My love affair with travel, language and adventure began when I was twelve on a six-city, 10-day trip around Mexico with my Spanish class. Nearly two decades and fifty countries later, I am still traveling and have fallen more in love with it. So in love, that I've made it a career with my company, Travelista TV.
I am tempted to live a life full of spontaneity but this has proven to be unacceptable for my friends and family, for which I'm thankful. I'm impulsive and travel feeds this desire.
A few months ago, I woke up and decided to travel alone to Mali, West Africa. I bought the ticket within a few hours of my decision and had no idea what type of preparation I needed in order to make this trip (only 16 days away) happen. I quickly discovered that I needed a visa and a mandatory yellow fever vaccine in order to enter the country. No big deal I thought, until the Antigua tourism board accepted my proposal to do a webisode series in Antigua which would require to return NYC on the same day that I was scheduled to leave for Mali. Thank God, my Mali trip was departing at 11:00 PM and my Antigua flight was returning to JFK in the early afternoon.
The Embassy of Mali is in Washington DC where they process travel visas. I was leaving for Antigua in 6 days and in order to process my visa, the Embassy needed my passport. The problem was that their processing time was 5 days for mail-ins, which meant that I would need to travel to DC to get my visa. I knew better than to trust an African Embassy to return my passport to me in time for both of my trips, therefore I called the visa office hoping that I could explain my situation and get my visa and passport rushed via FedEx. I finally spoke with a gentleman at the Embassy and he told me about a small satellite office in NY that could process my visa within 2-3 days. Score!
I called my doctor's office to get an appointment for a yellow fever vaccine and the receptionist laughed. She had never heard of yellow fever which I interpreted to mean that the office didn't have it. I called a few more doctors in my insurance network and they suggested that I find a medical travel office because the yellow fever vaccine is not commonly requested. After calling and price hunting over the phone, I made an appointment with an office in Midtown Manhattan. When I arrived, I met with a female Russian doctor who was cold and unfriendly. She told me that I was lucky to be able to see her that day because the next day would have been the cut off for her to administer the vaccine since I was traveling so soon. She also said that the vaccine could kill me because it was a "live" virus. "If you vomit, have extreme migraines and body aches, go the emergency room." she said. "Well, if I don't have these symptoms, when will I know if I've cheated death?" I asked. "It could be months," she said with a straight face. I said a prayer and let the nurse inject me.
It's been four months and I'm still alive and protected from yellow fever for the next 9 and half years. Now, I need to figure out where else in the world I want to travel that has yellow fever so I can take advantage of this risky and expensive vaccine.
Would I book impulsively again? Absolutely. Watch the 5-part webisode series on Mali to see how much it was worth it.
Follow Teri Johnson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TravelistaTeri