.
Look, I’m a pretty savvy traveler. I’m not new to this, but how could I miss such a vital piece of information? I guess I thought because I was visiting a country under the British Crown that it would be like the others I’ve been to—namely Canada and the U.K.—where, I might point out, I didn’t need a travel visa. Those countries never wanted to strip search me to get into their country. Why is Australia being so fussy? (I’d also like to blame all others who have been to Australia before who I talked to prior to my trip and never thought to mention this pretty important piece of intel.) It didn’t matter what I thought. I was the travel dork here.
Stupidity notwithstanding, I was a bit panicked. I was meeting my mom in Sydney and our flights were arriving around the same time. She had spent the last 18 months in Melbourne on a volunteer mission for our church and she didn’t have a cell phone. There would be no way to reach her to tell her I wasn’t coming and I was imagining her wandering around the airport in Sydney for hours trying to find me and then having to get to a phone somehow to call back to the U.S. to find out what in Sam Hill happened. I sat there and stewed for about 2 minutes, feeling sorry for myself, worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull this rabbit out of a hat, despite what the confident ticket counter lady told me. But then it hit me—I have an iPhone! I found the web address on my phone, tapped in my personal information in the little boxes, paid only $20 with a credit card, and voila! I had a travel visa!
Because why not? People can become a wedding officiant by clicking a few boxes and putting in their personal info on the Internet, so why wouldn’t one be able to get a travel visa too? Yeah, makes total sense.
I walked over to the ticket counter again and showed the ticket lady my phone with the visa number and she punched the numbers into her computer and, just like that, I was on my way to Australia.
Now I’m feeling like a super hero because it was so easy peasy. Really, what’s the point? If getting a visa is that easy, why require it at all? But hey, I was just glad that I had a smart phone with me and I was certainly glad Australia let me into their country.
I called Steve, overjoyed not only by my new visa to Australia, but by my cleverness in doing it all on my iPhone. I checked my travel guide when I settled in my seat on the plane and it seems as though it did say something in there about getting a travel visa.
Next time I’ll read the travel guide more closely before I leave on my trip.