When You Lose Your Bag Abroad
Nothing puts a damper on your adventure quite like lost luggage.
Nothing is more stressful than packing when you are planning to travel. You strategize how to make the most of your limited space: what stays, what goes, what to put in your backpack, what to put in your carry-on, etc. Then you are off to the airport! Hours later, you have arrived! Overcome with excitement, you grab you bags and you are off! Caught up in the whirlwind of jet-lag and anticipation, you leave your bag in a cab, or on a train- or worse, you’re met with disappointment at baggage claim, where your bag is nowhere to be found.
So… what do you do?
Chase the train/bus/cab (if applicable): No, really, run. This may seem useless. A train is not going to stop for you (no matter how loud you yell or fast you are, trust me), but a cab or bus might. At the very least, you can try to see the license plate number or the train car number. Write. It. Down. It could be absolutely vital in finding your bag.
Report it as lost: Most public transportation services have a place to report lost items, and depending on the place, there’s a good chance of getting it back. Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and other places with extremely efficient public transportation are systematic in cleaning their transportation systems and often collect items that are left every day.
If the airline lost your bag, go directly to the desk. It may take a few days, but it will get there eventually. Don’t forget to hold on to the barcode stub they give you when you check a bag!
Take some inventory: Try to remember what was in the bag, and write down what you can. It will help you calm down and know what your next move should be. Just clothes? It will be okay. Valuables? Maybe you need to make some calls. If you bought travel insurance, it may cover lost luggage in some way (and at the very least, call your mom or dad- they know everything somehow).
Replace only the essentials: First instinct may be to replace everything immediately, but wait a few days! Replace only the things you cannot live without: passport (BOOK IT to the nearest U.S. Embassy if you lost this), phone charger, underwear… wait it out for the rest. You may end up with some cool, local items in your wardrobe later on, if you really have to replace everything.
Be mindful of where your valuables are when you pack -better yet- don’t bring them: Your grandma’s earrings or your favorite, most worn t-shirt may seem non-negotiable when you are packing, but when they are in the bag left on the train, it is a very different story. Anything you could not stand to lose is best left at home. For those things you cannot avoid bringing, remember where you put them and keep them close. Losing something important to you can really put a damper on your travels.
But, remember things are things: While it is stressful to lose luggage and upsetting if it is never returned, it is equally important to remember things are things. We choose to travel for the lessons and experiences it provides, not for the perfect picture in front of the perfect landmark in the perfect outfit (okay, maybe like .01% for the picture). Items left on trains or lost by airlines can eventually be replaced. Exploring new places, seeing new sights and encountering new people and cultures is something that can never be lost or stolen. It is an irreplaceable opportunity to be given the chance to go somewhere new, and the knowledge and experience gained is more valuable than any single thing could ever be. So yes, be as diligent as you can in your attempt to reclaim your lost items, but do not let it ruin your time abroad. Do all that you can, but at the end of the day walk outside and look around. The world seems so small and connected at times, but our differences are vast, and there is a lot to learn, see and do when traveling.
Our attachment to things limits us in some way in all things we do. Do not let the panic and stress of lost luggage ruin your travels, for they are worth far more than the items in your suitcase.