In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, or in case you’ve just stumbled across this blog, I’ve recently returned from an amazing 16 month trip around South America where I visited every single country on the continent. Some for only a day; some for a few months. But did you know that this trip was almost the trip that wasn’t? It almost didn’t happen due to my own incompetence. You see, I lost my passport in the days before departure. When? who knows. How? don’t know. Where? well, if I knew that, I wouldn’t have lost it, now would I. My only guess is that it got lost [threw away, destroyed…] while I was making copies of the front page to distribute to friends at home. [Travel tip #1: Make copies of the front page of your passport. Take one or two with you. Leave one or two with someone back home. It’s immensely easier to get a replacement with that copy.]
I turned my entire house upside down multiple times looking for a document the size of an index card. I never found it. So I did a little bit of research and found out that you CAN get an emergency passport as long as you meet certain requirements–the main one being that you must have proof of international travel within two weeks. Two weeks, you say? That sounds a little risky–to have an international trip scheduled without a passport. Risky it is, but that’s the main requirement for getting an emergency passport. Oh and $$$. The regular passport fee + the expedite fee.
My situation was as follows: I had a flight from Charlotte to Bogota with a 8 hour lay-over in Miami. As luck would have it, the IS an emergency passport office in Miami. Their hours are 8a-3p. The flight to Miami is 2 hours and with my flight leaving at 6A I would have time to make the detour. So I made an appointment at the Miami passport office for 8:45A. Oh yea, it was a tight timeline, but I guess this is the definition of travel emergency. As fate would have it, I met another girl on the place who was in the same situation, and we became buddies for the day. We both had early appointments, forms filled out it advance, pictures in hand, and appropriate funds. We took public transportation [there’s a metromover station very close to the to the passport agency], had our appointment [and let me say, for government agencies, fairly efficient], and were done [except the waiting] by 10:30A. We were instructed to return after 1p to pick up our passports. The Miami agency is located in a business area so we grabbed lunch, chatted, and waited for time to pass. At 1p, we returned to the agency, and were greeted with bright, shiny, brand-new USA passports. Then the mad dash to the airport ensued. My flight left at 4p so I had time, but my new friend’s flight left at 2:30p.
Spoiler alert: We each made our flights, me to Bogota, her to Costa Rica.
Several things could have gone wrong on this trip. What would I have done had there not been a way to get an emergency passport? Or had a non-stop flight? Or a lay over in a city without a passport office? Or a super tight connection that would not have allowed me to make a detour? I don’t know. I know that any one of these things could have halted my trip before it even started. And none of the experiences of the last 16 months would have happened.
It’s the little things that can change our life’s course.