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  • Awatif Yahya

Planning with Sensibility


I like to plan; it is in my Zodiac nature. It gives me comfort and the clarity I need to pursue my goals. But too much of it can be problematic. Allow me to share a personal story.


I had planned a well-due vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. My plan included not only researching flights, hotels and activities, but also weather forecasts, water clarity and shark behavior! I got everything aligned, packed my suitcase and headed to the airport.


At the check-in counter, I overhead a general comment from the airline agent along the lines of “as long as the passport is valid for 6 months, it should be ok for all travelers”. My passport was valid, and I was able to check-in without issues, but this comment automatically triggered a worry for my next planned trip (yes, I had planned my summer trip and the one after it for my birthday celebrations in November in Jamaica). With a quick calculation, I knew my passport validity will fall short 2 weeks of the expected 6 months validity. My internal panic alarm went off!


As soon as I cleared customs, and before boarding started for my DR flight, I was researching passport validity requirements for my Jamaican trip in November. Sure enough, 6 months is a common requirement. My brain started running hypothetical alternatives. How long would it take to apply and be issued a new passport? Will I get a refund for the ticket and hotel I had already pre-paid? Do I celebrate my birthday a month earlier to be in good standing with the six-month requirements? Do I cancel the November trip altogether?


My next step was to call a local embassy or consulate to double-check. In my head, I wanted to confirm facts and hear options whether they came from a pre-recorded message or a real person. My planning mode was operating at full capacity, and I was ready to make alternative plans if needed.


Without paying attention to the time of the day, I called my local Jamaican consulate at 7am. A real person answered, needless to say, a very sleepy real person! I was delighted to speak to a human, and he did offer the information I needed. It turns out, I was good to travel with a 5 months 2 weeks passport validity, however, he was not impressed with my selection of the time to call and did not hold back. He asked me (several times) if I personally knew of any consulate that operated at 7am, he then proceeded to tell me he had no knowledge of any embassy or consulate that was open at 7 in the morning and confirmed their opening hours as 10am to 3pm. I was sincerely apologetic. I felt really bad for waking up possibly the ambassador himself! I had disrespected his personal time and boundaries. Maybe I wasn’t a worthy tourist to his beautiful country.


I spent the reminder of my time at the airport feeling a little low. It ate away from the excitement for my current trip. Then I forced myself to snap out of it, learn my lesson and motivated me to write this blog (from the airplane since my vacation does not technically start until I land). The lesson learned is to live in the moment! Planning is a leadership skill, but so is flexibility. Being rigid can damage relationships and take away mind calmness. It is never attractive.


So, to all my fabulously structured planners out there: planning sensibly and staying calm is the way to go.

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