Acquiring my US passport in 2009, almost 15 years after moving to the States, was a long-awaited luxury. Arriving in the mail just a few months before a backpacking trip through Europe, I was liberated from the unavoidable bureaucracy of the visa application process (and the congested queues of consulate waiting rooms). As my travels to date have mainly consisted of destinations in North America and Europe, all of these doors that were previously shut to my Turkish passport suddenly became wide open, and I was ready to jump through as many of them as time and budget would allow.
Now, with an expanding itinerary that covers the better half of the globe, I have slowly begun to realize that what once opened all the doors will become a burden at times, and would best be hidden away. Which countries will I be better off not broadcasting my US citizenship? Who have we pissed off in the past? For which countries can I avoid paying a bribe if I enter as a Turk?
Luckily, for most of those “iffy” countries, my Turkish citizenship comes to save the day! And with the combined forces of my dual citizenship, I have visa-free access to a nice chunk of the world which I have outlined in blue in the map below. As I will most likely not be visiting the greater part of the African continent, and entering Australia and the majority of the unshaded portion of South-East Asia can promptly be taken care of with a trivial fee upon arrival, all that remains is mastering the delicate dance of diplomacy.
Similar to learning a new dance style, I should expect to have my toes stepped on (and step on a few myself) in dealing with immigration officials and law enforcement. This will be inevitable. However, practice will make perfect, and a little common sense and prior research should help me stay on beat. The global network of interconnected Lonely Planet travelers has already been a great help in answering some of my questions!
As for that unshaded portion, I decided to tackle the major visa obstacle before taking off for my trip – China.
From what I have heard, the Chinese are keen on making visa approval an unnecessarily complicated and difficult process. Simple actions such as neglecting to fill every non-applicable blank on the application form with the word “NONE” is enough to receive a rejection. Further, proof of a round trip flight itinerary and hotel reservations are mandatory. As I would not have a set date for my entry to China until a few days prior to going, this was going to be an issue. Luckily, my good friend Sean Su, who has also been of great help in initiating my entry into the world of photography, was kind enough to write me a letter of invitation to his home in 宿迁 (Suqian), in 江苏省 (Jiangsu Province). As a result, the delivery of my one year, multiple entry visa was expedited without any issues, saving me the trouble of booking flights in advance and preserving the flexibility of spontaneous travel to and within China. And if everything goes as planned, Sean and I will be traveling together within China for a few weeks!
With passport and visa issues behind me for the time being:T-minus 57 days to departure..