Adventures Are What You Make Them
I love to travel. I'm not sure what it is about embarking on a new adventure, but it's almost like I'm a different woman when I get on an airplane headed... well just about anywhere. I feel this rising surge of boldness and bravery and I think that the world just might be my oyster! And when that first airplane takes off, I probably have a crazed I-just-want-to-stick-my-head-out-the-window-and-feel-the-wind-blow-through-my-hair expression.
This latest adventure was one for the books, thats for sure. It pretty much makes the African safari look like a backyard picnic. But the best part of any adventure life throws my way, is all the bits of wisdom that can be gained from unexpected events. Here's my list from 18 days in Europe:
Lessons Learned, Europe Edition:
When they say make a photocopy of your passport, it's to show the embassy, somewhat counts as a photo ID and will help you fill out lost passport paperwork (so, you can leave a copy at home, but it's pretty important to take one with you as well... just in case, wink)
PROTECT YOUR PASSPORT WITH YOUR LIFE! (In case this wasn't already a well known fact)
Know the location of your closest embassy
If you take your extra passport photos, you don't have to pay for new ones! (Again, just in case)
Always pack extra, extra undies in your carry-on (having 30 pairs in a checked bag that doesn't show up is not very helpful)
Hidden back-up cash is a good idea
France doesn't accept temporary, emergency passports... imagine that -_-
Google maps is life! (Especially navigating public transportation!)
You can have fun and enjoy life with or without your luggage, wallet or passport (But good company is a must!)
The Barcelona airport may make you question if they actually care about you or your lost luggage, but they do care, they just don't have a very fast paced concern
An emergency passport only takes 20 minutes to make if you're in a hurry, but if you aren't it takes an hour and a half. Even if you're the only person at the Embassy
Good attitudes can get you so many places in life
The embassy in England isn't open on the weekends, so try to have your emergencies during the week, also they don't make appointments on Mondays, so emergencies are best had Tuesday-Friday and no later than 4:30pm (Don't worry, America has your back!)
I'm convinced that the Dublin airport staff is the friendliest on earth
Don't FaceTime your dad on his birthday and tell him that you lost your wallet/passport... He might say, "Its okay, we'll figure it all out" to console you and then later reply to birthday wishes through your sobs, "Yeah, well you kinda ruined my birthday." lol! that is, if he's a trooper like my dad. Again just try to have your emergencies when it's convenient for everyone else, Jeez, it's not all about you!
I just got back from traveling to visit two dear friends of mine in Spain and England. I've been traveling so much recently that I was feeling pretty relaxed about this particular trip and didn't pack as cautiously as I usually do (red flag #1). I was working a lot leading up to my trip and I packed everything the day before I flew out (I know many people do this, but I don't, it's very out of the ordinary for me, red flag #2). So, the morning of my flight, my mom dropped me off at the airport and we discovered that my suitcase handle didn't pull up... So, I had to roll it holding the top looped handle, meaning that it bumped against my foot with every other step. Not ideal, but thankfully I checked the bag in quickly and didn't have to deal with it anymore.
My flight to Spain was uneventful, which means everything was great. My neighbors on the plane were nice and quiet, the food was good and the flights smooth. But when I arrived in Spain, I watched the suitcases ride about the baggage claim belt, not spotting mine. The dread of this process is the worst, especially if you've had a missing bag before. It rises in your stomach the longer you watch and don't see your bag, until the tears start to burn behind your eyes. Not again, you say to yourself. When the last suitcase came by with me hoping like a little child at Christmas that Santa was coming... not mine. Alas no Santa or suitcase.
