I think it makes sense to dedicate one of the first articles of this travel Blog to the very first misadventure of my trip to Australia, which scheduled a couple of stop-over of a few days in other countrieson the way to Sidney.
Recently graduate in Law, I quit my job as a legal practitioner (paid just few hundred bucks a month) to leave for Australia with a Working Holiday Visa.
As it always happens when you decide to change life and take the risk, the world immediately put you at test to see if you really can cope. You have to be geared up and also a precaution like a condom could end up saving your life.
I land in an opulent airport, furnished with palms, water walls and huge white columns everywhere . I am dressed like the typical western tourist: cap, hoodie, loose jeans and a backpack.
My appearance seems to convince not the employee at the passport control. In fact, until a few days before I worked as a legal practitioner and in the picture on my brand new passport I’m wearing a suit, a shirt and have some beard, while I’m now clean shaven as I normally do for longer trips.
“It’s not You”
“No no no, wait. That’s my working appearance, I’m on holiday right now, I did shave: look at me, you can definitely tell it’s me!”
“It’s not you.”
My reaction to the remonstrances of the passport-control cemployee (italian dubbing)
I get away providing my id card and drivg permit for comparison, so I can finally pass the checks, text home to tell that I’m fine and keep going.
I’m chatting with Guido, an Italian guy who was sitting next to me on the plane. He just graduate and accepted a job proposal which brought him here, unlike me is therefore dressed up. We pass trough a further check-point, predictable enough one of the policemen points me out and tells me to stop on a side, while Guido continues safely, I will never see him again.
The cop wants to check my backpack and starts digging in it. He pulls out a small leather sachet that I brought with me to keep some necklaces, bracelets and other “Beach style” trinkets.
That little sachet had been gifted to me and to my two housemates in Spain, at the end of our Erasmus period (a university exchage program) by a Greek who had a hippie shop at the base of our building. The three leather bags contained some round and coloured seeds, black, green and red.
You don’t need to be a savvy traveler to understand that carrying with you some sort of “seeds” while traveling is not a good idea. I had therefore already removed the seeds from the bag before hitting the road.
The policeman, who’s a big guy wearing a basque and a blue uniform, puts his fingers in the bag and begins to inspect it.
In my mind I’m thinking: “Dear cop, I knew you could have checked the sachet, hence I removed the seeds , I’m not stupid“.
To my astonishment the policeman extracts with two fingers a black seed, eventually remained concealed in a fold.
He looks straight in to my eyes and asks me:
“And What is this?”
I go pale, in my mind I only got this one question:
“Ok, how do I now explain now this cop that this is a good luck charm I had as a gift by a Greek, in Spain…”
With my english level of that time, I didn’t even know the word “seed”.
there were more…
I don’t know what they are…
I knew they could have been a problem at the airport, so I removed them…
It’s something that brings good luck… “
Stares. Maybe he’s not understanding me.
“Fortune! Fortune! “ I exclaim, ” Good luck! “
Ok, I’m screwed. I’m going to jail, a jail thousands of kilometers from home, and I just texted home: “Just landed, all good. ”
And now, what do I do?
The policeman leads me to a closet tabout a meter for two. He starts searching me, he pokes my pockets and he keeps repeating insistently:
“What is this? “,” What is this?! “
It’s getting intese, I can feel the cold drops flowing down my face, for the first time in my life I truly understand the meaning of the expression “cold sweat”. How do I get out of this situation?
The policeman wants to check my wallet, I tend it to him and he starts to search in every pocket and fold. Suddenly he extracts a long since forgotten condom, probably from the ice age.
“And What is this?”, questions.
Pushed by the grotesque situation, words come out of my mouth by themselves:
“Come on man, You know!“
To the policeman likes the answer, starts laughing, laughs out loud. In the end he doesn’t look much older than I am.
He looks at me, shows me again the seed pinched between two fingers and asks me:
“And What is this?”
Exhausted, I go like:
“Listen, I -DON’T-KNOW”.
The policeman opens the door of the closet, tends me the passport from behind his back and beckons me to go with the head.
He retains both the condom and the seed.
If you’re not already used to have a condom with you when you’re traveling, I hope this article convinced you, it could save your life.
- If you find yourself in a difficult situation try to throw a joke.
- Make sure the picture on your documents and your appearance match.
- While traveling, and especially going trough security checks, it’s always convenient to have a clean and neutral appearance. For as much envolved you could be in your causes, try to don’t wear anything related to politics, religion or other sensible subjects. I now always bring a clean polo shirt with me for this and other “formal” situations.
- If you want to text home that you landed and everything is fine, wait until you effectively have come out of the gate and entered the country of arrival.
- Always have a condom with you. A tip I had from a fellow traveler: the finding of a condom during a search still tends to cause some kind of awkwardness in to the officer, so it might lead to a premature ending of an annoying safety inspection. He personally keeps a condom in every pocket of his travel backpack. Now imagine the feeling of an officer which keeps finding a condom in every single pocket he inspects.
Attention: In addition to objects well known to be banned on board of aircraft or not accepted at the Customs (sharp objects, liquids, gases and flammables…), there are other objects of common use that, eventhough innocent, could get you in trouble in some countries. For example, allegedly the sole ingestion of poppy seeds could distort the results of a drug test (read this Wikipedia article). Always be well informed about the country you are about to visit before traveling!