I travel far too much. Last year I was on some airport every week from the third week (when I got my new job). This year is looking quite different - the first two weeks are also full of travel. I am on a mini-vacation with my kids for the new year, and on Jan 3rd we have already skied in three different countries. Of course in the alps this is easy.
But most of my travel is business travel to far-away places. And I've been worried about my visa applications. So far I have been very lucky. The Indonesian visa was very easy to get, for instance. And the people in the embassy were very friendly. But there are countries that need weeks for visa processing. So I decided to get a second passport that I can leave with an embassy, and still be able to travel. (Thank you Anu for the tip that this is actually possible!) Hopefully the passport will also enable me to ski in additional places.
This is all great, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how great even one Finnish passport is. I started looking into this when someone posted an article about the best passports. The article noted that the Finnish passport gives visa-free access to 173 countries, including some that commonly require visas, such as India.
This is so incredibly easy and useful that we often forget how difficult travel is for most people. And for basic things, like being able to attend conferences that are important for your work. Some of my colleagues in my international organisation have to apply visas several months in advance, and still some fraction of them fail to get visas. How would you feel if you were presenting a paper in a conference or your work meeting, and you would not be able to go because the visa process took three months? If you have not experienced this, you may not grasp how unfair and problematic it can be. Yet there are many problems like this in the world. Even for business and professional people that should not present any danger of immigration or being a burden on the receiving country.
Here's hoping that visa-free travel will increase in the world, or at least that visa application processes become simpler and more transparent. In particular, I am hoping that we in Finland return the favour from all those 173 countries, and make travel to Finland as easy as possible.
Photo credits © 2013 by Jari Arkko. Tämä blog on olemassa myös suomeksi.