Since my wife and I will be going back to Japan in June, mostly for the purpose of Ryoko’s family seeing their new granddaughter/neice, It means that we need a passport for our baby girl, Karisa. I first looked up the requirements and application form online at the U.S. Department of State. The application form is straightforward, and the amount of red tape we had to go through at the county offices was pleasantly small. The only complaint is that we had to pay an extra $60 for a total of $140 in order to get the passport within 2 weeks. Normally it takes up to 6 weeks, but we need her passport before that.
But later I took a closer look at the Department of State homepage. After the title and shortcut bar at the top, it has several headlines that are considered of top importance for U.S. citizens abroad. The first item concerns voting while overseas, but after that it has a Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Middle-East and North Africa Public Announcement, East Africa Public Announcement, and then travel warnings to various countries including Lebanon, Iran, and Haiti. After looking through all the travel warnings and such, I have compiled and simplified the data so that any American can plan an international trip in relative safety:
1.) Do not go anywhere near the entire Fertile Crescent. This pretty much includes all of the Middle-East and Asia Minor.
2.) Do not go to any country that ends in -stan.
3. No Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, or Western Africa. In fact, just to be safe, avoid the entire continent. It’s just not worth the risk.
4.) Wherever you do go, try not to let on that you are American. This is impossible for your average American, who generally blend in like a killer-whale in a group of seals, both physically and culturally. Since only cosmopolitan Americans (all too often an oxymoron) could successfully pretend to be Europeans, your best bet is to claim to be a Canadian. This is easily accomlished by wearing a maple-leaf pin on your backpack or shirt. Unless you’re a Quebecois, even Americans and Canadians can’t really tell the difference.