So strangely my biggest fear of moving south wasn’t losing my kids or getting pick-pocketed. Not in the slightest. What kept me up at night was two things (not joking here), government bureaucracy and the all powerful airport lady at the boarding gate. Let me try to explain one of those fears today.

First, the all power lady at the gate. She has ultimate veto power on whether you will be allowed on the plane. This power is almost never used, but while in Lisbon the previous spring, I saw it in action. We were flying from Portugual to Morocco as COVID restrictions were clearing up. In fact, because we were triple vaccinated, Morocco had just lifted our requirement for an expensive PCR test before travel. Hooray for us!, but I am afraid that nobody at the airline was told this. So when we checked our bags two hours before liftoff, we were told we needed to get tested. No point in arguing so we ran over to the clinic which was full of other Americans just as frustrated as us.

The results came in just in time for us, so we were okay (except the unnecessary COVID tests ended up costing about the same as our airplane tickets.) But there was one unlucky Canadian who didn’t need to check bags, so she only found out about the unnecessary PCR test as we were boarding with no time to get tested. The all powerful lady at the gate flexed her power and the angry Canadian stayed in Lisbon.

I learned that even if I prepare, if I don’t know of some obscure entry requirement, or worse yet, the airline employee misunderstands the entry requirements. We may be stuck in the wrong city.

No longer is COVID a great concern for me. The restrictions are fading and after our adventures in Europe, I’ve seen everything with COVID and boarder control. No, my concern is with what the lady at the Argentine Consulate said to me over the phone. She said that they may not let me on the plane because I only have a tourist visa and they want me to have a round-trip ticket so they know I’ll leave and not overstay my visa.

What!?! I’ve never heard of this!

So I go to the travel forums and many say they haven’t been asked for exit plane tickets. Others suggest to buy a ticket to Brazil with no intent to use it. As soon as I get on the plane to Argentina, I go ahead and cancel that flight to Brazil. Others said the airlines take this very seriously and I may not be flying. I normally wouldn’t be too worried, but it was the woman at the consulate who seemed concerned for me. I assume she would know.

So the last few nights in Stratford consisted of me sleeping lightly, worrying about my family sitting at the gate in Atlanta and watching my luggage flying off to Chile through those big airport windows.

On the evening of the 17th, we landed in Atlanta. This was the last stop in the United States. I immediately went up to the lady at the gate and asked what the requirements were to enter Chile. Perhaps she had a form I would have to fill out. Instead, I think she said some words in English, not that she wasn’t a native English speaker, but that she was mostly no help to me and she just mumbled in confusion. Fortunately, a fellow traveler beside me showed a webpage I had to go to fill out the custom’s form.

We than grabbed a bite to eat in the airport. The lines to get food were super long and the quality of the food was quite terrible. All and all, Atlanta was not proving to be a great stop. So there we are, in line to board the airplane and the all powerful gatekeeper to turn us away with a mumble. And what happens? Nothing. Nobody asked, nobody cared what kind of visa we had, nobody cares if we have tickets out, nobody cares if we stay in Chile for the rest of our lives. We just go through, show our tickets and we are on our way south!

Upon landing in Chile, we go through passport control. I was less worried about this because I have never seen an immigration officer get worked up about anything, no matter how weird my answers to his questions are. Since we have kids, they pulled us aside and sent us to the family line (much shorter) and we waited. When it was our turn with passport control, he didn’t ask many questions at all. No “what are you doing in Chile”. He just wanted to know an address of our Air BnB, how many days we plan on staying (although he asked for no proof to verify what we were saying), and copies of Rye and Clay’s birth certificates. I chased the kids around the security area while he filled out the form and we were through.

It turns out everything was very easy except for chocking down that food in Atlanta.

Perhaps the bulk of this post was on the negative side, and that’s how I felt going into this situation. But as my wife was telling me, I need to relax. In fact, everything went very smoothly. And even if they questioned our lack of a round trip ticket, I knew I could just show my ticket from Chile to Argentina. Since I am prepared, I know I have a backup plan. But even knowing this, it is hard to suppress those worries.

I guess I write this because I am a big planner. Not that I need to follow a plan, quite the opposite. I am very much a follow my nose kind a traveler. But I do want to have a rough idea of what’s going on and contingency plans if something comes up. This is okay for me wife and I. What isn’t okay is that my multiple contingency plans for a particular situation sometimes have contingency plans of their own. This will get very overwhelming and drain the energy out of my wife and me. This post is hopefully an encouragement to those of you who worry too much about the future. If you are hoping to start a big adventure somewhere, know this, in our travels we have met many more boarding gate attendants that act like the lady from Atlanta, and only one from Lisbon.

Take that last sentence literally and figuratively.

As we get into Buenos Aires (if the gate lady lets us in 😊) and we start working on our long term visas, I will try to post about my worries dealing bureaucracy. I hope those worries prove to also be unjustified.