That time I almost got deported from Japan…
I think one of the biggest lessons I have learnt from traveling is that you will always forget something. Usually, it’s a pair of shoes, a toothbrush, maybe even your phone charger. This time- as I was washing my hands in the bathroom at LAX, I thought my forgotten item was my leather jacket. I was so annoyed- but quickly got over it. Little did I know I had an even bigger headache waiting for me when we landed.
As we approached the immigration line in Tokyo, excited and ready to take on the big city, there was something odd going on. My mom had zipped through the line and I was waiting at the booth. Ten minutes had passed by and my face was starting to get hot, panic that something was wrong kicked in. I was ushered into an office and asked why I have a stolen passport… DUN DUN DUNNN.
Spoiler alert: it was not a stolen passport. It was a passport I had reported lost after a flight two years ago and then later found. For some weird reason, it was in my passport holder, expiration date was many years in the future- I didn’t think twice.
Cue heart dropping to the floor the minute he said Interpol. My mind started playing scenes from Shawshank Redemption- was I going to get stuck here? Was I going to have to go back? The minimal English that the immigration officers spoke did not make the situation any better. All around a very bad feeling, many mixed emotions and thoughts were running through my head. How could this happen? Why do these things always happen to me? I felt so bad that I was wasting our travel time. Two hours later, after going through a whole range of emotions, and all our Airbnb addresses and plans were documented, even my ramen dinner plans were written down. I was given a provisional entrance document under the circumstances that I would go to the embassy get a new passport and return to the airport to have everything cleared.
I felt that I had ruined everything- it was the last thing I could want. As we left the airport two hours later- I was tired and devastated. I just wanted to get this out of the way so we could start our adventure.
The next morning we made it to the US embassy- they were super efficient (thank you, America) and we were out of there in under an hour with a fresh passport in hand. After circling the area three times to find the airport limo bus back to Haneda, we found the stop by the lobby of the ANA hotel.
As I sit on the bus back to the airport, to get things sorted, I can’t help but to think about this whole situation. Here are a few things I learned:
1. You will freak out- there’s no way around it. You are in a country, which although seems to be highly advanced, very few fully grasp the English language.
2. After you freak out- calm down. The absolute worst case scenario is that you have to go back- which would be horrible, but still not the worst thing that can happen to you.
3. Make sure you have some sort of translator app downloaded that you can use without internet. Don’t assume that just because you are at an international airport- you will be understood.
4. Know your travel partner (if traveling with someone)- unexpected things can happen, make sure you have someone who is understanding and won’t hate you for making them wait at the airport for hours and souring their plans.
5. It can happen to anyone- a few years ago I had a real tendency to forget or lose things- my phone on a plane from Italy, my license before a flight to New York, my purse on a plane from Canada. I thought since nothing had happened these past few years- I was in the clear. Boy, was I wrong. Even though I know the ropes for traveling internationally, things happen.
6. Don’t let it ruin your trip- things may need to be adjusted, but get your situation fixed and move on.
7. Everything happens for a reason- I’m a big believer in this. You can find a lesson in everything. If anything, it’s just another crazy story to tell.