Travel Disasters: Losing BOTH Our Passports In One Of The Worlds Biggest Cities!

by Stephanie Walsh · 15 comments

in Mexico, North America, Travel Thoughts, Travels

losing your passport when traveling

For travelers, there are few things that incite fear into the heart more than the thought of losing your passport. That beautiful little book is our gateway to the world and our only identity when abroad. Full of visas, stamps and memories, it allows us to continue traveling and also reminds us of how far we’ve come.

So when that fear becomes a reality, it leaves you feeling overwhelmed, scared, heartbroken and furious.

 

A Tale of Two Cities

We were in Mexico City, one of the worlds biggest, and had been enjoying our time here for a month already. Mexico City is a fascinating place, buzzing with life, but it is also overwhelmingly massive! Ana, our Mexican friend, invited us to San Miguel de Allende for the weekend, to visit her cousin. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to visit this gorgeous colorful city and see another part of Mexico.

Colourful streets of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

After spending a lovely few days exploring the narrow streets of San Miguel, celebrating birthdays and playing with our hosts’ adorable 5-year old daughter, we made the long journey back to Mexico City.

When you’re slow travelers, like us, you allow yourself to get more settled in when you reach your destination. Knowing you won’t be leaving again in a day or two allows for great relaxation. Our friend Carlos was kind enough to let us stay in his apartment for the two months that we were in Mexico City, so we’d made a little home for ourselves in his spare room. Because we weren’t going anywhere new for a while, it took us a few days to realize that our passports were missing.

At first, we thought they were probably hiding underneath some of our stuff, or maybe in our bags…or maybe in a drawer somewhere…or…or…maybe the cleaning lady stored them somewhere. We tried not to panic as we tore the apartment asunder, hoping to get a glimpse of those little red and blue books of ours, but no luck.

On day two, we asked the cleaning lady. She hadn’t seen them either. All the time, we dreaded to think of the consequences of this situation being our reality.

We were stumped. It was infuriating that I couldn’t make my brain remember where I had put them, or when they might have gotten lost, or even stolen. Truthfully, there was no point in the past week when any of those things seemed likely, at least in our minds.

We thought back to San Miguel de Allende, the last place we remembered seeing them, but we were both sure that we had them with us as we were leaving. We called our friends there, and indeed they had not seen them.

Day three began with the certainty that we must have lost them on the Mexico City Metro, inside the National Auditorium or various other places we had visited during the week. Each phone call brought back the same response; ‘Sorry, but we’ll let you know if we find anything’. My heart sank deeper after each ‘no’. This could not be happening. We were supposed to leave Mexico and return to Colombia in about a month. That would now be very complicated.

Despite the situation, my lost passport wasn’t as big of a deal as Andrés’ one. Not all of us are born equal, according to visa laws. I was lucky; born into a country with little restrictions on its citizens’ movement or travel. Unfortunately Andres did not have the same privileges.

Born in Colombia, he needs a visa to go pretty much everywhere in the world. His passport is his proof that he has traveled a lot, and this proven track record of accepted visas has always helped him get new ones approved. Without his passport and this record of travel, he would be just another Colombian to whom they could easily say ‘no’.

 

Giving In And Picking Up…

After a few days in mourning, we accepted the fact that our passports were gone. Our visas were gone, our travel stamps were gone and our freedom to currently move where we wanted was temporarily gone.

We decided we would go to our respective Embassies in the morning.

 

And just like magic, the phone rang.

 

Pure disbelief!

 

It was Ana, our friend calling to say her cousin had found BOTH of our passports…in the hands of her 5-year old daughter!

You can safely assume that we danced and jumped around the apartment for a long time after that phone call! We were ecstatic. We were in disbelief. And we were incredibly grateful and relieved!

The two passports were going to be back in our longing hands within a few days! Best of all, we wouldn’t have to deal with mountains of paperwork, questions and bureaucratic Embassies in the morning! Yay!

 

Lazy and Careless? Or Hopeful and Determined?

It’s crazy how the mind makes up memories when you want so badly for them to be true. I could have sworn that I remember seeing the passports in my bag as we left San Miguel on that sunny Monday morning. I was wrong, but thankfully they were kept safe by a 5-year old for two weeks. And she didn’t even crumple the pages!

