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25 August 2008

Calling all US bunnies who have done backpacking in Europe: [More:]I've decided that before I start the MLS program that I'll hopefully be admitted to that I want to go backpacking around Europe for a while.
I need advice on what to tell people like my parents (anal retentive people who will most likely LOSE THEIR SHIT when I tell them that I want my passport so I can do visas), my brother (the racist asshole who feels all "foreigners are going to rape you"), and the boss at my awesome job.

Any ideas?

Thanks in advance y'all.
"I've decided to go to Europe for a few weeks and stay with some friends while I'm there."

"Thanks for sharing. I've already made up my mind to go, but I'll keep your concerns in mind."
posted by muddgirl 25 August | 12:00
Americans don't need visas-acquired-in-advance to visit any countries in Europe except the ones that ARE NOT on this list. Note that even out of the way places like Albania and the Faroe Islands don't require anything other than you just showing up at the airport/border. I think very very few of the countries not in the EU charge for a visa-on-arrival, but Armenia and Azerbaijan, at least according to Wikipedia, are on the list as having a fee.

Also, within the Schengen zone (blue on the linked article's map), no one checks your passport after you enter the 22-country area. So you get the one stamp at the airport, travel around a bunch, and then one stamp as you leave, maybe. The UK, Ireland, Romania, and Bulgaria don't participate yet, but there's no restriction on traveling between the EU states as long as they know you're leaving in the end.

You will need a visa for Belarus (though I'm not sure anyone goes there) and Russia (but lots of places online explain how to do this (like this place - haven't used them though); if you have the time, you should try to get to Moscow and St Petersburg; some low-cost airlines fly there now).

You can request a copy of your birth certificate from the state you were born in by showing ID, so you don't have to go through your folks; check your state's record office; you may even be able to get one at the local county courthouse. (For some reason I think people assume that you can only have one copy of the certificate at once or something, but the copy you have is just a copy of the "real one" at the state record office.)

If they still make it, get the 48-page looks a lot more real than the smaller one does, and fills up less quickly - if you need visas later in life, know that they often fill an entire page of the thing, which is annoying if you're rationing pages. The vast majority of countries in Europe, though, just give you the traditional quarter-page stamp.

As far as what to tell them: "I'm taking XXX months off to travel through Europe. Want to come?" This isn't something they really get to say much about if you're paying for it yourself. You may find they pore over your pictures when you get back though - travel opens more minds than just those of the traveler.
posted by mdonley 25 August | 12:02
Also, I'm pretty sure it's illegal for someone, even your parents, to withhold your passport from you.
posted by muddgirl 25 August | 12:06
Muddgirl's got it, on both counts.

I'm reading your question as an attempt to collect some anecdotes which you could use to persuade your family that this trip would be OK.

But from what you're saying, if members of your family sincerely believe that the moment you get off the plane, off U.S. soil, OMG SOME GREASY FURRINER'S GONNA JUMP YER BONES!!!!!, logic and empirical evidence aren't going to do you a whole lot of good. Like the saying goes, you don't reason a man out of what he was not reasoned into in the first place.

And for another thing, you don't have to justify anything like this to them. You are a grown woman. It is your perfect right to travel abroad if you so choose.
posted by jason's_planet 25 August | 12:36
I'll try the simple approach first, before heading into full out sneaky mode to get my passport (currently in a safe with the key on my father's keychain). The other reason why I need said passport is because I'm about 80% sure it expires soon and I think I need more pages in it. (I've gone travelling before, but with my aggravating mother who is the stereotypical "ugly American".)

Russia is on my list of "must-go" places, so I need to grab my passport sooner rather than later.

(They say shit about me leaving the house to go to work, unfortunately. I just have to find some way to be like 'fuck off yo.' And then find a ride to the airport. And figure out when I'm going to leave, which looks like it might be May, which is going to suck because I hate travelling in the summer.)
posted by sperose 25 August | 12:37
More than likely, it'll end up boiling down to some sort of screaming match that will end up with at least 2 members crying (probably my mother and myself). Pops will say that I'm "ruining my life", mom will say that I'm going to get assaulted and "wouldn't it just be easier if I went along too and ran everything and won't let you pack your own stuff and won't let you talk to anyone BECAUSE STRANGERS LEAD TO EVILS". Alex (my brother) will probably go on a tirade about how "foreigners are worthless and don't respect other people" which is funny, because that's how he acts towards everyone else.

Like the saying goes, you don't reason a man out of what he was not reasoned into in the first place.

And for another thing, you don't have to justify anything like this to them. You are a grown woman. It is your perfect right to travel abroad if you so choose.

This much is true. Which is why I'm basically planning on selling the majority of my stuff, mailing what I absolutely cannot live without to my friend in another state (5 hours away) and if they give me a hard time, I'll just go live with her (she's already okayed this plan, heh). Fuck em.
posted by sperose 25 August | 12:44
Borrow his keys when he's asleep?
posted by mdonley 25 August | 12:54
Oh, also, if you don't want to play the power game with your folks, you can just say you lost the other passport and get a new one. They ask you to explain why/how it was lost, but you can just say "I can't find it!" or something and you're cool. Even if you don't know the passport number/issuing date/issuing place, they'll have a record of your name and biographical information and will probably process it all; perhaps they'll call you to verify stuff. You'd need form DS-11 and DS-62 from this website, and you have to apply in person - but you can do this at post offices and other government offices all over the place.

