Here are a few interesting things that have happened during my travels. People often get mad when things don’t go their way when they travel. After years of traveling, I have learned to be surprised and grateful when things do go well, because a lot goes wrong when we travel. That’s just how it is if you want to experience new things.
I was young. My dad always worked, and so he rarely traveled with us. My mom, brother and I were supposed to get on a bus to go visit another city. But the bus was overbooked, and we were told that we had to wait for the next one. So, we waited for a longtime, and got on another bus. When we arrived at our destination, to our surprise, my father was there. We asked him what he was doing there. He said that the bus we were supposed to be on got into an accident and all the passengers died. We felt a lot of mixed feelings as we thought about all the people who lost their lives and how close we had come to joining them.
Arrival: Our flight landed, but apparently someone had called the airline and told them that there were explosives on board. So, they put our airplane on an “airplane dolly” and started towing it. We were trapped in that airplane for a good several of hours, and were told not to leave our seats. I was ten, wearing a gold necklace that resembled a tiny globe. A sky marshal walked from seat to seat to see if any of the passengers looked suspicious. He stopped by my seat, grabbed my necklace, asked where it was from, who gave it to me, and studied it for a longtime. To this day, I have no idea what he was thinking. That I had a detonator in there?
Departure: My cousin’s boyfriend’s car was small and we had too many luggage. So, he went to drop off everything at the airport locker the night before our flight. That night, two police officers showed up at our door with my cousin’s boyfriend. All the color was drained from his face. The police started asking my cousin questions in Danish. Apparently, they wanted the keys to the suitcases. We gave it to them. They escorted my cousin’s boyfriend back to the airport. And since we had nothing illegal in our luggage, all was cleared.
I was rooming with my cousin at a hotel with cement balconies when I heard a thud. I was eleven. My cousin was much older. I woke up and saw a man lying flat on his back on our balcony. I opened the sliding door and went outside to look. My cousin was still asleep. I looked over a tall blonde guy, thinking he was dead, until he shifted a little. I went back into the room and shook my cousin. She got up and called downstairs for someone to help. I found out later that the man was drunk. He had been sitting at the edge of the upstairs balcony drinking beer when he fell onto our balcony. He left behind a wallet with a wad of cash. We returned it to him the next day. My cousin and him became fast friends.
I have been to various islands of Hawaii at different points in time. The first time I was there, I was around nine years old. I had my hair in pigtails held up by rubber bands with decorations that looked like colorful marbles. We went to a parrot zoo, which I will not do today, knowing well that no lifeforms should be kept in captivity. Anyway, two parrots jumped on top of my head, yanking on the marble balls in my hair. No one was able to get them away from me, because they had these large beaks that hanged on to my hair. Finally, the zoo's employees were able to pry me loose from their grip.
I was on vacation with my mom in Acapulco. At the time, we had green cards. When we got back to the U.S border, they wouldn’t let us into the country. They told us to sit in this room. I had no idea what was going on. Four hours later, I began to lose my cool. I went up to this guy working behind a desk and said, “I have a passport and a green card. My mom has a house in the U.S. Clearly, I am a resident of California. What’s the hold up?” He asked me what was I doing in Mexico? I told him that I was on vacation. He asked if I had seen the news? I told him no. He said while my mom and I were on vacation, Iran took American hostages. They had to make sure that our green cards were legit, and that I didn’t escape Iran, and try to get into U.S through Mexico. It was a scary experience and finally, they let us back into the country.
I have been to Switzerland a couple of times. The third time, I was in Geneva, and I was strip searched. It was a humiliating experience. I was 19. This lady took me to this room, pulled a curtain and told me to take everything off. When I protested, she yelled at me. She ransacked my entire luggage, and went through the lining of my suitcase, hoping to find drugs. She was angry that she could not find anything. Then she yelled at me to hurry up, get dressed, and pack up my luggage. I wanted to cuss her out, but let’s just say that I didn’t want to end up in Guantanamo…
I was going through a passport check before getting back to the U.S. I was young, and at the time, I had an Iranian passport. The airport police in a white uniform approached me, and told me to follow him. I was a bit scared. You see, when you have a Persian passport and the police tells you to follow him, it’s usually not a good sign. Lucky for me, it turned out to be harmless. He wanted me to translate. There were these two Iranian men who didn’t speak English. The police wanted to find out what they did for a living and why were they in London. The men were from Isfahan and not Tehran. They had a thick Farsi accent. It was a struggle to understand them and to get answers out of them because people from Isfahan are quite clever, and evade answers. I did translate everything they said, but the officer was not satisfied with their responses. When I was about to leave, the two men begged me to stay and help them out. But the police didn’t want me to miss my flight and asked me to leave.
