A Modern Nomad’s Conundrum – 90 Days

I think there is a large misnomer, that holding an U.S. Passport is this Giving Tree of freedom to go anywhere in the world without limitations.

Yes, I cannot argue with an honest list of experiences, that outside a few countries, my ability to enter a country of my choosing is as given as the sun rising every day. Shy a small fee, either upon entry or at departure, my U.S. Passport is a guarantee to hearing the “hard plunk” of a fresh ink Tourist Visa stamp in my little blue book.

It is a badge of honor to geographically unstable nomads like myself. Sparkling in the eyes of fellow travelers no different than the medals on the uniform of a five-star general.

However, unlike the decorated military officer, with meticulously polished and ordered symbols of achievement, us global nomads openly stress over the organizational prowess of the next Customs Officer to thumb through our finely-weaved cotton and plastic laminate books.

“Oh, oh, oh… Not there! Not in the center of the fresh, new page. Can’t you see, all those other stamps on all the other pages?! Please, please, please… top right corner, top right corner, top right… It’s got your name all over it! Ahhhhhh…….”

And, then, the *KLUNK KLUNK!*

“YES! Thank you!” or the more likely, [Grumbling under your breath] “Really??? Why have you no organizational skills man!”

A Modern Nomad's Badges of Honor
A Modern Nomad’s Badges of Honor

And then we move on, excited to be in this new place, knowing a few more ‘minor’ challenges, we are comfortable negotiating, await us in an expertly honed process enabling us to quickly acclimated to this new place.

But that ink, not yet dried, has already fast-track passed our short term memory, and indelibly burned into our long term subconsciousness as though it were a hot branding iron to the flesh. The physical sting is real. We may even, with our senses heightened under the gravity of these few seconds, smell the paper under this new tattoo.

The orientation of our new design, not the design itself, will be the topic of many future conversations amongst our tribe. It always is.

But this is a Tourist Visa, an authorization by the country entered, to remain and do as you will [hopefully with respect] for 30, 60 or maybe even 90 days. To most locked into our culture, where two weeks and a mixture of long weekends around national holidays is the standard, 30 days is more than sufficient. Ninety days, an eternity, a dream for retirement. “If we were only so lucky as our parents and grandparents,” we, this younger generation of Americans think, long past the days of knowing The American Dream was an inalienable right of citizenship, then maybe, but now, no longer.

While I was in my younger days, still a greenhorn to navigating international borders, armed to the teeth with countless miles atop rolling rubber or afoot, yes in flip flops then too, where U.S. state lines were nothing more than photo ops at the “Welcome to….. ” signs, 90 days was the Holy Grail of travel, and that was good enough for me.

What is this arbitrary line I see on the map?  It means something different elsewhere?
What is this arbitrary line I see on the map? It means something different elsewhere?

It, 90 days, was a “Ticket to Freedom” on the back of my fortunate, but beyond my control, birth right.

One, I often have taken for granted. This I cannot deny.

One, many citizens of the world, justifiably dream about possessing.

But also, one, I have over the years traveling in foreign lands and attempting to be as globally aware as I can, struggle internally, conscientious of its unique powers… to be not only the implement of creation, but also a force of destruction by those whom wield it.

As with everything, experience and perspective of the observer, determines which side one weighs in on the argument. No different than the philosophical questions surrounding unlocking of the atom and nuclear physics. The pen is often more powerful than the sword.

A Catch-22 and Occam’s Razor of internal thoughts all wrapped up in one.

Openly questioning it, implies lack of gratitude amongst fellow countrymen.

Overstepping it, increases the ire amongst those who have experienced notably the negative impacts.

There is no winning, only losing, and that is as if the conditions of a “win” could be clearly defined. They cannot. It is just better to polish your skills of deflection to the punches that will come.

With rights, comes responsibility. I rarely see it any other way… and I am often at odds with my fellow Americans over the differences between the “little r – rights” all humans and sentient life should possess, and the “big R – Rights” penned by the hands of men. And battled in the same trenches today our Founding Fathers were fighting in centuries ago, to guarantee these freedoms, to think and speak openly, in the first place.

To what it has become, a perversity and a failing of our democratic system, while also an undeniable testament to its success. All wrapped up in one, it is extremely allusive to describe to outsiders, just as outsiders struggle to explain the system to which they are born and I want to understand from an external perspective.

A good friend cajoles me, without fail, on social media every time I touch down in The United States of America with a “Welcome home!”

All joking aside, I recognize his internal thinkings on the rights and responsibilities held by a natural U.S. Citizen are just as complex and unexplainable as my own.

His pathway to “ExPat-riotism” much different than my own.

But I study it often… that is, of course, when I am not shaking a virtual fist towards Spain, a bit envious of the hurdles he has knocked down to physically living a dream we share.

Ahh, those people skills coming out of an MBA ‘indoctrination’ we talk about often, and I know I could use some touching up upon.

You win this friendly competition *****!

Whether one would like to categorize the two competing approaches as “Spastic and reactionary” like the Hare or “slow and steady” like the Tortoise, there are clear parallels to our mutual pursuits to living overseas. I of course play the Hare in this allegorical story I have crafted, and would cede the fact ***** is too wise to engage in such boyish games. 😀

Although, in my defense [of current failures], I might argue, my attempts were more of a “living in the moment, all doors are open to possibility, why not explore each” nature. To which I bounced through half the countries within the European Union. Hey, why not!

But, lest I digress into another tangential story for which I am known to do.

90 Days - You are On Notice.
90 Days – You are On Notice.

“Giving” away U.S. Citizenship is something I have experience with as well. Many have heard the stories about how, this person right here, bound and determined to never marry in life, pulled a one-eighty and “tied the knot” in only three months!

The details, choices, decisions and reasons in the back story don’t matter too much now, except as a footnote and a stark contrast to an oft believed notion, “that marrying into U.S. citizenship is easy”, because it simply is not that at all.

Hmmmm…. 3 months, once a perfect duration of time, is now the bane of my aspirations when it is converted into a concrete limitation of 90 days.

Oh, the bitter pill of irony I must swallow!

How to grow roots, nail in some anchors, when the countdown begins on the first day? What if the garden is not ready to harvest by the 89th day?

Traveling inside and outside the Schegen zone within the European Union last year, forced the need to do complicated mental arithmetic upon me. Only allowed 90 days out of every 180 calendar days, my internal calculator began smoking as I spent 4 months over two trips throughout Central and Eastern Europe. My brain still hurts.

Ninety, yes you Mr. Nine Zero, I hate you!

You may be laughing now, but I’m bound and determined to get that last laugh in this matter.

If I were Stephen Colbert, yes I miss him too, I would be putting “90 Days” on notice. Maybe, I’ll do just that, albeit poorly with my amateur editing skills.

[Sets sights on a promising geographic prospect to be done with this hurdle, once and for… the time being!]

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