Never Bow To Customs Agents

DON’T WORRY…this is not another food post, I promise. What?!? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and nothing makes you realize how mundane and cyclical your diet is like staying at home and self-isolating for four months. This then leads to the realization that you need to spice up things with more bacon and chocolate (Quarantine-15 is real y’all!). Anyway, no food talk. Well, I mean, there’s food talk—but it’s not a recipe. It’s actually M&Ms and sorry to all of you out there who have heard this story ad nauseam. It’s probably better told in person, especially when I can demonstrate with aforementioned M&Ms, but, well, social distancing and all that jazz…

This is a great cautionary tale of traveling internationally. I’d like to tell you it’s my only cautionary tale of traveling internationally, but, well, that would be a lie, multiple times over.

Anyone who has ever flown into Australia knows how stringent their Customs process is. Anyone who has never flown into Australia quickly learns how stringent their Customs process is. Despite other airport events to suggest otherwise, I know that you cannot bring fruits and vegetables and general food items into most countries. In fact, you cannot bring fruits between Oregon and California either—in case you’re ever road tripping up and down the West Coast of the United States.

What I didn’t seem to grasp at the time is that this concept also includes snacks…unless they are unopened and hermetically sealed. Even if you purchased a ginormous bag of peanut M&Ms and opened them approximately 14 hours into a 16-hour flight from LAX to SYD and had only eaten a couple of handfuls. They are now considered tainted and must be disposed of before entering Australia. But hello! this is me and I wasn’t going to easily hand over my nearly full bag of M&M’s because some cute Customs agent with a cute Australian accent said so.

Turns out, I was wrong.

PLEASE NOTE: As a general rule of thumb you should NOT argue with Customs agents. That might be Rule #2 when traveling in airports (Rule #1: never mention the word gun at the airport). Not that I was arguing, mind you—I was pointedly asking the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent what the difference was in opening a bag of—let’s just pick a random snack, like, oh I don’t know, peanut M&Ms—on a plane flying to a country and opening them in my hotel room in said country.

Please note that this was my very first flight to Australia and my first ever flight over 10 hours. I also spent 15 hours prior to this flight hanging out at LAX. Additionally this was way back when I could never sleep on flights. Needless to say, I was a bit wired and perhaps a little jittery from chugging coffee for about 26 hours straight. Thus when the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent told me I had to dispose of my newly opened extra large bag of peanut M&Ms, I just laughed because thought he was kidding.

Rule #2.B: Don’t Laugh at Customs Agents.

When I realized that he was not kidding, I did what I deemed the only sensible thing that I could do: I started eating them. Rapidly. But I am not rude and I offered all the Customs agents some of my M&Ms. Apparently, this is considered a bribe.

Rule #2.C: Don’t Offer Bribes to Customs Agents.

None of them took me up on my bribe. Thankfully, they didn’t seem interested in detaining me—only pointing out that they could. So there I stood. In front of the Customs table, stuffing my face with peanut M&Ms, looking like a chipmunk, batting my eyes at the handful of agents who were very interested in this crazy Yank and her refusal to willingly hand over her chocolate. I knew there was no way I could actually eat the entire bag at one time and began offering them to fellow passengers as they walked by. A shockingly large number of people took some, blatantly ignoring a life long lecture from their parents never to take candy from strangers. Perhaps the clustered group of gawking Customs agents made them feel safer. Perhaps the lure of candy coated chocolate and peanuts was too much to deny. Perhaps it was jetlag and disorientation from being on a plane for 16+ hours. Perhaps they knew this wouldn’t end well for me and were just trying to show support.

Eventually, I thought I got my point across (aka I gave up because I was actually starting to feel nauseated from too much candy). Plus I remembered that I had a connecting flight that I could not miss, despite my desire to best the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent who was completely unsympathetic to my chocolate plight. I reluctantly sighed, locked eyes with the cute Customs agent, and begrudgingly made a huge show out of throwing away my now 1⁄2 eaten large bag of recently opened peanut M&Ms. I really wanted to bow, but somehow—either knowing it was a bad idea or fearing I might puke—I refrained. Probably for the best.

Rule #2.D: Never Bow to Customs Agents.