I have been to Canada several times as well. On one occasion, I was taking a break from my retail business. It was a last-minute decision to travel to Montreal, and so I just grabbed my purse, packed a few things and I was off. On my way back, they told me that I had to clear customs in Canada. At the time, I had a Persian passport with a green card. So, this lady looks at my passport and my filled-up customs card, and asks how come I didn’t buy anything in Canada? I told her because everything you have in Canada, I can find in the U.S, and I wasn’t interested in shopping. She asked me to empty my purse. I had a ton of work receipts in my purse. She scattered them all on the table. I was mad. I told her that those receipts are important to me and I didn’t want to lose them. She ignored me, and went through the receipts one by one, trying to prove that I was lying to her. Finally, after asking what everything was, she was upset that she couldn’t find anything on me. Lesson learned: carry bare minimum when you travel because they may dissect all your things, especially if your nationality is Iranian. You see, even when you have a U.S passport, inside, it is written that your nationality is Iranian. This is baffling to me, because the U.S asks you take a pledge allegiance to the U.S government when you are sworn in.
Arrival: We purchased our tickets months before September 11, 2001. We were to visit Sydney and Melbourne around September 13. Everyone was telling me and my mom not to go. Even the airline said that they would refund us 100% if we didn’t want to fly. We decided to go. At the LAX, there was heavy security with armed guards. There is always security there, but this time around, they made their presence known. Inside, the airplane was empty, and we had entire rows to ourselves. We put up the arm rests and got some sleep. Upon arrival and during passport checks, there were a lot of police with guard dogs that sniffed everyone and their luggage. It was an eerie experience.
Also, they say that Australia is very safe. This is true, but it comes at a cost of losing your liberties as you may have witnessed when their government brutally abused their population during COVID. Australia has heavy surveillance. As a tourist, you may not pay attention to the numerous cameras or being watched. But if you are a writer who pays attention to everything, you will notice it.
Departure: The turbulence was horrifying and lasted the majority of the 14-hour flight as the airplane went up and down. A hostess tried to pour me a cup of coffee and it landed on my clothes. My mom's face was tomato red as she hanged on to the arm rests so tight that I thought she was going to break it. A woman with a petrified face held on tightly to her baby. To be honest, I thought this is it. We are not going to make it. And when we finally had a rough landing, all passengers clapped for a longtime. When we got home, my mom and I slept for two days. Travel Tip: Find out when is the best time to fly to avoid turbulence?
Munich is a beautiful city that I highly recommend. But their Lufthansa airport is something else. First off, I don’t like the people who work behind the Lufthansa desks at airports, be it in Los Angeles or Germany. My encounters with them have always been negative, but inside the airplane, the staff is great. So, I’ll give you one example of my many terrible encounters with them. In Munich, they make sure that the coach, business, and first-class passengers never meet. So, if you have a coach ticket, your Taxis will drop you off in front of a different building as opposed to having a business class ticket and so on…At least that’s how it was when I traveled there. Once you are in, you go through numerous doors and security check points, and they all ask you the same questions to make sure that you are not lying. When you finally get to take a breath, and go to purchase a bottle of water, they will ask you once again for your passport. I was like, you know what, I’d rather die of thirst than to show my passport for the 100th time. I mean really. I just wanted a bottle of water, not narcotics.
Also, passing through their airport is a great indicator of segregation of classes and their police state mentality. And don’t even get me started on Berlin where I encountered one very nice police officer, and later, a whole lot of rude people. However, in Frankfurt and Berchtesgaden people were super kind. On one of my train rides, I ran into a group of American men. They were so happy when they found out I was an American too. They were like, oh thank God. We feel so lonely on this trip; no one speaks English. You see, many natives in Germany do speak English, but they are not willing to speak it. I also ran into two Iranians at different points in time. They were so excited that I spoke Farsi, and they both said, why? Why would you leave Los Angeles and come here? I’m glad that I went. Munich and Berchtesgaden were beautiful and well worth my time. However, many do not like foreigners. The class segregation and hierarchy are quite visible in Germany, more so than in other countries I have visited to date.
I have a lot more stories, but I’m going to end it here. Let’s just say, traveling can be both fun and stressful. Nowadays, I travel light. I don’t enjoy getting searched and probed. When they notice that I don’t have much, they usually let me go on my happy way. There is a lot of injustice when you travel, depending on who is working that day and how badly they want to treat you. If your nationality is not from a sanctioned-country, you can clear passport check and customs much easier. Also, when you fly business or first class, they don’t bother you as much as they bother the coach passengers. Unless you are a well-known public figure, or have a private jet, traveling can be quite frustrating at times, but you just accept it, and not let it get to you. And here is a tip: if you ever see a bunch of letter "S" stamped on your ticket after you check in, it means that they want you to be searched over and over. I imagine today, they have replaced the "SSSS" stamp with bunch of codes and etc. so that they could be discreet about how they want to differentiate you.