When Your Travel Plans Turn into Murphy’s Law

Written by on July 29, 2015 in Americas, Blog, Europe, Expat Life, Spain - 14 Comments

From on issue to the next -- what happens when your travel plans turn into a real life Murphy's Law

“If anything can go wrong — it will.”

The best laid plans.

Today, we’re time traveling to late January of this year. I’m in Madrid and I decide that it shall be my new home.

It’s really easy to get a student visa here,” my friend explains to me.

Seeing as Spain was always tops on my list for a country to plant some roots in, I immediately begin researching the process of getting a student visa for Spain as an American. Let me tell you: it’s a royal pain in the ass.

I identify what needs to happen first (fingerprinting in order to get an FBI background check since it takes for-ever) and when I arrive back to London, make an appointment with Scotland Yard, fork over a whopping 75 GBP for it and then pop that sucker in the mail. I quickly calculate that 10 weeks from now — the time I think it will take to process — means I should have them back late April.

From Tel Aviv a few weeks later, I book my ticket back to the States to begin the student visa application. Then, mid-April, when the background check hasn’t come, I start to sweat and decide it is worthy of a phone call to the FBI to see where my prints are in processing.

Murphy, nice to meet you.

Bench with a view #Delaware

A photo posted by Diana Edelman (@dtravelsround) on

“We haven’t opened or processed any mail we have received after February third,” the person at the FBI informs me.

“What?” I ask, my heart racing as I realize maybe I booked my flight back to Spain too soon to have the visa in my passport.

“Yeah, it takes at least 12 to 14 weeks,” she says.

I hang up and feel the tears stinging my eyes. Twelve to 14 weeks? That means the fingerprints may not come back until mid-May, and then I still have to get them certified by the US Department of State, still have to get to New York City to drop off my passport and application and still have to wait at least another two weeks to have my passport back in Delaware in order to get on my flight June 2.

Oh, shit.

Quickly, I head to the FBI site where I find a list of approved channelers who promise to expedite the background check process in a week’s time. I dial one up and explain my situation. “So, you can have my check done before I get back to the States on May 5?” I ask. “Yeah, no problem,” she promises. So, I board my flight, expecting the report to be en route while I cross the Atlantic. Only, it’s not.

Murphy, you’re kind of an ass.

I wait a day, and when it doesn’t arrive, I call them.

“We haven’t processed it yet,” the woman tells me. I can feel myself grow tense, anxious, panicked. I pull up my tracking number for the envelope I mailed to them three weeks earlier.

“It says it arrived April 25,” I explain, trying my best to breathe calmly and keep my voice steady. “You’ve got to help me. It took you more than 10 days to even open my paperwork, and it should have been delivered by now.”

The woman hangs up, but not before promising me she would have it done immediately.

When I call the next day, it has been completed and I ask her to please overnight it to me since they messed up the paperwork, and I have to get it out the door.

It is now May 8.

The background check arrives mid-morning to my house and then I call the US Department of State, because the next step in the application is to get a certificate of the Apostille of the Hague.

Enter, User Error.

I take ignorant, ill-prepared responsibility for this next little hiccup.

On the phone, I am told it takes three business days to process and certify my background check. Three. Days. Which puts me up to May 14 to submit my application, since I can’t even head to DC to drop it off until the office opens again on Monday, May 10.

I beg. I plead. I’m pretty sure I cry. Hell, I do cry. I even throw a pen in frustration (take that, ball point jerk). But, the woman does not budge.

“It takes three days to process.” Click.

Shiiiiiiiittttttttttt.

So, before the sun rises that Monday morning, Dad and I hop in the car and drive the three hours from Delaware to DC. Once there, it takes us all of five minutes to drop it off and get a receipt to go and pick it up. On Thursday.

“I don’t think I’m going to make my flight,” I say nervously to my Dad. “It’s just cutting it too close. Too many things have to happen.”

The return of my old friend, Murphy and his stupid law.

That night, I decide to take the Amtrak train up from DC to New York City on May 14. I purchase the ticket. Later in the evening, news breaks that the Amtrak train en route from Philadelphia to New York has derailed. The route I have to take two days later. Then, the next morning, Amtrak announces trains basically running the mid-Atlantic corridor are suspended. Right.

Lemons, meet lemonade.

 


Instead, Dad and I haul it up to New York straight from DC after I pick up my check. I walk into the consulate, drop it off and then we go and have a slice of pizza (hi, I’m in New York), before we traverse the hell that is driving across town in Manhattan in the afternoon.

Enter the waiting game.

This part sucks the most. For two weeks, I have zero idea whether or not I will get my passport in time for my return flight to Madrid. No. Clue.

And even more Murphy’s Law.

When the two week mark hits, I message the consulate and ask what my status us. I get a beautiful note back saying my visa is approved and my passport will be mailed that day.

Only, when Saturday comes around, it doesn’t show up. It’s May 30.

