“You’ve really got to be more careful,” the man solemnly warned me. “This could have ended up being far worse for you.”
“Oh, don’t you panic her,” his wife chuckled, reaching out to pat my shoulder. “Don’t worry, love. I’m sure once you’ve travelled for a little longer, you’ll get the hang of it. We all do silly things like this when we first start out.”
I nodded, wondering if I should tell her I’d been travelling for over three years. I opened my mouth and closed it again. I’d embarrassed myself enough for one day.
I threw my laptop into my daypack and zipped it shut.
“Done,” I called out to Dave, as he did the same from the other side of the room.
“Cabin crew for crosscheck?” he asked, referring to the dorky name we give to me running around a room for one final check that we haven’t left anything behind.
“Nah,” I said. “It’ll be fine. Passport, laptop, camera, money: I have everything I need to survive.” I tapped my daypack as I spoke, checking they were inside.
With that, we hauled our bags onto our backs and wandered outside to meet the minivan that would be taking us to the bus station. After four wonderful days spent biking around Bagan, we were heading into the hills to explore Kalaw.
Our minivan turned out to be a pickup truck and after handing our backpacks to the driver to be secured to the roof, we clambered up onto the rusty bed. I slid up beside four French girls who were already sat inside and rested my daypack on my knees. The engine juddered beneath us and we began our journey to the next guesthouse.
I watched with amusement as more and more backpackers crammed themselves onto the bed beside us, until we had thirty people all squished up together, and I had elbows and limbs jabbing into me from every angle. Four guys stood at the back, laughing as we bounced our way over the pot-holed roads.
Satisfied that the truck was now full, I turned my thoughts to the past four days. I’d loved my time in Bagan. It’s not often a destination exceeds my expectations — especially when my expectations had been sky high — but Bagan had been incredible.
The previous day had been one of my favourites: exploring obscure temples with nobody else in sight; lazing beside our guesthouse pool; catching up on TV shows in bed; getting an early night’s sleep for once. Saying goodnight to Dave. Switching off the lights. Pulling my passport out from beneath my pillow. Wondering what it had been doing there. Tossing it onto the floor. Hearing it skid beneath Dave’s bed. Reminding myself to pull it back out in the morning. Not bothering to do the final check of the room.
I dug my nails into my sweaty fists as my heart began to race.
Oh my god, my passport.
Being British, I immediately decided I wasn’t going to say anything; I didn’t want to cause a scene.
I wiggled an arm free and unzipped my pack. As my fingers brushed over my travel essentials — laptop, camera, money — my heart thumped ever harder. There was no doubt about it: my passport was under Dave’s bed.
I felt like crying. I couldn’t be the person who’d left their passport behind. I always judged that person. Maybe I could just not tell anyone, and then when Dave and I arrive in Kalaw, I could “discover it was missing” and then travel the seven hours back to Bagan to pick it up. I shook my head. Maybe the guesthouse could post it to Kalaw?
“Dave,” I whispered, staring at him with terrified eyes.
“I’ve left my passport behind.”
He stared back at me in silent disbelief.
“I left it in the room,” I continued. “I dropped it under your bed last night and forgot to pick up.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said in a voice that was horrifyingly loud. “Tell the driver to go back.”
“Stop it,” I hissed. “I don’t want to say anything.”
“What, so you’re just going to leave your passport behind?”
After five minutes of wrestling with my self-consciousness, it was decided: I would travel to Kalaw to save face, and then return to Bagan the following day to collect my passport. Dave, however, had other ideas.
“Stop!” he suddenly bellowed, and everyone craned their neck to see what was happening. I hid my burning face behind my hands.
The truck bounced to a halt and the driver rushed outside.
“We need to go back to our guesthouse,” Dave announced. “My girlfriend forgot her passport.”
The mumbling started up. Then the whispers. The giggles. A snort sounded from the back of the truck.
“No,” the driver said, shaking his head. I felt like I was going to vomit.
Everyone me in the back of the truck, erupted on my behalf, insisting we turn around to pick up my passport. I was grateful for their support, because I wasn’t sure I’d have been able to say anything.
“You can’t do that,” shouted the indignant German guy who was sat opposite me. “Take her back.”
“Come on, man,” groaned his girlfriend. “We’re less than five minutes away.”
Still the driver shook his head.
Dave turned to me and I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what he was going to say.
“You’re going to have to walk,” he said.
I gasped, frantically trying to calculate how long it would take to walk to Kalaw.
“Get off and run to the guesthouse, and then take a cab to the bus station. I’ll see if I can hold it until you get there.”
