I need to apply for a VISA to go to Kona in October. I am starting the process today. Under normal circumstances a British Passport holder does not require a VISA. But mine are not normal circumstances and I do not want to take any chances. It all happened a very long time ago...here is part one of that story.
Many years ago, 17 to be exact I took a year out from my studies. (Gosh this post is going to make me feel old!) An opportunity presented itself to travel so I deferred my college place for a year so I could go fly the coup so to speak. I got myself a full time job in a frozen chicken factory in my home town so that I could save enough money to fund flights and expenses while away. Working in that factory was perhaps the most mind numbing (literally and mentally) experience I have ever encountered. I lasted 10weeks and then was out of there with a few hundred pounds in my pocket - I do not envy my co-workers who were 'stuck' in such a dead end with no choice but to take whatever they could to earn a living - (but that's another story).
Anyway. I was 18years old and had never flown. My destination was Houston, Texas the grand ol' US of A.
I travelled over and settled into my new temporary life. Life in Houston was plastic, at the time I knew little else but now 17years on I have plenty of experiences to compare it to. But it was a start to my exploration of the world and I made the most of it, eating my weights worth (which in those days was a lot) in Tex Mex almost every day!
After a couple of months I had to return to Blighty for an emergency. The plan was to attend to the 'emergency' and then fly back and continue on the exploration. Since a visa waver in the USA for British passport holders is only 3month's I decided to go to the US embassy in London while back home and apply for a 6month visa so I could travel for a longer period and not have to worry about those dreaded visa runs!
SO off I go to London for the day. I remember quite clearly queuing up outside on that cold winters morning waiting to be let in. Once inside fill up the never ending form, submit it and wait. And wait....AND wait.
Finally your name is called and you go up to the counter - similar to a bank teller, from the get go it is not a friendly environment and nothing is done to put you at ease. I am sure it is probably even worse now!
So the officer in charge (person with a badge that makes her think she is important) goes through my application. Question after question after question. It's all down there I say.
'But you have just come back from the states, why do you want to go back again,' she asks.
'There is plenty more to see,' I say. I want to spend longer there and travel some more,' I say.
'How will you support yourself,' she says.
'I was working full time in the UK before I left, I have savings,' I explain.
'I took a year out from my studies in order to do this,' I add.
'I have pay slips and proof of my employment here in the UK,' I offer.
'Sorry, you have just been in the USA for two months, I see no reason why you should go back or have a 6month visa,' she decides. And there you have it. She then proceeded to put a black stamp in my passport saying VISA denied.
Holy crap I think. I already have a ticket booked for my return. I thought this was a simple thing. Being young, and not having a lot of money I did not want to simply 'throw' my hard earned ticket away - at the time it cost me GBP400. So I asked. 'Will this prevent me getting into the USA if I go on normal visa waiver terms?'
She replies, so very very helpfully I may add, 'I don't know'.
And so I made the decision to fly. I simply did not think that the stamp in my passport would affect my getting into the country. Young, naive but most importantly - innocent, I had done nothing wrong. So 5days later I boarded the Continental flight to Houston. My tummy was heavy with butterflies and I jokingly said to friends on my departure 'see you tomorrow'. At the time little did I realise how true those words would ring.