No visa required

I recently visited Belgium for a weekend and I am still surprised at how easy it was. Visiting an entirely different country was as simple as deciding to go, and catching a train.

Image: Ton Toemen

For European students, this experience is nothing out of the ordinary, but I’m still reeling at the freedom of travel in the EU. It’s easy to know that travel within the EU is accessible and that people can visit other countries (largely) without regulation, but it’s very different when this is a new feature in your life.

It has been one of the most exciting parts of living in Europe. My brief Belgian weekend was my first taste of traveling so easily within the Union, and I cannot wait for more. Beyond the usual excitement of visiting a new country, the ease of travel makes the experience so much sweeter – mainly because the memory of visa applications is still so bitter.

The freedom to experience new places and cultures and meet new people is a privilege I value very highly as a relatively new resident of the EU. In my previous experiences, the decision to visit somewhere new involved extensive planning for visas, passports, travel insurance and authorising bank cards for foreign countries.

I remember being 14 and preparing to visit Argentina. I had an entire folder of information and documentation, including government required letters of authorisation to allow a minor to leave the country without both parents with me. It’s impossible to imagine this being required in the EU, where there aren’t even borders to monitor movement between Member States.

I find myself fortunate to have experienced both stringent and lax travel rules, which makes me appreciate traveling within the EU. I don’t think I will be able to visit another country without taking a minute to remember the doomed folder of paperwork I’d have prepared if I were travelling from my home country.

Take my paperwork trauma as inspiration to take full advantage of the freedom to travel here in the EU. The next time you visit another country by easily catching a train or short flight, spare a moment of pity for non-EU travellers who are, undoubtedly, cursing their visa applications. They’ll see you in Europe in 8 to 12 months from now.

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