The UPS man just arrived at the door of my parents’ house in Albany, NY, where I’m staying until I depart on my trip, and I ran to meet him. He didn’t disappoint. He handed me — with a smile — an envelope from the Embassy of Mali, and I promptly tore it open.

(No, this isn’t a television commercial for UPS. This is my life.)

I’ve been approved by Mali for a visit! Another visa in my passport, another passport page full… And I’m wondering whether I should have added more pages to my passport before I left. Too late now.

This visa business is costly! Note to self: When planning to travel to a myriad of countries, budget plenty of cash — and patience — for visas. Oh, and dozens of passport photos.

Since my departure is just a week and a half away, it looks like I’ll be leaving with two visas in hand: Mali and Madagascar. I’ll have to obtain the rest en route. Here’s what I’ve scribbled in my notes:

Senegal — No visa required for U.S. citizens.
Mali — Got it! $131. Multiple entry.
Burkina Faso — Need it. $100.
Ghana — Need it. $50. And four (FOUR!) passport photos.
Cameroon — Need it. $50. Usually issue only one-month visas to tourists, but with my recommendation letter I should be able to swing a two-month pass.
South Africa — No visa required for U.S. citizens.
Madagascar — Got it! $80.

So I’ll have to get my B. Faso visa while in Mali… And my Ghana visa while in B. Faso… and my Cameroon visa while in Ghana…