Before I really get into it, I thought I'd share the most recent major change in my life that has only a little to do with traveling. I had my sister cut off all of my hair before we left home (you can see the process here, here and the result here). My long locks kept getting stuck under my backpack straps and bags - it was the most irritating thing. So I handed her some scissors and we cut off 8 inches. It's a bit shocking, I think - and I feel like a little girl even more now than before, but it feels good, it's not in my way and it's so much easier to manage. Also, before leaving yesterday I enjoyed the special treat of meeting up with my friend Caitlin and Julia of Rennes. It was so fun to spend some time with them in the city, and it was so great to meet Julia. What a sweet girl!
We arrived in Madrid late this morning, exhausted but happy to be here. Ashley is still napping and I am trying to keep myself awake so that I can sleep well tonight - although I really doubt that will be a problem after all we've been through so far. Quite a bit has happened since leaving New York, one thing in particular that is going to drastically alter our experience abroad. Other than being upgraded to business class and being very blatantly invited back to "have fun" with one of the male flight attendants on our flight (most absurd/funny/memorable flying experience I have ever had), taking a nap and cleaning up after a long red-eye, I don't have much to report about Spain - so I suppose I will just cut to the chase.
When Ashley and I were checking in for our flight at JFK to Madrid, we were informed that I would not be allowed to leave the US without a visa since I plan to travel around for five months, which exceeds the 90 day restriction under the Schengen Agreement. I was surprised and upset when I learned this, as I thought I had looked into whether that would be a problem and I thought I'd read accurate information that confirmed I wouldn't need one. Well, I was wrong - or rather the information I read was wrong, and I was stupid. I should have looked into it more closely. Ashley would be allowed to go because she has a return flight booked to California for early May so that she can attend a good friend's wedding. I however, did not have a return flight because we were planning to use Ashley's friend's buddy passes (his mother is a flight attendant) to come home. As you can imagine, they (being the airline personnel) didn't like the sound of this at all. Again I was told I could not board the plane if I were planning to stay in Europe for five months without a visa. There was some panic, as Ashley thought she would have to make the choice of whether to stay or go alone. We both got a bit emotional for a minute but I am proud of us for taking deep breaths and keeping ourselves together - however stressful it was. To temporarily solve the issue of not being allowed to fly to Madrid, I bought a ticket to return to New York in early May. So although I can be here now, the issue of the 90 day window is still an issue. Clearly this cuts out a huge part of our plans for this long anticipated journey and we are both feeling a great mix of emotions over it.
I am embarrassed and deeply saddened to be reporting this. I feel so stupid - I am really trying not to beat myself up over it too much but I cannot believe I made such a huge mistake. We are currently trying to figure out if there's anything else we can do to make the rest of our plans happen, but so far we haven't had much luck. This is a pretty huge blow.
Since there is nothing we can do to change things as they are now, I know that we both simply must enjoy the time that we are allowed here. We recognize this means no baking or fruit picking in France, no goat cheese or bread making in the Czech Republic and possibly not finally being able to run through the hills of Austria and understand a small amount of what it was like to be Maria Von Trapp. All of these things I so intently had my mind and heart set on. I feel a great deal of loss to know that those things probably will not be happening, but it is what it is, so all we can do is enjoy Spain and then squeeze in as many other things as possible before we are forced to leave. Meanwhile, my dad is at home trying to figure out if there is a solution, and I will be hoping with all of my heart that somehow we can fix this.