Truly panicking and beginning to freak out, I email the consulate explaining my situation and beg to pick it up in person Monday. It’s another day of waiting, and then Monday morning, I get an email telling me I can go ahead and drive up to get it.

When Murphy's Law hits your travel plans.

This time, my mom joins the road trip fun and we head back to the consulate, back to New York City. When we walk into the elevator lobby, there is a sign that lets people know the consulate closes at 3 p.m. It’s 2:20 p.m.

“Oh my god,” I sigh as we stand looking at the sign. “Can you imagine if we left only a few minutes later?”

I approach the desk of the consulate and tell them I’m picking up my passport, only they can’t find it.

“They probably mailed it,” I had said to my mom earlier. “That would be par for the course for what’s happened so far.”

“No, no,” she reassured me. “It’s there.”

I stand at the desk while they look for my passport, head down, thinking the worst. Then, a man walks in from the outside.

“Hi, I’m here to pick up my passport,” I explain when he comes to the desk, too.

They all disappear for a few minutes and then he comes back, my precious USPS envelope in his hand. Relief rushes over me.

“Here you go,” he says, handing it over and explaining what I have to do next.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I repeat. “Are you the person I have been talking to all this time?”

The man smiles and nods.

“You have been amazing,” I say, glowing from holding my envelope in my hand and knowing I will make the flight home tomorrow.

My mom and I celebrate over kale salads (I found a piece of metal in mine, natch) and then head back home. Of course, it downpours en route from Philadelphia to Delaware. Downpours.

But, we celebrate that night.

Happily ever after?

The next day, I check in to my flight and get on the plane, where we sit for an hour. While I’m not sure the exact reason why, I was told once I arrived back to Spain that there had been a bomb threat that day.

Oh, Murphy’s Law.

When have you had Murphy’s Law in your travels?

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The founder of Vegans, Baby, you can normally find her hanging out at vegan restaurants around town, exploring the beauty of the desert southwest or camped out at a coffee shop banging on a keyboard. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

14 Comments on " When Your Travel Plans Turn into Murphy’s Law "

  1. Amanda Kendle July 29, 2015 at 8:50 am · Reply

    Hahaha! Even though I knew you’d made it I was still on the edge of my seat!! I *hate* these kind of waiting games – have had a couple myself. Worst one was dealing with Russian embassy in Osaka … oh, I don’t even want to think about it again!

    • Diana August 4, 2015 at 12:40 pm · Reply

      Oooh, Amanda, what happened?!?!

  2. Arnie Edelman July 29, 2015 at 4:13 pm · Reply

    You forgot to add to Murphy trials, that when I put the address of the Spanish Consulate in our Garmin, I didn’t put in the zip code only NYC. We ended up in Brooklyn with downtown Manhatten off in the distance. Don’t forget the $40.00 parking for 20 minutes :). Yes the drive across mid-town was he**….Glad you were driving :).

    • Diana August 4, 2015 at 12:39 pm · Reply

      I forgot about that!! Hahaha!!!! Thanks for reminding me!! Love you!!

  3. Kate July 30, 2015 at 8:58 am · Reply

    Oh wow – what a tale! So happy to hear everything worked out in the end!

    • Diana August 4, 2015 at 12:39 pm · Reply

      Me, too! It was hairy there for a little!!

  4. Caroline August 24, 2015 at 11:26 pm · Reply

    It has appeared in the form of airport congestion that caused me to miss my connection in Colombia … but I’ve had it easy compared to you Diana :O

    • Diana August 26, 2015 at 4:13 pm · Reply

      Oh no! That’s the worst!!

  5. Silvia Namann August 27, 2015 at 2:05 pm · Reply

    This is awesome! It’s always so nice when things just run smoothly 🙂

    I have a friend who once introduced me to another law: “The longer you travel, the lighter you should pack.” James Meiert? That’s come to my mind a lot recently. Fortunately no big problems with Murphy 🙂

    • Diana September 1, 2015 at 12:14 pm · Reply

      SO nice when things run smoothly! 🙂 I like that law, too!

  6. Kaila Smith September 6, 2015 at 12:37 am · Reply

    Wow, this post had my heart beating SO fast.

    Glad things worked out for you in the end 🙂

    • Diana September 6, 2015 at 5:18 am · Reply

      Thank you!! Me, too!! It was super stressful while it was going on. But, I knew the worst case scenario was changing flights. So, wasn’t THAT bad.

  7. Amy (Two Drifters) September 17, 2015 at 7:31 am · Reply

    What a crazy story! How very stressful ! I’m glad it all worked out and you were able to persevere and get it done. Insane how stressful certain aspects of travel can be. Thanks for sharing 😉

    • Diana September 19, 2015 at 6:04 am · Reply

      There were MANY tears shed!! But, at the end of the day, there was no choice but simply to roll with it and do what I could to get back to Spain!

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