If we hadn’t been so persistent in looking for our passports, convinced that we’d find them eventually, then we probably would have gone to the Embassies much sooner. We would have cancelled the ‘lost’ ones and applied for new ones.

Then the ‘lost’ ones would have shown up of course, and we’d be banging our heads against the wall! Luck is a funny thing and it was definitely on our side during that time.

 

What’s the lesson here?

  • You have no idea how precious your passport is until it’s gone.
  • Always double-check…no TRIPLE check that you have your passport with you before leaving a place.
  • Never lose hope!
  • Oh and always keep a photocopy of your full passport in your inbox while traveling, in case you are unlucky enough to lose your passport for real!

 

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mademoiselle Le K October 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

What a stress! But with a happy end 🙂

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2 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I know, I sometimes can’t believe how lucky we were!

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3 Cassandra October 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

What a relief! I can only imagine how sick you guys must been at being without your passports. Glad your tiny amiga was the one behind it and not something much worse!!
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4 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Yeah I know, it couldn’t have worked out better, in a way. They were safe and sound all along! Thanks for commenting Cassandra! 🙂

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5 Dariece - Goats On The Road October 12, 2013 at 12:42 am

OMG, panic would definitely have set in with me too! It’s SO true how we make up memories/stories about how we “know we saw them on the metro” or something! Now we’re hoping that some 5 year old girl will show up at our guesthouse with $1,500 that we’re missing/was stolen from us 🙁

Thanks for the great story, glad yours had a happy ending!!

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6 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Oh my god, sorry to hear that you lost/had stolen $1,500!! That’s horrible! I really hope a miracle happens for you guys, or at least the experiences you have make up for it! Thanks for commenting!

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7 The Guy October 13, 2013 at 8:26 am

Scarey stuff but glad to hear that they were found in the end. I’d hate to think what I’d do if I ever lost mine on my travels.

I like your suggestion of keeping a copy in your e-mail inbox. Much easier than carrying a photocopy around (which I do) and can be lost quite easily.
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8 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Yeah it was Andres who gave me that idea. He’s the organized one! 😀

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9 TammyOnTheMove October 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Loosing my passport is my worst nightmare too. I always carry it on me for that reason, unless there is a safe in the hotel. You just need to remember not to forget it in the safe. A friend of mine did it and was already on her way to the airport when she realized. She had to ask one of her local friends to pick it up from the hotel and then drive to the airport. She almost missed her flight because of it. 🙂
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10 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Oh my god, that is like something I would do. I can just imagine the panic she must have felt when she looked in her bag and it wasn’t there. Well, I do know that feeling quite well actually! haha

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11 Diana Williams October 17, 2013 at 6:26 am

We make color photocopies of our passports first two pages to carry when out and about, locking the originals away in hotel room safes or inside locked suitcases. BTW glad you enjoyed San Miguel de Allende. We spent two months there every winter, renting different houses over the years. They have fantastic bilingual writers Confernce every Feb.

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12 Stephanie Walsh November 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Wow, sounds fab Diana. San Miguel would be an amazing place to spend the winter and some of the houses we saw there are really stunning. Great tip about the passports too. We try to leave ours in a safe whenever it’s available too.

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13 Fil Resendes January 5, 2014 at 4:17 am

WOW! I know how you were feeling about your passports. I had mine stolen years ago while on vacation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as lucky as both of you were. There was so much BS paperwork involved and a lot of money to be paid for an emergency one, as I was flying back home 3 days later.

So glad that everything worked out for both of you! I have been reading your posts and will follow along your journey. Hopefully there will not be any more scary situations like this.
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14 Katie - The World on my Necklace April 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I feel for you, losing your passport when travelling is one of the worst feelings. My passport was stolen when I was travelling in Guatemala, unfortunately it was only 6 days before Christmas and the closest Embassy that issues New Zealand passports was London. All of my paperwork arrived in London on Christmas Eve…. just before the Office closed for 11 days for Christmas. It ended up taking 3 weeks to get a new one sent to Guatemala but it definitely could have been worse. If my South African boyfriend’s passport was stolen it would take a minimum of 2 months to replace! I am glad your passports turned up, it must have been the best feeling!
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15 Michael @ passportandvisaoffice.com August 8, 2014 at 6:56 am

Great to hear everything ended up smoothly, otherwise the whole vacation would be spent on paperwork and interviews!

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