The Glamour and Woe of a Travel Writer Barbara Kingstone April 2, 2011 Middle East “When I retire, I’m going to become a travel writer,” a general practitioner told me recently. “When I retire, I’m going to become a general practitioner,” I told him. Are writers and their byproducts considered so easy that anyone could do the job? We peripatetic scribes are seen as having glamorous, easygoing lifestyles. Well, here’s a small epistle that happened to me recently, that took hours each day for over a month and that’s without recompense. The good side of this tale is that I had been invited by a cruise company to join them in and around the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. That is glamorous and so were the photos in the brochure. Yes, yes, I emailed back, accepting the invite immediately. Not missing a beat, however, there in my list of emails from the cruise company was the caveat that I had to have a confirmation letter from an editor. Yea, like travel editors have time to write back to everyone, even general practitioners. But luck was on my side, and modestly she says, so was a certain amount of credibility that I had carefully established over the years. My editor of a national paper for seniors, thought this would, indeed, be a good piece for their publication. The wheels were quickly activated and the ship’s tickets arrived. Now here’s where the glamour seems to take a nosedive as I started to struggle for that imaginary oxygen tank to keep me going and sane.. I just happened to be reading the itinerary when I noticed in small print that I needed a visa for Muscat/Oman, not one of the Emirates. No problem, come Monday, I told myself. I’ll just call Ottawa. But the problem, there was no embassy or consulate in Canada for Oman Hello, New York, can you help me? Sure, I’m told. She proceeded to tell me that the visa forms will be in the mail ASAP. Two weeks pass and time is becoming an issue. I call again. “Oh, I put the incorrect postage on the envelope and it was returned a few days ago,.” I’m told by the young woman whose intelligence I was beginning to question. Had she sent out another form? No, she had forgotten. Since time was becoming a serious issue, could she fax the form? “No way, it’s not allowed but I’ll re mail it.” A week passes, since neither the US or Canada is known for speedy mail. Now, I’m up nights worrying about it and I insist she fax the form. My urgency must have awakened her from her somnambulistic existence but she didn’t know the cost of the postage or the visa and would I send a prepaid for envelope back to her. This done, I wait and wait and call again, – It’s count down time. Enter Washington. Their embassy is now implicated since I had put journalist down in the space marked occupation. Oman too, was now involved and there were three days to count down.. “No,” I’m told, “ you won’t have the visa back in time but perhaps they could send it to my first port of call.” Bless that wonderful Nadia in Washington. “Please Nadia, can you return my passport? New York promises me that it’s in the mail, my pre paid overnight envelope.” No passport, no trip. It doesn’t arrive. Why, I ask early the next day. “Oh,” says the intellectually challenged person in New York, “I sent it to Washington.” I had just seen an episode on TV that said most people lie at least 25 times a day. I figure the New York rep is right up there with the chiefs of mendacity. But Nadia comes to the rescue and my passport arrived the day before I’m to leave, but no visa. I depart not knowing if I could enter Muscat/Oman and this being the last stop for the ship, I’m wondering what a travel writer does when she’s left on the shores of the Arabian Sea, sans visa. Glamour, adventure, Dr. General Practitioner. There’s more to my trade than taking a pulse and besides, OHIP pays for your time.