My best advice to you when we can start traveling again is never bring anything ever into Australia. Except maybe clothes and shoes…

Planning To Get Lei’d

A couple of months before we left for Hawaii, I got a call from BFF.  No hi.  No hello.  Just “do you want to get laid when we land in Honolulu.”  Silence.  Is this a trick question?  I mean, who doesn’t?!?! But I’m taking this trip with BFF, her hubby, and April, so I wasn’t quite sure what she was proposing here…

A big sigh from the Florida end of the phone “L-E-I, as in do you want a traditional Hawaiian greeting with a garland of flowers?”

Ohhhhhhhhh riiiiiiight…..I totally knew that.

Of course, we opted to get lei’d because a) very Hawaiian and b) it’s just fun to go around saying “I got lei’d in Hawaii.”  Although, I was a bit disappointed it was something that we had to plan, however, not as disappointed as I would have been to arrive in Hawaii and not be lei’d.  Of course there was an additional/upgrade fee to get lei’d, which then prompted a lot of “I paid to get lei’d in Hawaii” comments.

But I digress (as I often do).

Planning.  We all know how vital it is when traveling somewhere like Hawaii (or anywhere that your activities include something more than lounging on the beach drinking beer).  Except, not by me.  I don’t plan.  I throw out grandiose ideas here and there and offer a lot of opinions, but the real planning is usually done by someone else (and for that, I am exceptionally grateful!).  I’m quite capable of planning, but my planning tends to be the last-minute-fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of planning, which apparently stresses out real planners and they take away your planning duties.  So unless we are in New York City or the Texas Hill Country or I am traveling alone, the planning job is almost never handed to me.

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But back to Hawaii.  If you’re going to Hawaii, you definitely want to plan out a good portion of your trip.  Not all of it–leave yourself time to get stuck in a beach bar while a hurricane-is-passing-nearby-but-not-hitting-the-island-afternoon-rainstorm.  At the very least pick out and schedule everything you want to see because if not, then it’s not going to happen.  I see it all the time when people visit New York City–they think “oh let’s just see where the day takes us” and then leave without seeing half of the things on their list.

In addition to all the amazing stuff there is to see, the main reason a well devised Hawaiian vacation plan is so important is because–in case you weren’t aware–the State of Hawaii is actually an archipelago of volcanic islands in the middle of nowhere smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  And by middle, I mean there is no other land around it for miles.  Thousands of miles.  Just over two thousand to the mainland, to be exact.

I think the hardest thing to decide about Hawaii is how many and which islands you want to visit.

HINT: unless you have no time or money constraints, I would highly recommend against trying to see them all in one trip.

If you’re the type who likes to just set up shop in your hotel and use it as a base of operations, then just pick one island–there are no wrong options. If you’re the type of person who likes to see more and has no problem packing up and moving hotels every few days, I would recommend that you spend a minimum of 2-3 days per island.  If you are in this group, the thing to remember is that flying is pretty much your only option for island hopping (unless you want to rent a kayak and end up missing and on the news).  Actual flying time is not long, but it does come with all of the standard rigmarole of airports and security checkpoints and arriving at the airport at least an hour before your flight.  Basically, you have to block out a large chunk of time every time you want to island hop.  If you’re going the kayak/missing/news route, you might want to block out a larger chunk of time.

How and what did we pick?  Well, thank you for asking.  Since we were thinking that the trip would be 10-12 days, we decided to go to 2 islands, leaving the option open perhaps for a third.  A bit full-on, but we were all committed.  Since there were 4 of us, we each selected 2 islands and haggled from there.  Pretty much everyone agreed on Oahu.  It was the easiest choice since it has the capital and Pearl Harbor.  Plus it is where the majority of the flights from the mainland land–so it seemed ridiculous to leave the island without a bit of exploring and a trip to Pearl Harbor.

Then the haggling started.  Someone (ahem, I’m not sure who…) was very adamant about going to the Big Island to visit the coffee plantations in Kona.  Everyone else was split between going to Kauai or Maui or not really caring.  We finally haggled our way to visiting 3 islands and the negotiations quickly concluded.  Poor Maui was out (don’t worry, we’ll be back!) and our final island selections were:

Oahu, Hawaii (aka the Big Island), and Kauai

Let the adventure begin!

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Aloha!