Thankfully, this isn't my first rodeo with delayed luggage. So I went to seek out the lost baggage desk to find that not a single kiosk window surrounding the baggage claim room had anyone working. On a Wednesday. In the middle of the day. Not knowing where else to look, I found a security guard, because I know he loves when people ask him about things that have nothing to do with his job! He tried to be helpful, but it turned out no one with my airline was working that day. Not a single one. I met up with the friend I was meeting and we walked the entire Barcelona airport, twice. I was not feeling hopeful about ever seeing my bag again, but we were given two phone numbers to call. We called these and all the numbers we could find online, both the English and Spanish versions, which took about two hours with no news about my bag and no advice. I had one extra outfit in my backpack and all my toiletries, so I made it through the first three days, and then with no heads up, my suitcase just arrived! It felt like my birthday! (Bonus surprise, the handle on my suitcase magically worked, so when leaving Spain in the rain, I didn't have it bumping my feet, hallelujah!) I've never been that happy to see clean underwear, granola bars, and bathing suits.
After all this my friend and I had a joke about anything regarding the airport's support: "Don't count on it". Will they point you in the right direction, probably not! Will anyone be working that you can physically talk to, probably not! Will customer support hang up the phone on you, probably! Thankfully, when you're with good friends its so much easier to laugh about these things and just let it go.
Truly thinking that the worst part of my trip was behind me, I flew to London about three days after my bag arrived in Barcelona. This time my luggage came straight away, delighting me (#thelittlethings), and putting me in the best of travel moods. Also I have this obsession with the British, so it was a delight just being in their country! I flew into Gatwick airport, rode a train to King's Cross Station (dreams do come true!), and then another on to Elly, a few hours away from the city.
We had a great few days watching my friend's nephews and catching up. Then on Saturday, the two of us ventured back to London for a nerdy day of exploring. We had a whole list of places to go and made it to almost every one before collapsing with exhaustion. And on the train ride home, I put my passport holder/wallet into the backpack at my feet and got off the train. When we got home, I went to look for my card to reserve a hotel room online and couldn't find it anywhere. Turns out, I must have missed my backpack when I "dropped" the wallet in.
I'll be honest, I lost it a little bit. It was my dad's birthday and I was planning on facetiming him when we got home from London. When I called him and saw his face I lost it completely, just started crying and told him everything. My ever calm dad, just closed his eyes and shook his head for a moment, and then jumped right to the alright-let's-make-a-game-plan mode. I love him for this, it's one of my favorite qualities about his personality and I hope that I inherited it. At the end of the call, I tried to patch it up and tell him happy birthday and he smiled and said, "Yeah, well you kind of ruined it." This is our relationship to a T. We said I love you, and I hung up at least not terrified or feeling lost and alone.
Now, if you're wondering... The U.S. Embassy isn't open on the weekends, so by all means do not have an emergency on a Saturday. There wasn't even a phone number to call, and everything passport related said you need an appointment but there was no option on the website to make that appointment. On Monday morning, I called to make said appointment and was told I had to do that online. Cannot even. So they walked me through the process, pretty much it's hidden in the website and you will never find it. Expect to fail. Also, they don't make appointments on Mondays.
This embassy was recently built in London, it makes quite the statement! Come to find out, they just finished moving in a couple months ago. I'd give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars for beautiful interiors, a children's play area in the waiting room and excellent bathrooms! No major complaints here, accepting Apple Pay or PayPal would be a nice future touch.
So, on Tuesday morning, I set off back to London to the embassy. Good news and bad news: They don't require a photo ID to enter. That was good because I didn't have one, but also a little frightening... and you must pay with a card or cash. So, pretty much don't do what I did and lose everything in one wallet together, have friends in all countries that can lend you money, and stay near a U.S. embassy (I have no idea what you would do if a kangaroo ate your wallet out in the bush of Australia! Just don't do that, I guess.)
In the end, I got my temporary passport, my dad sent my friend money through PayPal, and we had a great time. Life is truly about the journey, friends. Some days you just get lemons and we each have the option to complain that they are sour, make the typical lemonade, or make something truly extraordinary.
I'll write another post with my favorite finds in Barcelona and London soon. Both cities hold a dear place in my heart and travel log!
Here's to always learning from mistakes,