The Shortest Trip of My Lfe
By Nelda Thomas
Nurse Nelda Thomas has been traveling with us since 2010. She was schedule to travel with us to Italy for Carnevale in 2021. After two years of trip postponement due to the Covid pandemic, Nelda Thomas had finally boarded her flight to Venice for the Globalnista Venice Carnevale 2023 tour by way of a connection in Paris. Below is her story.
So……let me try and tell y'all about the quickest ”vacation” I ever had!
I was on the plane from Atlanta to Paris, France. I decided to put my passport, euros, credit cards, and other stuff into my fanny pack and keep it close to me because it was an overnight flight and I didn’t want anyone taking stuff out of my bag.
As we are landing in Paris, the flight attendant announces, “this is a great time to make sure you have your passport”. Well, I said to myself “mine is in my fanny pack so I don’t need to look”.
I’m strutting along with my weave flowing in the wind enjoying the sites of the airport until I come to border control. That’s when the hits the fan!! I pull out my ticket to Venice and look in my bag for my passport. GUESS WHAT….NO PASSPORT! I am now an illegal immigrant that has entered the EU. YEP, I do it big!
Long story short, I was denied entry and they sent my black ass back to the states…EXPEDITIOUSLY!!
Y’all it’s all funny now, but not as quite so much, during the 24-hour ordeal. it. I will say, I was never truly scared. No one mistreated me, and I never felt unsafe. I had tearful moments, not because of my being detained. I really wanted to go on that darn trip! I was able to keep most of my things.
I was in communication with my husband and Fleace, the founder of Globalnista. Hell, I was even joking with the translator that I was now an international criminal and Biden will have to send someone to get me.
I was doing good until they took my phone!!
Fleace had call the USA Embassy in Paris on my behalf and relayed a warning to me that it would happen, but baaabbbyyyyy when that lady took my phone, I LOST IT! The floodgates of heaven opened up for about 30 seconds. I must’ve caught her off guard because she looked panicked. Imagine a French policewoman barely speaking English in her accent “Madam! Madam! Madam! PLEASE! You will get your things back. This is only for security while you’re here. You will have free calls. Please”!!
This was the only thing that bothered me because at that moment I became 100% vulnerable! I didn’t care that they took my license, credit cards, or euros. It was unsettling that I could no longer freely text or call anymore. I do not like feeling vulnerable to anything or anyone. I don’t understand how people can allow themselves to be in and out of jail. That life is NOT for me!
Let’s get back to my international event. I was put in a dirty holding cell until I was transferred to a “hotel” (more on that in a minute).
After a short while, I was then taken to the “hotel”. One of the policemen spoke English and we were talking and he was asking about what happened. He was telling me how to possibly get some of my money back and etc.
I asked him if “hotel” was another word for prison.
Honey! He was OFFENDED! He says to me in an uppity French accent “have you ever seen an US prison? Me: No!. Him: A US prison is way worse much worse than a French prison”.
He was probably referring to the way the illegal immigrants in the States were put in those cages. I’ve heard US prisons are horrible, but never been in one. As we walked to the transfer van, I told him, I was doing the “perp walk”. What is this perp walk? he asked. I explained it to him and being French, he then asked, “what does the term perp derive from”. I explained that to him also.
Now, the hotel is basically another holding facility. You’re given a basic room with a bed and sink in it. Toilets, showers, and phones in the hallway.
I did get my money and credit cards back but not my phone. It has a camera on it and you can’t take pictures inside. Note to self, next trip also carry a burner phone that does not have a camera.
This next part is what my family thinks is hilarious and frankly, it is funny, NOW... After receiving my phone card, I call my husband. I’m in the hallway with my once-flowing flawless weave now all over my head. Tightly gripping the phone, through tears, I whisper to my husband ...I’m a refugee!! In less than 24 hours, I went from planning to be a queen at Carnevale, to being a detained illegal immigrant that just crossed the border. Y’all I cannot make this crap up.
Answers to some questions you may have: Yes, they searched the airplane. Yes, the USA embassy was called. Globalnista's founder made the call from Italy. She was told that if one of the officers was willing to escort me to the embassy, a new passport could be issued, but it was up to the French officials to decide.
Yes, I asked if I could get an emergency passport. The French translator and several of the police said I could get one, but Europe does not recognize emergency passports. I actually, should have said replacement, not emergency passport.
In foreign lands, terminology matters. Fleace told me, on other tours women have lost or had their passports stolen. Two ladies had their passports stolen on the subway Pais and one lost her passport somewhere in Rome. All three received replacement passports from the local embassy and flew home with no problems.
