As we prepared for our multi-year travel adventure, we told ourselves that we would need flexibility. We knew that we would run into situations where a schedule would change, something would run late, or an activity would get canceled. We told ourselves to be mentally ready to adapt to whatever unexpected circumstances would be thrown our way. This would be an adjustment for us, as we both like to have all of the details planned in advance.
Our First Test
The first test of our decision to remain flexible occurred at the airport as soon as we landed in Lima, Peru, our first destination. We did our research ahead of time, and we learned two things.
- The maximum allowed length of stay for Americans in Peru was 183 days.
- Some immigration officials at the airport give a 90 day stamp in your passport unless you specifically ask for the full 183 days.
We were planning to stay in Peru for a full 6 months. So we thought that all we would need to do is ask the immigration official for the full 183 days. I even practiced asking this in Spanish before arriving. When we were called up to the immigration counter, we handed our passports to the official. I confidently said, “Ciento ochenta y tres días, por favor.”
The immigration official then very politely told us that the law had just been changed in the last month. Now the maximum allowed length of stay for Americans was 90 days. He pulled up a document on his phone to show us that this indeed was the new policy. He gave us a few suggestions about what we could try if we wanted to stay longer, including applying for an extension at the immigration office or leaving the country and then coming back for another 90 days.
Weighing Our Options
We later looked into the process for getting an extension at the immigration office and decided that it was too complicated. Besides, others who had tried this process had been denied. We also didn’t want to make a multi-day trek to the Chilean border and risk being denied re-entry into Peru.
So we decided that the best solution was to modify our itinerary. We had originally planned to divide our first year of traveling into 6 months in Peru, 3 months in Ecuador, and 3 months in Colombia. Now we think we’ll spend 3 months each in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and a fourth (yet to be determined) country. We’re not sure which country this will be, but we’ll figure it out. After all, we are learning flexibility.