My Solo Travel Nightmare: Locked Up and Deported from Europe

Traveling and exploring Europe has always been a big dream of mine. Since I was a child I had always learned in school interesting information about the continent and there was no place on Earth that I wanted to visit than there.

In 2013, I made a drastic change to my life, paid off all of my debt, quit my well paid job as a nurse and booked a one way ticket to Spain. It was an experience that completely changed my life and opened my closed and limited mind to a whole new world of opportunities and ways of thinking.

During the time I was living and working in Spain I was finally able to achieve one of my dreams and visit many of the European countries that I had always studied about in school. The experience was magical!

In 2015, after having traveled to many European countries, I decided that I really loved to travel and that I wanted to do it full-time and COMPLETELY alone.

I started my solo adventure in Morocco, then to the south of France to walk the Camino de Santiago for 31 days, followed by a long term epic adventure trip across Europe.

After visiting Europe, I then grew the courage as a young solo traveler to visit Asia, then South America, Central America, Middle East and before I knew it I had traveled to over 70 countries around the world!

When I finally returned back to Spain after all of my travels, I pulled out the map and began to plan my next big adventure.

In that moment I realized that I had almost finished the entire continent of Europe and if I planned well enough I could visit every country by the end of the 2017 year and accomplish another dream of mine.

The only countries that I was missing in that time were:

  • Malta
  • Czech Republic
  • Norway
  • Belarus
  • Monaco

Being the goal driven person that I am, I quickly found a good travel deal to Malta ($15) and within just a week I was packed and ready to go an another adventure!

MALTA

I was so pumped up about my plan and continued traveling to my remaining countries, with the goal of celebrating my accomplishment in Monaco at the end of the year.

It was the PERFECT plan!

After leaving Norway, I booked a flight to Belarus, which is a country that had just recently changed their visa policy, giving Americans a visa free visit for up to 5 days. Although the weather was below freezing, I decided to explore Belarus while I had the chance and then fly directly to Italy, via Kiev, Ukraine and arrive to Monaco by train.

Belarus

Capital of Belarus

Everything on my trip went with such ease. No missed flights, perfect accommodation and many new and exciting friendships with people in all of the countries that I had visited. I arrived to Italy at 11pm, after many hours of travel from Belarus, feeling rested and stoked by the fact that I was officially going to mark off my last European country off the list in just a matter of hours.

I had all my travel documents prepared, a return flight to Spain, accommodation and pick up from the airport organized and my train booked that would take me directly to Monaco.

Just like any other immigration border check, I arrived with all my information and passport ready and a big smile on my face.

Most immigration officers pay special attention to my passport, given the amount of stamps that I have, but this time the officer was studying my passport a bit more than the usual.

He flipped back and forth through the pages and looked up at me with a stern look and back at the passport again. In very broken English he began to ask me about what I do in Spain, how long I have been there, why I travel so much and anything he could think of to learn more about me.

With a serious face, he said “Ma’am, I need you to come with me.”

I was led a small waiting room. Three men surrounded the immigration officer and then began to whisper to each other. Around a small table they pulled out my passport and a piece of paper and pen and began to look at my passport with great detail, writing on a sheet of paper little notes.

I remained very calm, knowing with certainty that I did not do anything wrong and what was happening was just a simple mistake.

At least that’s what I thought.

The immigration officer returned and on a piece of paper pointed to the number 94.

“You can only stay 90 days. You need to go now and you cannot come back.”

Feelings of anxiety started to take over me as and I began to argue my case. The immigration officer had absolutely no sympathy and with a stern look on his face repeated the same statement, “you can only stay 90 days. You need to go now.”

Growing more anxious by the moment, I then showed him a letter from my lawyer indicating that I was obtaining residency in Spain, but he firmly said “here in Italy we do not recognize this. You must go!”

He then pulled out a stamp and my heart instantly dropped to the floor. Without any sort of hesitation he picked up my password, threw it down on the desk and stamped an “X” and told me that I was going to be locked up and deported out of the European Union to Kiev, Ukraine.

At that moment I could not hold the tears back. I began to sob like a baby uncontrollably. All I could think about was my life in Spain, my apartment, with all of my stuff and those awful words of “you must leave and cannot come back.”

A woman working in the immigration department came down to find me hysterically crying and said, “I know this is a completely innocent mistake on your part and that you are not out to break the law, but why would you EVER come through this airport if you have questionable visa problems?!”

She mentioned that in bigger airports that no one checks or cares about these kind of issues, but in a small airport like Bergamo, Italy, they don’t have as much traffic coming in and out and they have more time to take you in for questioning for minor problems.

In the end, the officers collected my materialistic possessions and led me to a freezing cold bare room where I was detained with others that were genuinely breaking the rules.

I was all alone, cold and more scared than I had ever been. I felt like a criminal and there was nothing I could do at that point.

The sound of the bear like snores echoed through the barren room and tears continued to roll down my face. I had not eaten or slept for a full day and all I could think about was my nice comfy bed in Spain and some delicious warm food. However, my reality in that moment was so far from that.

I reached in the pocked of my winter jacket and I to my luck I realized that I still had my full charged cell phone. I walked through my cell with the phone high in the air trying to reach some sort of service, but had absolutely no luck.

The room was bear, ice cold and the minutes seemed to never pass. I could hear the sound of my stomach growling as I sat there fantasizing about something delicious to eat, but the officers did not offer me food or even a glass of water.

I made my way to my hard bed and laid there profusely shaking and able to see the fog from breath out in front of me. Feelings of regret and anger filled my mind for not having recognized my visa error beforehand and for having gone through that small airport.

I swam in a pool of negative thoughts of “should of,” but I quickly realized that this way of thinking was completely useless and that I could not erase the past no matter how hard I wanted to.

Time seemed like it was frozen. I desired more than anything to escape that freezing cold room and run away and never look back. Freedom has always been a normal thing for me and losing it for one night brought me to my knees and allowed me to see how much I take that special gift for granted.

Laying on my hard bed waiting for time to pass

At 4 o’clock in the morning the police banged on the door and screamed, “Lets go!”

I collected my belongings and was escorted to a police car with with the lights and sirens on. The car rushed across the runway to where my the airplane was parked and we pulled up to see a big bus full of passengers crammed together with the doors closed waiting to get on the plane.

We stopped and the officers escorted me from both sides up the flight stairs and onto the plane with a closed envelope with my passport and written on the outside,

“This document should not enter the hands of the detainee.”

It was a shameful walk up the airplane stairs. I could feel the eyes of all of the passengers watching me. I begin to imagine what many of them were thinking as they watched me get escorted on the same plane that that they would be traveling on for our 6 hour flight.

I stepped on the plane and instead of receiving the warm welcome from the flight attendants, I was given shunning looks from each one of them, as if I had committed the worst crime on earth.

They assigned me a seat in the front and all of the passengers began to enter one by one. Every single person gave me a look up a down, some with disgust and others confusion and fear.

Being the friendly, smily, outgoing person that I am, I felt hurt and a deep sense of sadness from the rejection. All I wanted to do was stand up and scream “I am innocent! It was a simple mistake,” but I knew that was not an option.

Finally everyone entered on the plane and within 6 hours we arrived in Kiev, Ukraine, where I was escorted off the plane and released at last.

The sense of freedom that I felt in the moment of being released was something that I will never forget and from that day I made a promise to myself to NEVER, EVER take for granted my freedom.

 

 

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THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

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