Also, if you "find" your old passport, you can mail it in to the Department of State to "invalidate" it and if you request it to be sent back to you with a nice note, you'll get it back with holes punched through it.

I legitimately lost my passport while moving, applied for a new one only knowing the month I'd received it, and later found it after getting a new passport; a few weeks later I sent in the old one and got it back.
posted by mdonley 25 August | 13:02
Whoops! This website - and it's forms DS-11 and DS-64, not -62.
posted by mdonley 25 August | 13:04
Seriously, sperose, I know where you're coming from. It's really, ridiculously, incredibly hard to stay rational in the face of that sort of parental pressure, but it's still possible. Staying calm is a big part of it. Changing the subject helps. If you can, enlist a older ally, like an aunt or uncle or grandmother or someone - doesn't everyone have a "cool aunt Laura" who went through the same shit when she was your age and thus can handle your parents a bit better? (if not, then I should send my cool aunt Laura some flowers, yo). Sometimes I would think of it like I was a politician making an unpopular decision - I had talking points that I would repeat calmly until everyone else got tired and gave up.
posted by muddgirl 25 August | 13:08
People over here are very scary. Make strange unintelligible noises they call languages.

There's only one place worse: the US. Where everybody has guns. And so many people get shot. By cops for instance for getting out of the car.
That's what protective parents in Europe tell their kids about the US.
Maybe that kind of reversal of perspective will help them realise....
posted by jouke 25 August | 13:50
I'll try and see if I can get my hands on the other passport (which I might be able to do if I wheedle my mother into it under the assumption that it'll expire soon or something like that, which may actually be possible).

I'll be definitely trying the "stay calm" approach, but it's difficult because I tend to tear up at the slightest thing. If I had an older ally, I'd use them, but unfortunately, most of the extended family tends to view me as the lesser fuckup (but still a fuckup). The only person I could possibly ask would be my Aunt Patsy, but since she's estranged from my father, she won't help me because she wants to get back into his good graces. (Fucking family politics, ugh. And they wonder why I try to skip out on all the brunches/get togethers.)

Somehow I don't think that telling them the only place I've ever been assaulted was in fucking WILLIAMSPORT, the wee-est town ever while I wandered around the red-light district in Amsterdam by myself and the worst that happened was a cat-call or two --would be very comforting. More than likely, they'd use it as an excuse to put me under house-arrest or some shit like that.
posted by sperose 25 August | 14:53
I'll be definitely trying the "stay calm" approach, but it's difficult because I tend to tear up at the slightest thing.

Oh god, yeah. Yes. It's easy for me to say now, "Oh, stay calm, blah blah blah," but I remember being there.
posted by muddgirl 25 August | 15:41
Yes, I know you worry. I'll be staying at International Youth Hostels; they have a curfew and are very safe
(reality - they're pretty safe. You might slip up and stay other places. Ooops.)

Yes, I know you worry. I've got a quad-band cell phone, and I will get a [insert country here] SIM card as soon as I get there, and I'll have a phone number. I'll call you every week. You can call me whenever you like. It's not cheap. (quadband cellphones can be gotten on ebay, and getting a sim is no big deal. You'll have a European phone number. I did this in Italy last year; it was really useful and not crazy expensive.)

Yes, I know you worry. I'm going to be cautious, and I'll be fine. I appreciate your care and concern, but I feel confident that I can take care of myself.

Yes, I know you worry. Wanna teach me some kungfu moves?
posted by theora55 25 August | 15:57
You have my sympathies and hugs, sperose. Another thing to keep in mind: they are who they are, and they are not going to change. Trying to change them is a hopeless cause; hoping that they will suddenly say, "hey, great idea, have a good time!" only sets you up for disappointment. Don't keep trying to please them.

Actually it sounds like you know this already; good for you.

I moved out right after college because the thought of continuing to live with mom (and her insistence that I eat her rabbit diet, because heaven forbid I get colon cancer someday) was unacceptable. Upon leaving, she said, "you know, you're lucky I'm letting you do this--when I was your age, it was completely unthinkable that I live anywhere else until marriage."

I also share your oversentivity to conflict (and alas alcohol doesn't do anything to help.%)) If I had your situation, I'd definitely be doing the keys in the middle of the night thing. Since they won't change, just quietly work around them and leave. Move away from the fire, and you won't get burned.

Let us know how it turns out!!
posted by Melismata 25 August | 16:14

I told my dad I wanted to check my passport to see if it's still valid. He tossed it to me from the safe while he put away his shoes.


Now comes the hard part (which probably won't be for a few months yet): telling them I'm leaving.

(Ah, yes, the passport is good until 2012. Awesome.)
posted by sperose 25 August | 16:45
OK, so typing "pasta salad" into a recipe site is like typing "sex" into Google. || What did you do this weekend?