Unfortunately, less than a week into our Europe Trip 2015, and move out stress and missing dry cleaning has not been the only stumbling block my mother and I have faced. I have planned almost a full 30 days of travel for us, wherein we are expected to visit (not including departure from France) six different countries. We have lodgings booked for about eight different cities, and will probably make day trips to several more. It has been very difficult (but rewarding when it works out) to plan this, as some of the places we are visiting are less well connected than your typical Western European countries. Additionally, we decided to rely solely on Airbnb for this trip. I introduced my mom to the concept when she came to visit me during my Paris study abroad and she has enjoyed using it ever since. It is a great way to save money, especially when you have a kitchen to cook your own food and can find a place with a laundry machine rather than sitting around in a laundromat all day.
Because of the travel complications we expected to hit some bumps in the road. (Last time, after my study abroad, went relatively smoothly except for a couple delayed planes and a missed train back to London. Oops, I didn’t know the line would be that long, sorry mom!) Unfortunately, our first bump was hit much sooner that anticipated and was much different that either of us had expected.
I dislike making generalizations, but I feel this is a pretty safe one to make. Every international traveler fears loosing two things above all else: your passport, and your money. A phone, a computer, a tablet, a camera, they’re all important. All expensive to replace. But they are replaceable in the end. (I admit, they are important so as to keep in contact and stay safe, but if you lose your form of contact you can still borrow or buy a new one while traveling.) Without your passport, however, you are quite truly stuck. You may be able to move with some freedom around certain European countries, but your primary form of ID is gone. Many hotels and hostels even (and some Airbnb!) require a passport for when checking in. Losing a passport while traveling means a trip to the embassy and who knows how much time spent trying to get proper replacement documentation.
Luckily, I did not lose my passport. (My mother consoled me over my loss by telling me that my father experienced this misfortune). This does, however, mean that I lost the second item all travelers (all people in general) fear losing : my wallet.
My mother and I left France by plane on Thursday afternoon. We flew to Rome from which, having already visited the city on previous trips, we took a train to Naples where we were to spend the night before moving on to the smaller town of Sorrento for the next couple days. Somewhere between my buying some fruit in Roma Termini (the train station) and our arrival in Napoli Centrale my wallet left my possession (stolen, lost, dropped, misplaced even I don’t know for sure). It was as I went to buy us metro tickets to our Airbnb that I came to this distressing realization. “I can’t find my wallet!” I cried as I approached where she was waiting on the platform with our luggage.
Searching my bag, we confirmed that my wallet was, indeed, missing. Even with my mother, who had her own money and credit card, this was a very disturbing experience. On the one hand it was very humbling : you can never be too careful, you can never be too aware, and you can never allow yourself to become even the slightest bit overconfident Oh, it won’t happen to me, because that is when you make this type of mistake. And even when you avoid all of those mistakes of pride and vanity, it can still happen to you. On the other, it made me feel very vulnerable : I was lucky my passport was not in my wallet or I would have been without money and without identification. I am also lucky I was with someone who did have money and a credit card of their own. However the sudden realization that I had no access to my own, even if it was my mother who was willing to provide whatever I needed, made me feel very helpless. I suddenly had to ask for everything. If I wanted to treat for something, just for a change of pace or to show my appreciation I suddenly can’t (and with Mothers Day approaching I can no longer buy a gift as I wanted nor take my mother out for a nice meal as she did for my birthday).
The past few days have definitely been tough. While my mother had cash in her wallet and a credit card, with the loss of my wallet we had no ATM card. Thank goodness for modern technology (skype) so I could call the bank and cancel all my cards. But I also lost my (ever useful due to the lack of graduation date) student ID, my driver’s license, and a motley of other cards and sentimental items that I stashed in my (assumed) ever-safe portefeuille. It didn’t help that upon arrival we found that the wifi in our Sorrento Airbnb wasn’t working (in the end we moved out when it was still not working over twenty hours later). Banks were closed on Friday due to a holiday (for what I don’t know…). They are also closed (in our current location) every Saturday and Sunday all day.
Finally today, Monday, after several trips to various local banks (thank you Mommy) and several skype calls to our own American bank, we found a solution and once again have cash. My tip to future travelers who have a similar misfortune : even with a credit card, you can still use it at (reasonable prices) money exchange place.
My second and even more important tip (even if you have heard it many times before!) is that when traveling you should ALWAYS keep your wallet, passport, and an emergency card in a separate location. You can never be too careful and never think “I’m always careful, it won’t happen to me” It can happen to ANYONE.
I originally meant this post to be about Our first few days in Italy as a whole (somehow my posts never end up as I intend though…) My mother said when she heard that this was the main topic of my most recent post that I didn’t have to share it. After reading it, however, we have both agreed that it is a good story to share. Hopefully, others can learn from it. And as I say a Perfect Vacation is a BORING vacation. Who wants to come home and say “Oh it was wonderful!” End of story! There’s nothing fun or exciting in that! At least now I have a story to tell, an adventure to share, an experience to learn from. Hopefully, the overall Italy post will come in the next few days, maybe after Bari when we leave Italy.
In the meantime, while we’re waiting, share your own experiences : have you ever lost or had your wallet or other valuables stolen? Do you have another travel horror story? Please share it in the comments!