It was 2017 and I had planned a jam packed trip to Iceland and Amsterdam. In Iceland I planned on exploring Reykjavik, the southern coast, the Golden Circle, diving at Silfra fissure and visiting my nephew in Amsterdam. The trip started off with flight delays, changes, long layovers and eventually arriving in Iceland nearly 12 hours later than planned. My phone was dead and would not charge – meaning I needed to get creative about how to find the passcode for the AirBnB I rented. Thank you old iPods with Gmail on it! By the time I got to the AirBnB, I had time to drink a beer and go to bed. The next day started out better with a chilly, yet beautiful dive at Silfra. That evening, I loaded a bus to go on a northern lights tour about two hours north of Reykjavik. We arrived, I grabbed my camera out of my book bag and tossed it on the floor and walked out to check another item off my bucket list. Naturally, in my hectic travel day I forgot to grab the battery off of the charger. Dead camera. Back on the bus, I put my camera away and then it hits me – my wallet is gone. I glanced around, looked outside (it’s pitch black at this time), ask others for help – nothing. Panic sets in. My wallet had my credit cards, cash, driver’s license, global entry card and passport in it. You read that right – everything you need while traveling abroad was GONE.
I stayed calm, grabbed my phone and started researching. I knew there was an US embassy in Reykjavik but what was I going to do about money? Western Union to the rescue! With Western Union you can transfer money pretty much instantly with a credit card (bank accounts may take days). I texted a good friend back in the states, told her what was going on (and that I was ok) and asked her to wire money. The following morning – I called all the businesses I had been at after the last time I remember having my wallet (which wasn’t many). I was fairly certain it was stolen, but knew it was possible I dropped it. Another dead end. Per the US embassy website, I needed to contact the airport security, file a police report and get a new passport photo before coming in. Reaching out to my AirBnB host for advice on where to get a passport photo, I started on the list. I was at the embassy first thing Monday morning when they opened, cash in hand (thank you to the generous AirBnB host for a loan) to get a new passport. A few hours later, I had more cash in my hand from Western Union and was able to relax and make my flight on time for Amsterdam.
So what did I do wrong? 2017 was a chaotic year personally for me and I never made copies of my new passport or credit cards. When packing, I decided not to take a cross body purse to save room and went with a wallet instead. Which is why I grabbed my camera, tossing my book bag on the floor thinking nothing important was in there (used to carrying a purse). Also, when I arrived at my AirBnB I normally remove my extra credit cards/cash and passport either hiding them or locking them up in my travel safe (I use the Pacsafe Travelsafe 12L bag). I bypassed all of my safety measures due to being frustrated with travel delays. And it cost me, big time. Once I had a new passport and cash in my possession, I broke down and cried. The stress of the past 48 hours, thinking through options A, B, C ,D … finally hit me.
Precautions to take before you travel
- Have copies of your credit cards and passport. Consider keeping a copy in your luggage, in an online drive and with a friend/family member back home.
- Lock up your important items either in a travel safe, the hotel safe or carry them on you at all times.
- Make sure you have back up credit cards and cash. Also, ensure that the credit card can be used at an ATM to withdrawal more cash if needed.
- Look up where the closest US embassy is located and save the information in your phone.
- Consider having a backup passport photo.
- Plan for the worst case scenario (at least in your head). Especially if you are a solo traveler. Would you know how to get money transferred? Has all of your lodging been prepaid for? If not, factor that into the total when getting money transferred.
If you lose your passport overseas
- Breathe! Think about where you last remember having it and backtrack your steps.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – there are good people in the world.
- Check with the airport security (if you lost it there).
- File a police report, or check with the local police station near where you think you lost it in case someone turned it in.
- Check the US embassy website for other items to do before heading into the embassy.
- Be prepared to pay for a new passport at the embassy. It will take them time to verify who you are and print the new passport (plan for hours, so arrive early). The emergency passport is very thin, so be prepared for airport security to question it.
- You will have to apply for a new passport once you get back to the states, as the emergency one is only good for a year. They will not make you pay again.
Although I did not get to explore the southern coast of Iceland, the trip was successful. And I learned that I can handle a lot more than I realized when traveling on my own, which is something to be proud of. And it gives me a reason to go back to Iceland and explore all that I missed!