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REFLECTIONS: ONE YEAR LATER

Chasing frozen waterfalls in Ithaca with #mycovry sunglasses! Can you see the reflections in my glasses?

Chasing frozen waterfalls in Ithaca with #mycovry sunglasses! Can you see the reflections in my glasses?

 

A year ago today, I was hopping on an airplane about to embark on the biggest trip of my life. My plane was headed to Cartagena, Colombia and I was about to travel mostly alone across 10 countries from South America to Europe. It would be one of the biggest trips I had ever done in my life.

The trip took my life for a turn that I had never envisioned. It led me to a love for travel, a thirst for adventure and a passion that I had formerly never known for anything. I learned that I love to write. First, about my silly adventures.... Waking up to a stranger massaging my feet on the beach in Colombia. Almost getting robbed alone in Peru. Exchanging money illegally in a back alley in Argentina. Then as time progressed, about ordinary people on extraordinary journeys... Modern Day Explorer. The whole time, I never knew where this little website would take me. 

Today, one year later, I'm super excited to be teaming up with Covry Sunwear, a sunglass line started up by two lovely female entrepreneurs - Florence Shin and Athina Wang. I have loved these sunglasses since I first wrote about them in my beginner writing days. I love when people chase their dreams and find success. Florence and Athina did just that! They had an idea 2 years ago for sunglasses that actually FIT and launched a killer Kickstarter campaign. They've been featured on Fast Company, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and today are selling these bad boys left and right. To get your own pair visit www.covrysunwear.com. I'm rocking the Castor Matte Blue in the photo above. 

Be sure to follow me on social media! I'll be showcasing some great photos with#mycovry sunglasses chasing frozen waterfalls in upstate NY! 

 

This is a sponsored post, but clearly I'm obsessed with them (i.e. the post I wrote about them in my beginner writing days) so everything is my opinion:)





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TRAVEL SIMPLIFIED: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING A US PASSPORT


As we look back on the end of a year, how would you describe your 2015? The Mayans would keep records of history in stone describing commemorative occasions i.e., the building of a new church, the beginning of a new dynasty, the start of a new painting. Today, thousands of years later, we continue to read these Stelae to see what the Mayans were doing.

What would yours say if you had one?

Would your mile markers be exciting? The birth of a new niece. The blossoming of a new relationship. The beginning of a new journey?

Or would they be pretty much stagnant? Happy Hours on Thursdays. Saturday night hookups from Tinder. Talking about that "thing" you've always wanted to do, but never took up.

If for some reason, you find yourself struggling to name something that you really care about and makes you happy, then I recommend you start your search next year by traveling. The first step? GET A PASSPORT.

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

ABOUT GETTING A US PASSPORT

As of January 1, 2016 - passports will cost $110USD for a 28 OR 52 page passport. Get the 52 page passport. 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED (with some variety):

A filled and printed DS-11 form, an actual Birth certificate, Driver's license, Photocopies of both IDs (back and forth) on the same side of the page, $110USD US post office money order, $25USD US post office money order for expedition fee, Passport photo

STEP 1: Submit an application for a US passport. You can fill out the DS-11 form online here.  You can renew, replace, update and apply for a US passport using the same link.

STEP 2: Print out the completed form and visit any post office or passport agency to hand it in. 

STEP 3: Prove that you are a US citizen. You can't just recite the Pledge of Allegiance (don't worry I tried), instead you'll need to show either: A. Previous valid passport if renewing B. Your ACTUAL Birth Certificate (photocopies NOT ACCEPTED) C. Naturalization Certificate D. Certificate of Citizenship E. Consular Report of Birth Abroad

STEP 4: Show your primary ID. A Drivers license , military or government ID, certificate of citizenship or a valid passport will do here.

STEP 5: Make photocopies of both back and front of the IDs on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. NO COPIES ON THE BACK. I know we love trees but the government doesn't! 

STEP 6: Submit a 2x2in color photo of your head in front of a plain white background. NO SMILING and with BOTH eyes open. You can get these photos at any CVS or Walgreens, but hit up your local photo shop to give the little guy a chance, yea? More details here.

STEP 7: Pay the man!  Continue reading below for more details regarding payment. 

Passport Agency:$110USD by credit/debit card, exact cash, US bank personal check or US post office money order that was paid for by a debit card or in cash. An additional $25USD execution fee for in person fee must be paid SEPARATELY in any of the above formats. 

