Dear Customs Officers: Stop Trying To Make Me Feel Bad For Traveling Solo

Courtney Cross-Johnson
4 min readDec 1, 2016


Hello, December!

It feels good (although, not physically) to be writing again. If you are following me on social media (which you should be), you already know that I’m currently suffering from a shoulder injury. Sitting up to type was not in my cards when I returned from Panama last week, but thankfully, my elementary school teacher taught me proper typing form, and I’m able to get this post done with hardly any shoulder movement. For. The. Win.

So, as I mentioned, I just came back from Panama! I cannot wait to share my stories and pictures from my Thanksgiving holiday there. Even with this physical impairment happening right now, I would not have traded my time away for anything. I was definitely on a high from the trip (in pain and all) when I first arrived back to the States, as I am sure it is with any traveler coming home. However, that feeling of nostalgia was rudely awakened as per usual by grumpy customs officers. *Insert side eye here*

We all know that this was far from my first solo international trip. I spent 40 days in Europe this summer backpacking and living life and my first trip out of the country was also solo, so as Drake says, I’m not new to this. I know what to expect, how to act, and to keep my baggage light. Yet, for some strange reason, it seems as though some customs officers are not aware that we are about to be entering 2017 and that it’s not 1952.

Yes, I was “allowed” to travel alone across international borders.

No, I am not married and I do not know why I’m not married either. Consult Jesus.

Yes, I am sooo lucky and must be rich to be able to afford a trip for 5 days alone.

No, I really don’t enjoy having you interrogate me and “randomly” select me for further screening because I have not checked any bags.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the hard work that TSA and customs officers put in in order to protect travelers and other civilians. You could not pay me enough to do it (just like some people tell me about being an educator, lol). All of the rules you need to constantly repeat, contraband / security threats, and just pompous individuals, they can have it. Bless. Them.

Unfortunately, I hate how some employees in uniforms tend to have an extra cup of “I’m the s — -” juice and get mighty bold and ahead of themselves. Just because you have a badge, does not mean you have the right to demean or bully individuals. It is wrong. You look silly and deserve to have your rights stripped. Period.

Take TSA Agent W at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Now, I already told you all that I have a shoulder injury, so I am having to carry my [heavy] backpack and duffel bag all on one shoulder. Bush is also a pretty sizeable airport and the process of going from your plane, to customs, to security, to your connecting flight is tiresome. So, when Agent W aggressively decides to cut me off while I am walking towards the clearance, I was not in the mood for small talk (because, pain). She asked me where I was going and I replied home, but I guess that was not specific enough for her.

After asking me repeatedly if I had any checked bags or anyone with me among other questions she made a comment about, “why is it always that black women have an attitude when I stop and ask them questions?”

What? Come again? That didn’t just happen.

But it did. And what makes it even worse is that Agent W was a black women herself! Girl, stop sounding like our President-elect! I was floored. She decided to exert her power, write a code on my boarding pass, and say “see you in inspection”. Well, alright, sister. Insert, another round of annoying questions.

“Why were you there?”

“You went without knowing anyone? Wow.”

“How often do you travel alone? Why didn’t you bring anyone with you?”

“Don’t you have any friends?”

I totally understand that some questions are for security purposes, but I have a hard time believing that TSA and customs officers rarely see any solo travelers. Maybe it is because I am a [black] woman that throws them off, but I am curious to know if they receive any continuous sensitivity training or are they allowed to be d-bags as long as they pass their certification exams. Hmm… I may never find the answer to that question but what I will say is that I am tired of them attempting to make me feel crazy for making the decision to travel solo. If they haven’t heard, solo travel is most definitely a thing. Get with the program.

While customs officers are busy trying to make me feel bad, I’m busy exploring new territories. Photo taken in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.

What is the craziest question a customs officer has asked you? Do you deal with this when you travel alone? Let’s talk about this on the blog so I can feel as though my rant is warranted.

This article was originally published on Thirty30Courtney, a blog chronicling my journey to visit 30 states & countries by my 30th birthday.



Courtney Cross-Johnson

Founder, communications fairy godmother, truth-teller, auntie-to-be