A friend of mine had just turned 30 this year and in the span of the 30 years of her amazing life, she had visited over 50 countries.
Just to give you an idea how amazing her life is, there are 195 countries in the world and she had been to more than a quarter of them.
As a fellow traveller, I can’t help but feel a little jealous.
I love traveling and would love to visit as many countries as my friend but there is an obstacle to my journey.
The best passports to have as of the start of 2019, according to an article in CNN Travel, are:
1. Japan (190 countries)
2. Singapore, South Korea (189)
3. France, Germany (188)
4. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden (187)
5. Luxembourg, Spain (186)
6. Austria, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (185)
7. Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland (184)
8. Czech Republic (183)
9. Malta (182)
10. Australia, Iceland, New Zealand (181)
This list is provided by Henley & Partner and it ranks the countries based on the access these passports provide for their citizens.
A different index, Arton Capital’s Passport Index, lists countries based on their ‘visa-free score’ and as of 2019, UAE ranks first with a score of 167. Germany ranks second with 166 and sharing the third place with the score of 165, are Singapore, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Norway, South Korea and US.
A little Google search told me that as an Indonesian passport holder, I am eligible to visit 56 countries either visa-free, with e-visa or with visa on arrival.
That’s about a little more than 1/4 of the world and I have to say, it’s pretty good and I’m very grateful.
Now let’s talk about the countries where I need to apply for visa before my visit.
Dating someone from a different country, with different nationality and culture, can mean a lot of different things.
The many different things of course, includes crossing the border.
I’m an Indonesian national and my boyfriend is of German national.
Germans have access to 166 countries visa-free while Indonesians have 56 countries.
Let’s let that sink in for a moment.
To have a vacation in 166 countries, all my boyfriend has to do is pack his things, buy himself a ticket and go.
He is now in a relationship with a woman from a country whose passport only allows her to visit 56 countries in a whim.
Our last vacation, we had to sit down and pore over the list of countries where I could go without the hassle of visa application and guess where we ended up in. Yep, my beloved country, Indonesia.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against traveling in my own country. Indonesia is full of wondrous places and I love it.
The trip was amazing. We visited a lot of beautiful places and experienced a lot of wonders.
But despite my boyfriend telling me repeatedly that it doesn’t matter where we go as long as we are together, I still feel a little guilty.
He has this beautiful pair of sturdy wings that has taken him places and now his movement is a bit restricted because my wings are not as good.
Of course I can always apply for visa for the other countries.
Let’s take Germany, for example.
I have so far, been to that beautiful country 4 times, twice of which I got to spend magical German Christmases with my boyfriend’s wonderful family.
It took me around 3–4 weeks to have my visa sorted.
Roughly 1 week to collate all the requested documents and 15 working days to process the visa.
The documents I had to submit for the visa application:
- A fotocopy of my father’s company’s business permit.
- Sponsor letter — signed and stamped.
- A fotocopy of my ID card.
- A fotocopy of my Family Card — a card that states how many people and who’s in the family.
- Two coloured photos — it must be the size of 3.5cm x 4.5cm with white background colour, no glasses, no showing teeth, 75% focus on face (what does this even mean?), and for German visa, forehead and ears must be visible.
- A legalized fotocopy of my bank account statement for the last 3 months.
- A fotocopy of my birth certificate.
- My original passport.
- Travel insurance.
- Flight ticket — entry and exit.
- Hotel confirmation letter.
- An invitation letter from my boyfriend.
I had to use my father’s bank account statement as he was sponsoring me and so additionally, I had to submit:
13. My father’s birth certificate.
14. He changed his name once in the past, so I had to submit the name changing certificate as well.
15. My father’s ID card.
16. A referral letter from the bank stating that I’m my father’s daughter.
Throw in the processing fee into the mix and voilà, you might get your visa.
Oh yes, they are entitled to say no to your request and you can kiss your processing fee AND the time you’ve spent, goodbye.
Don’t even get me started on trying to apply for the UK visa for my whole family last year to attend my brother’s graduation.
I spent so many nights staying up till 3AM in the morning just to fill out forms (for myself and my whole family)(The printouts of these forms nearly resemble a medium length essay). Not to mention countless trips to the bank and having to fly to Bali to have our fingerprints and biometrics taken.
Just describing and replaying the whole process in my head tires me.
But hey, it’s all for love, right?
Every time my friends invited me to visit them in their countries, where I have to apply for visa first, I sighed with exasperation. If only they knew…
Visiting friends aside, let’s take a look at a more serious case of life and death situation.
A friend of my mother gave her a tale of caution for consideration before she sent me to UK for my study.
She told my mother that a friend of hers sent their only daughter abroad to study. The daughter contracted a disease during the study, went into coma and was hospitalized. The parents were notified and immediately they prepared the documents needed for the travel.
The daughter died before the required visa was issued.
My heart clenched at the thought of a pair of parents having to fly to their daughter’s cold body. They never had a chance to talk, to hold their daughter’s hand or say goodbye for the last time.
I understand. As the heads of countries, the presidents, the prime ministers, the kings and the queens have a lot of obligations towards their people and safeguarding their land and protecting their people should always be a priority.
Think about it though:
We are currently living in a globalized world, are we not?
Shouldn’t we have less borders now more than ever?
To ask for the borders to be obliterated in entirety would be too much. We are at the moment, a long way from home. It will take us a while to go back to the very beginning where anyone can go anywhere without a piece of paper.
No, we won’t get there in the near future.
Wouldn’t it be wise though, to take some factors into consideration? Lovers who haven’t seen each other for a while. Family members who live too far apart for too long.
Shouldn’t we create a better condition for human connection to flourish?
Indonesia welcomes the nationals of 169 countries. Yet, we are only welcomed with an absolute open arms by 56 countries. How do we foster better human connection when it looks like things are tipping more to one side of the scale?
Knowing that I am able to travel to 56 countries with ease and not too much of a trouble is comforting.
It makes me wonder though.
How about those who have very limited access to other parts of the world?
I can’t even begin to understand how one can just draw a line on the map and tell oneself that there, there is where my world ends.
Even simply knowing that there’s still so much of the world out there I have yet to explore gives me hope, courage and strength to face each and every new day.
How can we deny others this access to the world of possibility?
Maybe I’m just naive.
Maybe it’s just a wishful thinking to get these borders and rules relaxed for even just the tiniest bit.