Ex-Pat Living: What Bothers You Most About Being Inspected?

You know the feeling.  Yes, that one… When you open your luggage and find it. The confirmation that your luggage has been hand inspected.

TSA Notice of Inspection: Whose Hands Are Touching You?

Whose Hands Are Touching You?

With that simple signal comes the not so subtle question of potentially missing items.

As Expats, we travel so much and to such remote places, that the likelihood that someone else’s hands have been in our luggage at some point is pretty high.

Now I’m not normally bothered by lack of sanitary conditions when I travel- in many places it goes with the territory. But after a while, I got irritated with my undergarments continually being rifled through, pilfered, or wadded up and stuffed back in my bag.

I also got tired of buying things at home only to wonder if I was going to lose them en route. It was added stress that made flying a chore instead of the joy that it had once been.

I say this admitting it is perhaps irrational, but not totally without merit.

A comment on The Cranky Flier© indicates that it isn’t just me-

“I was the Captain on a flight from Hong Kong to Narita for a large asian carrier. I had checked my bag in as I had completed all my Christmas shopping and had it all packed into the checked suitcase. When I collected it in Narita every one of the presents (electrical items) were gone, never to be seen again. The baggage handlers were with another carrier as Hong Kong is not our base, yet it goes to show that you can never be to careful when securing your luggage.”


Next, in the “Are You Kidding Me?” category of checked luggage violations, was the loss of a friend’s gift package of American cosmetics being brought home to Baku. The small package had been a gift from a friend in the states and had a customs declaration attached. It listed the contents as, 1 necklace, silver; 1 pair earrings, silver; 1 tube lipstick, red; 1 eyeshadow compact, brown.

When my friend arrived home to Baku she noticed a hand written note in Russian on the form, “No lipstick enclosed” and sure enough the lipstick was now gone. (My question was, Why write the note on a package, knowing the lipstick was there? Courtesy among thieves?)

Finally, in one of the more bizarre episodes, I was aboard a KLM flight returning to Baku and there was a “political issue” (a euphemism that usually involved money, in this case $150,000 in landing and refueling fees not received on time) that prevented us from landing in Baku. (This incident was also a catalyst for KLM discontinuing Baku flights shortly thereafter, just by the way.)

Stars and Stripes heels: Would these be safe in checked luggage in Iran?
Would These Be Safe?
Photo Courtesy: womenfashionpics.blogspot.gr

Because we were denied landing rights at Baku, we had to bypass the airport and continue on to the next stop on that routing: Tehran. (Woohoo! I could say that I have been in Iran, once.) I imagine Iran wasn’t pleased having a plane load of Americans forced to land in Tehran at 3:00am- nowhere to put us and nothing to do about it.

The Iranians and other visa-holding guests deplaned as usual, while the rest of us sat on the tarmac until the fuel payment issue was resolved. We were not allowed off the plane but our luggage was searched for some reason.

All I could think of was my new pair of red shoes (much more conservative than the photo…) I really wanted them to be there when we got back to Baku.

Unfortunately, it was too tempting. My new shoes, along with a cassette tape of Eric Clapton that I was bringing back for one of my students, disappeared. I have images of going to Iran someday and seeing my red shoes peeping out from under some lady’s chador.

Undergarments at risk of theft: Irrational or Not? Do You Care?

What Bothers You Most About Inspections?

Having experienced the randomness of luggage inspection in foreign places, I resigned myself to having my TSA-approved locks cut off, lingerie pawed over, and more.

For my own peace of mind, I took to packing my girl things in slide-lock plastic bags, folded so that all contents were visible, and hopefully not in need of anything more thorough.

It’s odd the things we resort to to make ourselves feel more comfortable in a process that is designed to make everyone uncomfortable, especially those with a genuine desire to hide and evade. We’re guilty until screened innocent it seems.

Expat Travel: Luggage Locks, and Luggage Search

Easy Come, Easy Go…

Aside from having the plastic packets in disarray, I only rarely thereafter had the sense that anything inside was handled. I started buying little TSA locks in bulk, and just assumed they’d be one-use-only. I bought plastic bags and reused them. I began to think about packing my luggage, not as what made space sense to me, but what would make the inevitable least painful for all concerned.

These days I fly with only a carry-on and my travel tote. This has worked well for me on trips of up to a month. I pack not with fashion in mind, but with maximum flexibility.

Granted, I’m not the flyer who has to wear a different outfit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, nor am I opposed to rinsing clothes in the basin if I spill something or we get dusty. I just figure, if I can’t beat ’em and don’t want to join ’em, I might as well reduce the odds to a manageable level and get on with enjoying travel again!

How about you?

What’s your strategy for making travel enjoyable? Do you worry about lost items, or just count it as a cost of flying to unusual places?

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