The officer the next morning that spoke fluent English said the same thing, France and US didn't have such an "emergency" passport policy.
By the time my husband added international calling to my phone, the embassy was closed and my phone had been taken by French immigration. By the time the USA embassy opens at 0900, I was on a plane back to the United States. Like I said, they shipped me back EXPEDITIOUSLY!
Through ALL THINGS GIVE THANKS!
I never got mad at myself nor God. I was sitting in that cell and I said “God THANK YOU. As I was lying on that mattress using my coat as a blanket I said “God I love you. Jesus I love you and this is okay.
I NEVER lose my passport. I always triple-check when I’m on a plane. I know for a fact that my passport was in my fanny pack in the seat pocket but wasn’t found by the airline staff. So, all this happened for a reason!! I don’t believe in coincidences, not with the God I serve.
This was just so out of left field and out of character for me. Why it happened, I don’t know but I know God allowed it to happen for a reason and I’m content with that.
Am I upset about the trip and money..,NAH! In the scheme of things that does not matter. When you think you’re going through a storm, remember somebody is going through a bigger one.
The other people that were being detained were running for their lives. One man said he was from Columbia and with his limited English, said it was bad, very bad. Others were from places like Etheria, Guatemala, Syria, and Ethiopia. The lady from Guatemala said, “we will go to court today and hopefully the judge will listen and let us stay”. So yeah,.I am good with being back to my very comfortable home, wonderful family, church family. and a great group of friends.
I give NOTHING but praise and honor. I was in a country that sent me back and not to jail. I was not mistreated and never felt unsafe. I said a prayer for those other detainees and hopefully, the judge will have compassion for those seeking a safer life.
This JUST happened on Wednesday and it seems like a lifetime ago. It’s easy to praise God when everything is going well. The true test is when you’re going through a storm or trial.
Say a prayer for our sisters and brothers across the world that’s running for their lives. Say a prayer for those of us living here in this country as well.
And folks THATS how I had the quickest vacation ever.
Follow Nelda at https://www.facebook.com/nelda.thomas.5
Update: Nelda has received her new passport and travel with us to Ibiza. https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10232608344734823&set=pcb.10232608362175259
Note from the Founder
Many of us sat out Covid and only now starting to take the sky again, During the pandemic-induced exile, Some of us have become a bit off on our travel preparedness game. In just four weeks, we had three ladies miss tours due to passport or visa issues.
Thank you Nelda for reminding all of us about the importance of double, even triple checking for our passports.
A few weeks ago, we had someone miss a trip due to her passport expiring in less than 90 days of her intended departure date from the country she was to have visited.
Another was not allowed to board her flight because the last digit of her passport number did not match the number on the visa issued.
Below are some tips to help with future travel and what to expect and do if your passport is missing.
Check the expiration date on your passport.
Even better, set a passport renewal reminder on your cloud-based calendar to reapply within 6 months of the expiration date.
If a visa is required for travel, double-check that all your information is correct when applying AND confirm that all information on the issued visa is correct. Do not assume anything.
Make sure you have the originals of all health/vaccination cards. Many counties do not accept photocopies or pictures on phones.
Have bight color passport cover or pouch. Train your eye to look for that color. It works!
Store your passport in the same place. Mine is the inner back pocket of my purse.
Always secure your passport immediately after usage. Do not walk around with it in hand or casually toss it into your bag.
Make a photocopy of your passport. Leave your actual passport locked in the hotel safe.
Set a phone "passport check" alarm for your departure date.
To help prevent losing both, never keep your wallet and passport together.
What to do if your Passport is Missing
- First take a deep breath. It will be okay.
- Have someone else check your things. In a panic, things can be overlooked. More often than not, lost passports are actually found hidden or misplaced in your luggage.
- Contact the nearest USA embassy or consulate for instructions.
Make sure to give the embassy authorization to correspond with a family member.
- In most countries, you must file a police report because you will enter and exit the country with different passport numbers. This also protect you legally.
- You will need 2 passport photos.
- Some form of Identification or another American citizen to confirm your identity. This is another reason not to keep you wallet and passport together.
- In major cities, your temporary replacement passport could be ready within 24 hours.
- In smaller or less developed countries, the replacement process could take weeks. Another reason for travel insurance to cover the extra expenses while waiting.
- Note that passport services are not available on weekends or USA government holidays.
- Breath again and enjoy your extended stay.