Authorized Passport Application Acceptance Facility aka Post office or some public libraries: $110USD by US bank personal check, cashier's check or US post office money order made out to "US Dept of State". Cash at SOME locations. The additional $25USD execution fee MUST BE PAID SEPARATELY by US post office money order or US cashier's check. Personal checks and credit cards at SOME locations. 


PAYMENT CAN BE A LITTLE TRICKY:

Here are some things you MUST remember. 


Money Orders MUST be purchased from the US POST OFFICE. I bought one from Western Union and was turned away. These must also be purchased with cash OR a debit card. 

Personal Checks MUST be from US bank institutions. Don't try to pay with a bank based in Canada..

An Execution Fee of $25USD will be charged if you are applying IN PERSON at any passport agency or post office. This MUST BE PAID SEPARATELY from the $110USD application fee. If you renew your passport by mail, you don't have to pay this fee.

CREDIT CARD AND DEBIT CARDS will NOT BE ACCEPTED at ANY authorized passport application acceptance facility. This means post offices and some public libraries will ONLY take US post office money orders, personal checks from US bank institutions and cold, hard, exact cash. 

Need a passport ASAP? An expedited fee of $60USD on top of the passport fee can get you passport within 8 business days from submission at a passport agency, or 3 weeks door to door if by mail. 

You can renew passports by mail here

Got that? I know, it's a lot of hoops to jump through. DON'T WORRY, it's worth it. 

FINALLY:

Once this is completed, you should get your passport in the mail within 4-6 weeks. More time if you apply during the summer time. You can check the status online after 5-7 days HERE. 


For Frequent Travelers

 

The option to add the additional 24 pages to passports will expire on the 31st of this year. Frequent travelers who would like to add these pages will have to pay $82USD by the 31st. If you're about to travel in the next two weeks or are getting a visa and are out of pages, you can book an appointment with the passport agency for an extra $60USD expedition fee on top of the $82USD fee within 5 days. For more details, read here.


Have any questions? Feel free to comment below! Getting a passport is the difference between exploring a new country with a friend and sitting at home looking at someone else explore. At the end of the day, two hours and $135USD is worth 10 years of adventuring around the world.

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TRAVEL SIMPLIFIED: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VISAS, RECIPROCITY FEES AND TOURIST CARDS

VISAS VS RECIPROCITY FEES VS TOURIST CARDS

Here's a quick guideline and summary for you to understand the difference between visas, reciprocity fees and tourist cards before you book your travels. You don't want to be in a position where your bags are all packed, only to find out that you can't fly at the airport because need a VISA. Or that your budget is suddenly through the roof because you have to pay $160USD in visa fees. To find out if the country you are visiting needs a visa, tourist card or fee click HERE on my Countries page. You can click on each country to see more information. 

VISA (some countries, not all require a visa)-

A visa is a document that states a noncitizen's entry has been approved for a certain amount of time and/or visits. Visitors can NOT enter said country prior to entry date on the visa. Each country has different restrictions, so not all will require one and fees will differ depending on what country you are a citizen of. Generally, you'll have to visit the embassy to fulfill paperwork before your trip and show proof of your flight, address of where you are staying, income and include a passport picture and money order to pay for the fee. Sometimes you have to make appointments weeks in advance, and the visa will be sent to you in the weeks afterwards. Brazilian visas are notoriously hard to get and you will need to leave your passport with the embassy for a few days. 

**For the sake of this article, I am talking about tourist visas for American citizens. There are also student, business and other sorts of visas that you could apply for. Cuba, for example does not accept tourist visas from US citizens, but you could always apply to for a journalist visa to get in.

RECIPROCITY FEE -

 (Bear with me this can get a bit heady here) A fee charged by a country to visitors that is in direct response to the charges that the passport holder's country charges the other country's citizens to enter. Argentina's $160USD reciprocity fee for US citizens is equal to the USA charging Argentineans a $160USD visa fee to enter the US. The difference between the visa and the reciprocity fee is that you can pay for the fee online or at the airport upon arrival instead of having to visit the embassy. 

TOURIST CARD -

Simply a small tax fee that you have to pay upon arrival. There is no need to go to the embassy, one can purchase these online, at the border at the airport or it may come included. Mexico charges American tourists $20USD for a tourist card that is generally included in your flight cost or can be paid at the border crossing. 

DEPARTURE TAX -

A small fee the country will charge you that is usually included in your flight ticket or paid at the airport. 

*Generally, if you are on a layover and staying in the airport, you will NOT need to get a visa or pay any of the fees as mentioned above. 

Questions? Comment below! If it all makes sense to  you then in the words of my third grade teacher, Mr. Morano..."Got it, Get it? Goooooooooood."

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