The Road to Damascus is Paved With Uncertainty

How all of political issues and the U.S. response directly effects my travel is more about frustration than anything else. My plan when I arrived was to stay a couple of nights in Beirut and then cross the border of Syria on the Beirut-Damascus Road. The first day I was here the road was closed due to riots and then yesterday there were more demonstrations following a speech by the leader of Hezbollah. Overall though, the situation remains peaceful as both sides have seemingly transitioned democratically.

The U.S. has had some strong statements against what has gone on here in Lebanon, even though everything was done within the constitution and through the democratic process. It is frustrating the Lebanese to hear the U.S. is reconsidering it’s economic ties. It is interesting to see the situation from this side as I get a unique perspective.

I went to the Syrian embassy to try to get a visa to travel overland to Damascus but was told there is a 1 month waiting period for American citizens. My second option is to attempt the land crossing with out the pre-arranged visa in hand. In normal circumstances the odds of an American getting through at the land border are about 50/50. The current elected Prime Minister is backed by Syrians so the U.S. response has not been taken well throughout the region. This means, the likelihood of me getting through is very low. There is nothing dangerous about trying though. At worst I lose a half a day. The Beirut-Damascus road is about 3 hours. I will likely be turned around at the border and told to go back to Beirut. If this happens I’ll visit a few more sights in Lebanon and then move on to Jordan by plane.

Keep reading to see if my cunning plan works!

Save Money Making Your Own Passport-Sized Photos

Passport-sized photos are essential for any “round-the-world” backpacker looking to obtain visas for entry into certain countries. Whether it is to apply for one in advance from a neighboring country or to get one on arrival at a border crossing, many countries require one, or maybe two passport-sized photographs for reference or to be attached to the visa itself that goes inside of the passport. The style of travel I’m accustomed to requires a bit of flexibility and since I never know for certain which countries I’m going to visit until after I’ve left it important that I carry extra photos with me.

Typical Visa on Arrival

Typical Visa on Arrival

For those reading who don’t know exactly what a visa means, it is basically an additional requirement or permit needed for entry into a country for a number of reasons, whether it is tourism, business or a resident work visa. As a U.S. citizen I’m incredibly lucky to have visa requirements waived for many countries throughout the world. That being said, there are still many in which visas are required.

Yesterday afternoon I decided to run into CVS pharmacy across the street from my house to pick up about 18 passport-sized photos (2×2). It turns out that 2 photos cost $9.99. For a second I almost considered going through with it but quickly did the math and I was looking at nearly $100 for a few tiny photographs. This was completely unacceptable and I wondered how many other people have gone through and paid this much before? The cashier actually apologized as she realized it was way overpriced.

I phoned my brother and asked him what he thought was the best idea. Seeing as though all the CVS worker was going to use was a digital cam I figured no professional assistance was required. I went over to my brother’s office at Tafuro Communications and he took a few photos of me against a clear wall. He opened up Adobe Photoshop and made a 6×4 canvas where he pasted 6 2×2 photos of me. We then went on Walgreen’s website and uploaded the individual 6×4 photo and requested 3 prints. Each print cost $0.23. The total cost was under $0.70. I saved nearly $90! I waited about 30 minutes and picked them up from the store by my house. Now, all I have to do is run into kinkos and slice up the individual photos and put them in an envelope and I’m good to go!

6 for the price of 23 cents!

6 for the price of 23 cents!