I have a friend who meddled in drugs as a young man. He was caught trying to import the stuff for his own use, he says, as he was an addict. He was convicted and spent several years in the slammer.

Every time I travel abroad, and I have done frequently over almost 40 years traipsing after the last 10 Prime Ministers, I think of him back in New Zealand. His drug trip was the last time he was allowed to leave the country.

I now have a little more empathy for him. I've been grounded, not for committing a crime but it seems for visiting Iraq with John Key to visit our troops in Camp Taji three years ago.

Filling out a visa form to have a stopover in Los Angeles for two hours on the way to London I had to declare I'd been to Iraq, a number of rogue countries were mentioned, and the box had to be ticked. I had no choice, the Iraqi visa was in my passport.


There was no explanation for the "Travel Not Authorized" response to my application but officials tell me alarm bells sound in Washington at the mere mention of that country, such is the paranoia there.

What damage I could have done from the confines of a transit lounge at the airport is beyond me.

It's a pity, it would have been interesting to see Jacinda Ardern meeting Emmanuel Macron, the French President in Paris tonight and then going on to Berlin to pay a call on Europe's most influential woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, not to mention her private audience with the Queen on Thursday.

The Americans and their nonsensical rules have put paid to that. To add insult to injury, even before they decided I was persona non grata they charged the application fee to my credit card!

For the several hours wait at the airport, trying unsuccessfully to secure another flight through Asia, the stories from sympathetic officials abounded and at least made me feel that I wasn't on my own.

The story of a woman born in Iraq and successfully applying for a transit visa, only to be turned around at the Los Angeles border and sent back to Auckland, is a case in point.

As far as getting another flight goes that was something of a perfect storm, a backlog of passengers trying to get out after flights were grounded because of the battering Auckland took last week and the start of the school holidays.

But it's given me time to reflect on how travel's changed over the years.


Certainly Donald Trump's living up to his strapline by making America grate again!