The Immigration Checkpoint
My Worldwide Travel Adventure Begins! First Stop: Europe!
I was all set to go and I had everything ready and organized. (Side note: Want to know something funny? I am currently writing this blog from the U.K. on a friend's computer and spell check changed my organized to organised. LOL I had to change it back and now it is underlined in red. So funny, so funny. ) Anyways, I was all set and ready to start my travels. I had my bags packed with clothes for every type of weather condition and every event ready. I had my passport and my cute pink passport cover and worldwide charger adapter and travel size toiletries ready. I had free international data on my cell phone and a cute pair of sketchers. I was set!
There was just one thing. . . . .
My wise and all knowing friend from the U.K. asked me a very important question. "Did you print out all of your itineraries and a copy of your travel health insurance?"
Uhmmmm. . . isn't it 2017? Why do I need to print out anything? When we get pulled over by the cops we can now show them a copy of our insurance card on our phones. I had all of my documents saved on my phone and I had three power banks so who needs to print out anything? Right? Alas. . . .
My initial departure was from Houston, Texas. I flew on United and then Aer Lingus (They are an Irish airline I believe. They are so cute. They have a shamrock on their planes!) I was allowed one check-in piece of luggage, one carry on piece of luggage, and then a personal item like a backpack or a purse. I checked in my super huge one piece of luggage which was luckily under 50 pounds and then I got my boarding pass and my carry on and headed off to security. When I arrived at the first check point station, the woman at security said, "Are you going to check that suitcase in?" Apparently it was too big. If I checked it in, it would have costed $100 going and an additional $100 coming back. Alas!!! I called my best friend and she came back to the airport to my rescue with a smaller duffel bag.
Lesson Number One. Always check on the airline's website or call them and make sure your suitcases meet their requirements in size, length, height, width, and weight! If anything is over the size or weight limitation, you could be charged an additional $100 and ain't nobody got time for that.
Luckily I had arrived at the airport early enough to fix this this little dilemma of mine. I went back to security and saw the same lady and smiled and said, "I got a smaller suitcase!" She smiled back and said, "I thought you got lost!" We both laughed and she let me in through the fast lane of security. Thanks Houston! Upon going through security, one of the security guards asked me about my tattoo and when I went through the scanner, the last security lady said, "Would you like a back massage?" I smiled and said sure and lifted my arms. The scanner couldn't read my back because of my hair. She complimented me on my long hair and wished me safe travels. I was set. I was so happy. I was on my way!
My first destination on the Europe tour was Glasgow, Scotland. I had two stops on the way though. The first stop was in Newark. Here I switched airlines from United to Aer Lingus and for that reason I had to exit and go through security again. Newark was different. The people at security were very serious and no one was smiling. I went through security again and this time my backpack got randomly selected for a search. The security person here went through all of my stuff and let me on my way. No big deal. I went to my gate and called and texted my family and friends one more time before leaving the country. I was off to Dublin, Ireland. Upon arrival I had a two hour stop and then a one hour flight to Glasgow. I was almost there!
Or so I thought. . . . .
Upon arrival in Dublin, I had to go through immigration. There were two lines. One for European passports and one for all other passports. I had an American passport so I went through the all other line. I wasn't worried about anything at all and I thought this would take just 5 minutes. After all, I have an American passport and America is the best country in the world, right?!
I approached the immigration officer with a big smile on my face and my passport and my cute pink passport cover. This lady was more stern and more rigid than all of the security guards in Newark combined. She first asked me when I was set to return to the U.S. I gave her my return date which was about a month into the future. She then asked me if I was working and for some reason, in the pit of my stomach I didn't feel like telling her that I quit and I was going to travel the world. I said, "Yes." She then asked me what my occupation was what the name of my company was. I gave her my most recent employer information. She then said, "American companies do not give that much time off. How are you able to get one month of vacation off?" (Yikes! This woman was smart! And she was right. American companies hardly give you any time off which is why I quit so that I could take a few months off to travel!) I said I was using all of my vacation for the year. She said American companies only give you two weeks of vacation at max. My mouth was getting dry. I said I had been with my company for over 10 years and I had accumulated a lot of vacation time. She then asked me whom I was visiting in the U.K. I responded with, "friends and family." This was true. I was visiting friends in the U.K. and I was visiting family in Italy. But here's the thing. Italy is not part of the U.K. (For me, it's all the same. For me, it's all Europe.) The woman then wanted to see my itinerary. I had sent a screen shot of my itinerary to my friend in the U.K. so I quickly pulled it up from our chat and gave her my phone.
Lesson Number Two: Never voluntarily give your cell phone to an immigration officer.
Lesson Number Three: (which totally coincides with lesson number two) Print out all of your documents so that you can hand those papers to immigration instead of your cell phone!!!
The immigration officer took my phone and looked at my screenshot and then went through all of my messages. I couldn't believe it. She just scrolled through all of my text messages with multiple contacts on my phone. She then said, "You are going to see your boyfriend, isn't it?" My mouth dropped. She asked me if I had any family in the U.K. I said no but I have family in Italy. She then said, "That's it. You've just lied to an immigration officer!!!" WTF???? I told her I have family in Italy and that I was going to see them and that I could show her the itinerary for that too. She said, "I asked you about the U.K." I then said the stupidest and most ignorant thing that I've ever said in my life. I said, "Ma'am, it's all the same to me. It's all Europe right?"
Lord have mercy on me because I sure did need some mercy.
She told me again that I have lied to an immigration officer. She kept my passport and my cell phone and she had me sit on the side until "further investigation". There was a huge line behind me. I took my duffel bag and backpack and sat on the side. I felt like a criminal. I was almost certain I was going to be denied entry into the U.K. And if there was a 1% chance that I was going to get through, I would surely miss my flight. It was a moment of pure shock and I was scared. When you are sitting in a foreign land with no passport and no cell phone, you feel pretty much naked. Was I going to be detained? All I could think was, "This must be a taste of how all of my Sikh brothers felt every time they traveled."
In that moment of confusion, doubt, and pure worry, I did the one thing that I knew was best. I prayed. I prayed to God to help me cross over 500 feet to the other side of the immigration windows. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I did simran and the mul mantar in my mind like it was nobody's business. But as I was doing it, I changed my thought. Something came over me and instead I told God this: I told God that, "I trust you. If you don't want me to go to the U.K. there must be a good reason. If you want me to go straight back to the U.S. there has to be a reason" I told God that whatever he/she wants, I accept. Whether it be to go through immigration and go to the Europe or to go straight back to the U.S. I accept.
A few minutes later, the immigration lady called me over. She was holding my passport and my cell phone. My heart was pounding. But I was ready for whatever fate that she also held in her hands. She said, "Even though you lied to an immigration officer I'm a nice person and I'm going to let you go through"
Waheguru Tera Shukar Hai :)
Lesson Number Four: The rest of the world doesn't really like America that much especially right now. Thanks Trump. >:(
Lesson Number Five: Know your countries before visiting them or stoping by in them!!! The U.K. consists of 4 countries: Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Northern Ireland is a separate country from the Republic of Ireland and Republic of Ireland is not part of the U.K. However both the Republic of Ireland and the U.K. are a part of Europe. Confused yet? LOL Watch this:
The most important lesson of all time: Always, always, always trust in God. :)
Bhull Chuk Maaf