Welcome To Ireland. Not!
We landed in Dublin, Ireland at 6:50 am. It was our first time in Ireland and a sense of relief took over that we had actually made it after a sudden change in plans and a canceled flight. From there, I planned on taking a bus to Belfast in Northern Ireland where we would be staying with a host before house sitting for her while she traveled.
We stepped up to the customs and immigration window. In all the craziness of the previous few days of travel, I forgot that we would have to get through immigration before actually enjoying our time in Northern Ireland. I handed the fierce-looking female officer our passports. She asked when we were leaving Iceland and I made the grave mistake of saying I was not sure. This sent off all types of red flags for the officer. She then asked where we would be staying. I made another mistake of saying we were staying with a woman I had never met before in my Single Moms Do Travel Facebook group. This response infuriated her even more.
She demanded to see the girls’ birth certificates. I tried to explain that they were in our checked luggage. Yes, another mistake on my part. You see. Normally, we carry our backpacks with us. However, the new airline we switched to after our canceled flights checked our bags for us. The officer told me to send one of the girls to retrieve the birth certificates. I turned to my oldest Alaya and told her to go find my backpack. In the back of it would be the birth certificates. I assured her it would be ok even though she was as panicked as me. Luckily, the baggage claim was right next to customs and immigration.
The officer, obviously pissed off about me not having the birth certificates in hand, asked how much money I had on me. I regrettably told her $500 but that I would be getting paid that week.
She then demanded I pull up my bank account.
I tried logging into my bank account through my phone but I wasn’t connected to Wi-Fi. Nothing would pull up. I tried explaining this to the officer and she frustratedly told me to log into the airport wifi.
Why didn’t I think of that?
Better Head Back To Texas
At this point, the officer said multiple times that she didn’t think she was going to let me into the country. I was running all different type of scenarios in my head. A customs officer had never treated us so badly before in all of our travels. This should have been my warning to turn around and get on another flight out of Ireland as soon as possible but that is not what I did. Instead, I handed the birth certificates to her that Alaya had managed to grab.
The officer finally said we could go but that we were only getting 30 days instead of the 90 days visa-free typically allowed for US tourists.
I quickly gathered all our documents and things as we got out of the airport as fast as we could. Appalled by our treatment and feeling humiliated, I held it together. We still had a bus to catch.
After walking around with heavy backpacks asking not so friendly people where I could get us tickets to Belfast, I told the girls to sit with our bags so I could go figure it out on my own.
Finally, I found where to get the tickets and purchased them. When I asked the bus driver when the bus would be departing he yelled at me, “Right Now!”. I quickly yelled for the girls and ran back to get my bag so we could get on the bus. We handed over our tickets to a bus driver who seemed absolutely enraged by our very presence.
We sat in the back of the bus and each one of us cried. I was over Ireland and so were they. It was one of those moments when we wanted to turn around and go back home but with full-time travel, there is no home to go back to.
This was all just foreshadowing for what we were really in for during our Northern Ireland adventure.
I should have stayed away but I chose to continually ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.