A visa run is an inconvenient truth in my life. Well, it’s over all just down right inconvenient. Over the years this inconvenience has taken me to Jakarta, Phuket, Brunei, Singapore and next month it will force me to visit Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Joy. As a tourist travelling is my reason for living, so the idea of a forced trip may seem confusing and perhaps incomprehensible. But there is not a trickier issue to a long term traveller than visas. Travelers are mere tourists, just visitors in any and all of the countries they visit except for their so called ‘home’ country (if there is even such a thing), the country of residence or the place where the passport belongs to. And for that short duration they are allowed unpriveledged access, tourists don’t have any working rights, rights to seek and apply for work or a work visa, vote in the local elections on local issues, buy property or set up a business etc etc. In that sense, tourists can’t really do much but “take only photographs and leave only footprints”.
My passport ‘belongs’ to the United Kingdom and it states in the small print at the front of that obnoxious little red pass book, that ‘Her Majesty’s’ government can revoke and take this book of free passage from me at any time as it sees fit. So really what assurances do I have? And what real terms and conditions bind me to the citizen of that round the world ticket? I have never bothered to find out under what circumstances the British government would need or feel it fit to relieve me of my passport and considering how crucial that small book is I’m quite surprised at myself for not paying more attention. My whole life relies on that special relationship between me and Her Majesty’s. I don’t even recognise the Queen as my sovereign. I haven’t even met her but she feels the need to decide where I can go and for how long. Well, her relationship with other countries decides that which in turn affects my right of passage across the world.
She protects me. That’s what I’m told. She protects me when I get in to a spot of bother. That sounds kinda nice. How matriarchal and motherly of her. But like all mothers, she can take away her precious gifts if I happen to piss her off in one of her moods.
Luckily I have never apparently purposefully pissed her off, nothing she has noticed or felt was any real threat and so I have never had the misfortune of losing my passport to her. the Queen, Her Majesty. God save her. I wasn’t even born there, but she owns me. I did not choose her but I am now bound to her rules and regulations, my life is embedded in her institutions and ideologies and cultural practices. My time is her time, my vacation is based on her ca lander, my working week, on her schedule, my diplomatic and therefore political status is based on hers.
I could give it up I suppose, if any of this made me that unhappy. All I can say is – thank god I don’t pay taxes.
So I give it up. So I apply for another passport in some other country. I can’t hold more than one as this would just offend her so she takes my British passport away, that is if the country I apply for a new book actually feels I can make a useful contribution to their economy, that I’m financially viable. And if it’s the case where I’m not deemed to be useful and if I’m still so determined I can then seek asylum by claiming Her Majesty treated me without respect and stifled my human rights and the new country I want to seek refuge in and live in and start a new life in, is much better at protecting me and giving me opportunities to fulfill my potential as a viable human being, all this from the confines of a sprawling refugee camp.
So I don’t and I probably won’t ever, but that little book is more trouble than it’s worth. I should write a letter to the Queen stating my frustrations – “Dear Queenie, I never wanted to be British and now that I am I feel I can’t do much about it. But if I’m going to represent you abroad I feel you should do a better job at your foreign relations. Your actions directly affects my right of passage and I know you don’t think much of me as an economically viable citizen (I know you know I don’t pay income tax) so if that’s the case you might do well to help me stay longer and more comfortably in some other place. Yours Sincerely, theloudgirl.”