Cultural Experience | Salzburg

When The Unthinkable Happens When You Travel

What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Sometimes when you’re traveling, unexpected things happen. Here’s my story and tips on how to stay calm.

So you’re preparing for a study abroad trip to some far-off, foreign place and of course following the provided packing list to the tee, right? You have no idea what to expect. The only thing you have are these instructions provided by your organization/college/professor, etc. telling you to do a lot of things that seem unnecessary. Four copies of your passport and all important documents, really? That seems a bit excessive. It seems like preparation for something that could never really happen. That’s what I thought.

Until it did. Now, my case is a rare one. Studying abroad isn’t a great time to be suspicious of everyone around you, so don’t go into it thinking that somehow your most important possessions will be stolen from you or that you’ll lose them. Studying abroad is a time to act alive and meet interesting people and enjoy the moment and savor good food and all of the other inspirational cliche things people say are supposed to happen when you travel. However, it’s always a good idea to be prepared!

Mirabell Schloss in Salzburg, Austria

Step #1

Don’t ever let your important documents leave your side (passport, cash/debit card/credit card when you’re not using them, any sort of identification). Not even to sleep. Not even to shower. Not even right after you pay and are really really tired and not thinking at the moment. Not even when you and your friend are both in the same room with only one other person. Also, trust your gut. If a person makes you feel uncomfortable in a weird way, leave! There’s no harm in that, and you’ll probably never see that person again, so no shame. That will (hopefully) prevent someone from flat-out stealing your things, but things happen! If you lose your passport (and maybe other important documents, too), here are some pointers on how to handle the situation.

Step #2

Don’t panic. Actually do the opposite because you’re in for a huge adventure! But seriously, don’t panic. It will be just fine. Talk to someone in charge of wherever you are or go to the police station yourself. In my experience, people are pretty kind when it comes to this kind of stuff. It’s super important to report your things stolen so you can have recorded proof of the event.

Step #3

Contact your family members or close friends (whoever is most likely to make the situation seem not as bleak), if possible. I was able to get my parents working on getting all of my cards mailed to my apartment while I was working on giving my statement at the police station. It’s very helpful to have another set of helping hangs working on the problem. They will probably also be able to be a calming and reassuring voice during such a stressful situation.

Step #4

Check your country’s department of state website to find instructions for how to get a new passport. Also, check for an embassy in the country you’re in and find out where it’s located. This is country of origin and country of destination specific, so it’s super helpful to look up these things before you arrive at your study abroad destination and locate the embassy when you have a free day in your new city. Be prepared!!

Step #5

Breathe. It will be okay. People will not think any less of you because of it. The situation really isn’t as bleak as it seems. On the bright side, now you have a shocking story to bring back home! There really is no better souvenir than an interesting story. It will all be over before you know it. Traveling comes with many unexpected twists and turns, and the current moment is just a little more twisty and turny than the other ones. Embrace the craziness!! And most of all, don’t let it ruin the rest of your trip. Don’t let it make you suspicious of others. Don’t let it cause you to worry constantly. Don’t let it steal your joy!

When the Unexpected Happens When You Travel

Courtney Jones

Texas Tech University | 3 stories

Hello! I'm Courtney Jones, and I am a junior at Texas Tech University. I'm studying Community, Family, and Addiction Services, which is like a conglomerate of psychology, social work, nonprofit administration, and pre-counseling classes. I love to travel and learn about other cultures and languages. Once I graduate I would love to move to SE Asia to work in the mental health field.


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