Bureaucracy can bite my shiny metal ass.

(Dieser Beitrag ist in Englisch gehalten, da ich vielen Mitreisenden von diesen Plänen erzählt habe, die ich mit diesem Eintrag auf dem Laufenden halten will.)

A few weeks back I asked my readers and my Facebook friends about travel ideas. The background is roughly as follows: I have travel plans until April 20 when I’ll be in Sydney, and I want to meet friends just about a month later in Scandinavia. How to spend my time and eventually get there?

I presented some ideas and got some cool suggestions. The one idea that struck me most was pointed out by my friend Max and comes from The Man in Seat 61 [seat61.com]: How to travel from London to Australia without taking any airplane [seat61.com subpage]. Basically, take the train to Moscow, then the Trans-Sib to Beijing, travel south by train to Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, from there take a cabin on a freighter ship or an oil tanker to Australia.

I would go the other way, but as seat61 describes it, the procedure is just the same but reversed. I would have to skip the leg from Australia to Singapore on a ship and use a plane for that one, but besides that it should just work. Even as a kid I liked taking the train a lot and I still am very fond of railways today, so why not do this?

I started collecting information, planning dates and trip details, looked up schedules. I quickly found out that getting the visa for Russia and China would be the hardest part. They are not the easiest to get in the first place, but it makes it a lot harder when you are traveling abroad on a tourist visa, like me in Australia right now: Most embassies and consulates only hand out visas to residential people including foreigners on a work or study visa.

There was this one option though: You don’t actually have to be physically present to get the visa, but instead you hand over all the needed documents to a travel agency which then applies for the visa in your place. I found an Zurich-based agency that does visa for both countries and contacted them, telling them about my plans. Together we managed to find a time window that would allow me to send my passport and all required documents via courier to Switzerland, get the agency to apply for both visas and send my passport via courier back to me in Australia. Maybe we would have to get the visas via the more costly express application, but time-wise it should just work out.

At this point I had invested about a dozen hours into all this. Reading, scheduling, writing emails, making phone calls. I was also quite happy about the prospect of doing this trip, and all my efforts seemed to pay off.

So I started actually booking tickets that I would need for the visa applications. It turns out that this is not quite as easy as booking a flight or buying a train ticket somewhere in Europe: For that you might spend about 15 minutes filling in forms and selecting the right options, but after that you pay with your credit card and you instantly get your ticket by e-mail. I was not expecting it to be like that, but it turned out to be more complicated than I had anticipated. Buying train tickets for Asia involves writing a lot of emails and hoping you did not forget to mention an important detail. So there is a lot of back and forth and it takes a while until everything is confirmed.

The date where I would need to have all the important tickets came closer. And the closer it came the more stressed out I got about it, up to the point where I would only stop on my road trip if I found a restaurant or a café where there was a reliable and fast internet connection.

Then I realized I was not enjoying the trip anymore that I was currently on. I was not enjoying it because I was planning a future and much more complicated trip. So I started a Gedankenexperiment: For 24 hours I would just enjoy my current trip and not think about all I have to do for the other one. It was during the weekend, so all the contacts I needed wouldn’t be responding anyway.

I was a lot happier and much more relaxed.

And so I decided to freeze this project for now. There is no reason to put so much effort into it and make myself unhappy by doing so, when I can simply do it later. I still want to do it, but maybe in a year or two. If you are reading this and interested in joining me on such a trip, please let me know! I’ll keep a list of people who are interested and contact you when the time is right for me.

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