Sunday social travel talk

A traveller’s nightmare come true

When writing “my most memorable travel moments of 2014” I didn’t mention one. The one I did not want to write about, but that I now decided to do it anyway … with permission!

It was a hot summer day and everyone at the office I work at, was stressed. We just receive notice that the flight of 2 groups departing that evening, had been canceled. While we frantically tried to call all the clients, who were already on their way to the airport, I noticed a text message from my friend. “Please call me, I need to talk to you.” I called her and received news that you don’t want to receive. A mutual friend of ours had died. She went home after a night out, to never wake up anymore …

The rest of the week went by in a blur. All of a sudden I felt so fragile, you hear about things like these every now and then, always hoping it won’t happen to anyone you know. Until it does and you realize it could as well have been you…

The weekend after was crazy. It was my first weekend home after a couple of trips so I wanted to relax, but in the meanwhile, Martijn was packing his bags for Iceland. We spent time with friends and family, as he would be traveling for 5 weeks in a row.

On Monday morning I woke up and realized this was going to be a horrible day. The funeral day. After dropping Martijn off at the station where he’d catch a train to the airport, I drove to the office. I needed to get my mind off things and wanted to get some work done before the funeral. Sitting alone at home was just not an option. I met my friend at the funeral home where we paid our last respects to our friend before the ceremony would start. We decided to get out for a smoke and then I checked my phone. Three missed calls from Martijn and a message. “Call me, now! It’s urgent.” Not again …

I tried to get a hold of him but I couldn’t. I was freaking out, he was supposed to be on the airport, what had happened? I called my voicemail and heard him say: “You won’t believe this, but I forgot my passport. Call me whenever you can.”

SHIT! He was about to depart for Iceland, guiding a group for the company I work for, and upon arrival at the airport he realized he forgot his passport. And I was on a funeral. This wasn’t happening, right?

Well, it was. He phoned me back, saying they wouldn’t give him an emergency passport and asking me if I could go home, pick up the passport and drive to Schiphol. I checked my watch: 2 hours until departure. I looked at my friend, feeling torn between feelings. Did I really have to leave the funeral? “Go, help him out” she said. So I jumped in the car and drove home. Found the passport exactly at the place we always keep them. He didn’t just forget his passport, he didn’t even consider it. Just completely forgot. That morning, before taking him to the train station, the question “do you have your passport?” crossed my mind, but I never asked it. Of course, he did, we’re adults, I’m not his mother.

I was frantic yet I knew I needed to get to the airport as soon as possible. I still had about 1.5 hours before the flight would depart. Normally it’s a 1.5 hour drive but I did it in one hour. I drove like a maniac. And I felt sorry for Martijn. I realized it could have happened to me as well. If it could happen to him, it could happen to me. He’s the well organized one, I’m the messy one. It’s a miracle I didn’t get any speeding tickets, but eventually I got him his passport just in time for departure. Upon leaving from Schiphol, I realized my phone was running empty. Just a second later, I heard a loud beep: the petrol gauge showed me I was low on fuel. Apparently, it had gone off before but I didn’t even notice, just wanting to get Martijn his passport. So I had no idea how much gas I had left. I needed to get to a petrol station as quickly as possible, but I had no idea where to go (we drive without a GPS). I noticed on the way over that the one along the highway just before the airport was closed so I just started driving around through the Dutch polders that surround Schiphol, without a gas station to be seen. I had visions of myself standing along the road, begging someone to pick me up and take me to the nearest station. My phone had shut down by then because the battery was empty and I just kept driving, in search of gas. Was this really happening to me?

Eventually, I found a gas station. Of course, I had to pee really badly so I ran into the shop, explaining I really needed to pee and if I could please use their electricity for a while to charge my phone. The woman behind the counter just said “girl, you look horrible, what’s going on?” And so I told her, a complete stranger. Tears came to my eyes. “I just had to leave a funeral to drive across the country to deliver my passport to my boyfriend who is away for 5 weeks and I have no more gas I need to pee and my phone is not working anymore and I just feel like shit.”