“We don’t have time, Lauren. Just do it.”
He was right. I swallowed hard, threw on my daypack, and crawled over a dozen limbs to get out. As I staggered down onto the dirt track, I heard a roar of the engine behind me, and the truck disappeared behind a cloud of dust. I began to run.
“Lady is running!” I heard a male voice call out.
I turned my head in his direction and saw a teenaged local sat astride a motorbike, watching me with interest.
“Lady is running!” he shouted again. “Lady is running!”
And then my pants fell down.
Curse my stupid yoga pants. I let out a yelp and hurriedly pulled them up again. Bunching the material in my fist, I continued to run, daypack slamming against my spine, pants threatening to drop at any moment.
I spotted the guesthouse up ahead and started to run as if nobody was watching. I really hoped they weren’t.
“My passport!” I gasped as I threw myself into the lobby.
“Your passport!” the receptionist cheered, waving it over her head like a trophy.
I was now panting beside the road with my passport in hand, panicking over why it was so quiet. I’d been here for ten minutes and had yet to see anything other than tourists on electric bikes.
“What do I do? What do I do?” I murmured to myself.
The owner of the guesthouse suddenly rushed outside and jumped on a bike. “I will find taxi,” he told me.
“Oh my god, thank you so much,” I shouted at his back, as he swerved around a corner and out of sight.
Minutes later he was back with a taxi in tow.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I yelled to him, flinging myself inside.
We arrived at the bus station and I pressed my money into the driver’s hand, leaving him an enormous tip in the process. I climbed outside and scanned my surroundings.
“Where are you?” I wondered aloud, staring at thirty identical buses lined up before me. I began to run from bus to bus, rushing inside them to look for Dave and jumping back out when he was nowhere to be seen.
“Bus to Kalaw?” I asked a man stood by the side of the road.
He shook his head. “Next one at 11 p.m.”
11 p.m.? Bile rose in my throat and I let out a defeated groan. It was over. I had missed it. I sat down on the ground and stared out at the happy travellers around me.
I didn’t know what to do. Dave had booked the accommodation for Kalaw and I had no idea of the name of the place. I didn’t have any data on my phone. How could I find him again? When would I find him again?
I felt a tapping on my shoulder and looked up to see an old man smiling down at me.
“Kalaw?” he asked.
He motioned for me to stand and I followed him across the car park towards a group of men.
“Kalaw,” he repeated. “Minivan. Fifteen minutes.” He slid open the door to the nearest van and gestured for me to get in.
“Thank you,” I gushed once more, trying to convey how much I appreciate his kindness.
I stared out of the minivan window and watched the chaos taking place across the bus station. There was a large group of backpackers grabbing their packs from the roof of a truck and throwing them into a bus. I bet none of those guys had forgotten their passport. They even had a pack that looked like mine. I watched a guy with a shaved head carrying it towards the bus.
He looked like Dave.
In fact, he looked an awful lot like Dave.
I let out a squeal and threw myself back outside, sprinting across the parking lot and into his arms.
Two months later, I was sat in my parents’ house in London, packing my backpack for Granada. I was due to be flying out in 12 hours and was checking I had everything I needed. When I was satisfied all was where it should be, I opened my laptop and began to check my emails.
I frowned when I noticed I had one from the owner of the London Airbnb apartment we’d spent the past month at.
Hi Lauren. Did you get my voicemails? I have your passport here. You left it in a bag underneath the bed.
Lauren, I love these posts. 10 months into my trip in South America, I was in Rio de Janeiro and had changed hostels to be in another part of town with my friend who was visiting from the UK. As we settle into the new hostel, my heart sinks. I didn’t empty my locker at the last hostel. That’s right – my locker, with all my most valuable items, including my passport. I just upped and left all of them. After nearly a YEAR of travelling. We all have our moments! I was just glad that I hadn’t left Rio and so getting my stuff back was fairly straight-forward…
Thanks so much, Jonny! My incident posts are always some of my favourites to write :-). So glad to hear you managed to get your stuff back! I think that after you’ve been travelling for a while, you become a little too laid back about everything. I definitely did anyway!
Oh my days Lauren! At least when bad things happen to you they’re extremely entertaining for the rest of us. It’s all blog fodder!!!
Absolutely! A part of me is always a little excited when something terrible happens because I know I can add it to my incidents list!
Oh my God! This is my worst nightmare, but at least it ended up okay for you!
I lost my passport last year, when I wasn’t even travelling, and getting a new one was such a major hassle that I absolutely dread taking it anywhere with me now.
