Once I found out you could get on a plane and visit far off places, Europe was the first continent I wanted to explore. Finally 27 countries later (not in Europe), I’m on my way.
As I fly over the Atlantic from Toronto on a beautiful sunny day, there is a sudden blanket of grey cloud, and I know I must be soaring over the United Kingdom. Excitement begins to rise.
After a smooth landing, I move through the the customs line, and I am excited to see my friends awaiting me on the other side. The lovely customs official reminds me of the tubby guy in Drop Dead Fred. He asks me the usual questions, and I tell him that I’m here to go backpacking around Europe. I show him my Canadian passport and departure flight information leaving from London scheduled for two months from now. He begins to ask for more details: “Where are you going next? Do you have a job? How much money do you have? Do you love your family? Are you single? Is that your natural hair colour? When do you expect your next menstrual cycle?” Ok, he didn’t ask me ALL of that, but you get the point. In the end, he was not satisfied with my answers. Detained. Held. Finger printed. Mug shots. Shit!
I find myself in a holding room with a crowd of other suspicious people according to UK Customs Officials. To pass the time, I start to ask the others what they are ‘in’ for. There is a South Korean opera singer in London for an audition who, while being finger-printed just before me, brakes into hysterics, screaming, “I’m not a criminal!” It’s finally my turn to go up to the fancy ink-less finger printing machine, the official looks me up and down and asks, “You’re not going to cry, are you?” I don’t.
My other cell mates are made up of an American who had previously over-stayed her visa, a Chinese student trying to get a visa, and a middle-eastern family on New Zealand passports. Each of them asks me what I’m in for. I tell them I’m a Canadian trying to back pack Europe, and I have a return ticket. Astonishment!
Five short hours later, one American Pie movie, one shitty hot chocolate, one interview, one bag search, and one cavity search (kidding), I am finally free to roam the streets of London. It turns out that the short mousy woman who interviewed me didn’t like how disorganized I was and my lack of a plan. She told me that even though I had a 6-month visa in my passport, I was not welcome to stay that long. Isn’t that welcoming!
Luckily, my wonderful friends are still waiting for me. We jump in their car and head to the village of Suffolk. For the next two hours, I sit back and relax. Although my Euro-trip has had a rough, yet entertaining start, I cannot wait to see what the next couple of months have in store for me. Finally my dreams of travelling this diverse continent has begun.
From England with love – Allie G
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