After fifteen minutes I felt better and started making my way home. Martijn texted me that he was on board. One person saved. Upon arrival home, I collapsed on the couch and just cried for the rest of the afternoon. And evening. For the loss of my friend, whose funeral I had to miss. For the stress I had making sure Martijn could go to Iceland and for just being utterly exhausted.

The weeks after this happened, I swore I’d never write about it. Because it was stupid and embarrassing.  Now it’s 6 months later and I did. With Martijn’s permission. I took him to the train station for his trip to Finland yesterday morning. I couldn’t resist asking: “do you have your passport? This is what he sent me from Finland last night:

“Pack & go!
The more trips you make, the more packing you will have to do. So by the increase of the amount of packing, the chance of forgetting something is also increasing. More trips is more experience, OK. How does this resolve in beter packing results? You still have to unpack, wash and clean your gear. There are only a few things that can stay in your bag. So there is only one solution or tip for packing: less is more. The less you bring, the less chance of forgetting things because tour list is not that long! But your passport stays essential!”

By now, we can laugh about it. How stupid it is to forget the one thing you really need when you are traveling. The one thing you can’t travel without. Believe me, if it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone of you. We had sworn it would never happen to either of us and still it did.

I didn’t add any pictures to this post because I didn’t think it’s appropriate. The cover picture is one of New Zealand. The place that my friend and I both shared a passion for. It has almost been 6 months since she passed away. Each time I travel somewhere, I think about her, even if for a short while only. She was an avid traveller too and there was a lot left to be seen for her. Hopefully, she will now enjoy the world from up above…

This post is a part of the Sunday Social Travel Talk series… each Sunday we’ll tell you something about a personal / private travel related topic. Go here to read the previous posts!

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Anto is a 30-something outdoor fan who travels the world about 100 days a year, combined with a full-time office job. She loves to go hiking, enjoys a good class of wine and can usually be found with an iPhone in her hand. Favorite destinations: New Zealand, Patagonia, Austria and Alaska.

8 Comments

  • Sandra

    Wauw.. Ik ben er echt even stil van. Hoeveel kun je hebben hè, als mens. Wat een heftige dag moet dat geweest zijn en het missen van de begrafenis, jeetje… Dat moet moeilijk geweest zijn. Het overlijden van een vriendin, heftig hoor… Wat mooi dat je ook over dit soort dingen schrijft, dat hoort ook bij het leven. Fijn dat je er nu met een lach op kan terug kijken en hopelijk hoef je zoiets nooit meer mee te maken!

  • Toccara

    When it rains… it pours. So sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. Funerals are hard enough as it is and to put on another level of stress to the situation is simply unfortunate. I don’t know why this would be embarrassing for you to write about, though… it’s life! We all go through hardships and what matters most is how you come through on the other side of it all! You learned a few valuable lessons through all of this: appreciate the life you have and live it to its fullest and, less is more, and… always pack your passport! 🙂

  • kami

    That sounds like a truly horrible day and I’m sorry you had to go through it! No wonder you had a dreakdown at some point, everyone would have one! But now, from the time’s perspective you can just laugh at the passport story 🙂 I’m really paranoid with packing recently as I really feel I’m forgeting something obvious every time I go somewhere – that’s what extensive travels do to us 😉
    btw, when I went to Iceland in 2012 I think the ID was enough for the trip…

  • Meg Jerrard

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend 🙁 It’s truly heartbreaking, though hopefully you can remember her for the amazing time you spent together.

    And I agree re packing – the more and more “experienced” we get, the more likely we’re going to miss something by thinking we’re super experienced and leaving packing to the last minute – I’ll never stop using a packing checklist no matter how many trips I take!

  • Lauren

    Wow, what a story. One of those days where you feel exhausted and stressed out and everything. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend and I’m very sorry you had to miss the funeral. I’m glad that the passport situation worked out in the end. I’ve had those types of situations (driving two hours to a concert realizing that we left the tickets at home!) – but I bet you’ll never forget the passport again!

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