Monday, April 8, 2019

What Not to Forget When Traveling Out of Country

One of my goals for the year was to attend one of the big crime fiction conferences. Since I had attended Left Coast Crime a few years back when it was in my home town of Phoenix, I decided to go with that.

As it turns out, this year's Left Coast Crime was being held in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Woohoo!

I'll admit, I'm not much of a world traveler. In fact, the last time I'd been outside of the United States was twenty years ago. But despite having turned into a bit of a homebody over the past couple of decades, I was excited about visiting our neighbor to the north.

And I was rather organized about it. I got my passport renewed in plenty of time. Hotel booked. Flights booked. Supershuttle booked. I'd called my bank and my cellphone carrier to let them know of my travel plans. I made a comprehensive list of things I needed to bring (including underwear and socks), and other things to do before I left. I was very organized.

All in all, I was looking forward to this little adventure.

Photo credit: simonlesleyphoto on Best Running  CC BY-ND
Sure, I was a wee bit nervous about getting through security. Kind of a crime fiction writer's dilemma. Secondary research can make one look suspicious, especially when you Google such topics as "the kill radius of one pound of C-4", "how to turn raw opium into heroin", and "how to defeat magnetic door locks."

Honestly, it's for research. Look! I have a concealed carry permit and a fingerprint card. I've already been checked out. To quote Eliza Doolittle, "I'm a good girl, I am."

But my concerns over being pulled into a room and questions by the TSA were unfounded, as it turns out. I wasn't on any "Do Not Fly" list. My passport wasn't flagged. In fact, I breezed right through security.

In fact, everything went great until I was in the air on my way to Calgary (where I would pick up a connecting flight to Vancouver.)

The flight attendant came down the aisle with the refreshment cart and asked if I'd like anything. I asked for a bag of granola bites and reached into my wallet to pull out my bank card. Which wasn't there.

Photo by johnhain
You know those scenes in movies where the walls start closing in? That's what it felt like. I was headed to Canada without my bank card. Let the panicking begin!

I dug through my bag and finally came up with a PayPal Mastercard. I paid for my snacks with it and the charge went through. Whew! So while in flight, I used the onboard WiFi to move some money from my regular bank account to the one that my PayPal account drew on since I had a zero PayPal balance.

I tried to breathe, but I was still a bit shaken up. Was that enough? Would I be okay?

When I reached Calgary, I got through customs okay and figured I better pull some cash out of the ATM before heading to my flight to Vancouver. I slipped in my card, tried to pull out a hundred dollars and...Transaction Declined. Resume panic attack!

I called PayPal. The customer service rep let me know I needed to authorize the card for use in Canada. I gave them all of the security responses and they authorized it. Great. I tried the ATM again. Transaction Declined. Crap!

The rep then explained I had a zero PayPal balance. I replied there was plenty of money in the bank account it drew on. He said he could transfer some money, but it would take three business days before it would be available. Ugh! Not helping!

Finally, I just said, "Screw it. In for a penny, in for a dollar. Or in this case, a loonie."

With the help of a friendly WestJet agent, I breezed through security and ran like an Olympic sprinter through the airport as they were announcing my name over the loudspeaker along with the words "Final Boarding Call."

Laurie Rockenbeck's Bound to Die
I just barely made it onboard my flight. Once in the air, I texted to my dear friend Laurie Rockenbeck, author of Bound to Die and Cleansed By Fire. She and I were going to be hosting a table at the Left Coast Crime banquet. Even as I sent her my panicky plea for help, a voice in my head was telling me I sounded like those FB scams where con artists pose as friends caught in a similar situation.

To let her know that my situation was legit, I included details about our books, previous interactions, and a very worried photo of myself on the plane. My biggest worry at the moment was how I was going to get from the Vancouver airport to the hotel. Did taxis in Vancouver take credit cards? And even if they did, would mine work?

Fortunately, Laurie responded, letting me know she was ready to help out in any way possible. It's so good to have friends.

When I arrived in Vancouver, I managed to grab a taxi. Yes, they did take credit cards. Whew!

While en route to the hotel, I called my wife and told her to send money from her PayPal account to mine. I also sent a panicked money request to a client that owed me a bit. She helped me out right away.

Bottom line, in the end, everything worked out. I was able to pay for what I needed to pay for. The conference was fabulous. I got to meet some friends who until then I'd only known via social media. I ate a lot of fabulous food. And everyone loved the panels I was on.

Me with Snopes's David Mikkelson

Me with Susanna Calkins, Julie L. Brown, and Lori Rader-Day

Me with Kellye Garrett

The moral of the story is twofold. First, when traveling, DON'T FORGET YOUR BANK CARD! Second, the Beatles were right. We do get by with a little help from our friends.

Thanks to my wife and all of my dear friends who made Left Coast Crime 2019 a wonderful experience. I can't wait to see you in San Diego next year.

As one of the only transgender authors in crime fiction, Dharma Kelleher brings a unique voice to the genre, specializing in gritty crime fiction with a feminist kick. She rides a motorcycle, picks locks, and has a dark past she’d rather forget.

She is the author of the Jinx Ballou bounty hunter series and the Shea Stevens outlaw biker series. You can learn more about Dharma and her work at

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