These things happen to everyone, I suppose you just have to hope you are surrounded by helpful people when it does!
Sorry for the late reply, Tash! I’m just getting caught up on everything!
I had to get my passport replaced while I was in New Zealand a few years back and you’re right — soooo much hassle! I had to stay in the country for two months while it was getting sorted (which was no bad thing!). And that’s why I always try to write about the good and bad parts of travel — to show that everyone goes through rough patches and it all turns out okay in the end! :-)
Losing my passport abroad is probably one of my worst travel fears – I’ve come close several times (damn, I’m good at hiding my passport) but have yet to do it…
I think I’ve just become pretty blasé about it all! After three years of travel and never leaving my passport behind, I just assume I’ll always remember to pack it.
This did make me giggle – you have a great way of storytelling! So glad it all turned out OK.
Thank you so much, Rachel! :-)
I accidentally left my passport in a van I took from the border of Tibet to Kathmandu. The passport checks were so frequent, I left it out because I had to keep taking it out of my bag. Thankfully, we knew the name of the hotel the van driver was going to after ours, so my hostel receptionist and guy friend jumped in a taxi to chase the van. Thankfully they got it back!
Phew! That sounds like a stressful experience. Amazing you got it back!
Reading your post whilst having breakfast in Sucre, nearly spat my toast across the room when I read the line about your yoga pants falling down. Going to be triple checking the room before we depart any location from now on.
Haha! Glad to have made you laugh, Steve! :-D
Quite a story! “You’ve really got to be more careful”, Lauren! ;)
One day… :-)
thats terrible. I would probably do the same thing and now want to cause a big scene I always hate being “THAT” girl though in reality we all are at one point or another I guess. Luckily things worked out ok for you
Exactly! Oh man, I could tell exactly what everything was thinking about me. Still, I guess I am about to release a book titled How Not to Travel the World, so I’m keeping on brand!
I HATE that feeling when you realise that you left something important behind. My passport was stolen out of my day pack when it was at my feet in a chicken bus in Guatemala. I didn’t even notice it was gone until the next day when I found a slash in the side of my bag that my umbrella in a side pocket had been hiding. It was 6 days before Christmas so by the time I sorted out the forms, had my passport photos taken and found a courier that could send it all to London, it only arrived on the evening of 24th December, and then the Consulate was shut for 11 days over Christmas. It took 2 1/2 weeks to get my new passport in the end – a very stressful 2 1/2 weeks. A week after getting it back it got soaked by our idiot captain who had been looking after everyone’s passports when we sailed from Panama to Colombia. The cover shrunk. Sigh
Argh! Oh my god, you sound as unlucky as me! I don’t think I could handle the stress, and then to get it soaked? Nightmare!
This is honestly one of my biggest fears! I like to think that I’ll always be able to avoid losing my passport due to how obsessive I am about checking to make sure I have it (multiple times before leaving the room, and then again as I’m leaving the hotel, and again when I get into the cab, and so on….it’s like a nervous tick, constantly patting it in my bag). At least yours made it back to you both times!
I’m so relieved it did, because British passports are so expensive to replace! I’m usually pretty good at checking I have everything in my bag, but I think I’ve just got complacent now.
Wow, such an unpleasant adventure, but at least it got back to you. I really liked the narrative style, I was reading as fast as possible to find out how your story ends :)
Thanks so much, Patricia! I’d just finished writing my book when I wrote this post, so I was still in storytelling mode :-)
I never remember to get my passport back when I check into places. I have been really lucky that every time I forgot, it was waiting for me at check out. I don’t know why I refuse to keep track of the single most important thing I am carrying with me. Yet I compulsively check for my stuffed dog. Adult.
Hahahaha! Your comment cracked me up! I will never ever leave my laptop behind, but my passport? What do I *really* need it for? Hope you’re well!
Oh man. I haven’t left my passport behind before, but I can definitely relate. Most recently, just a couple of weeks ago, I left my Macbook (you know, my everything!) in the tray at the security X-ray at the Melbourne airport. I was an hour into a fifteen-hour flight to LA by the time I realized it and couldn’t do anything about it, and then couldn’t do anything when I landed as it was the middle of the night back in Melbourne. Argh. It all worked out in the end, mostly thanks to good people — and I’m happy to have read you had some people helping you out too! Always makes these nightmares so much more bearable.
Oh no! Oh my god, what a story! And you got it back? Amaaazing!
OMG Lauren, I can’t believe it! Twice?!?! Sounds like the kinda thing I would do…I have lost a few cameras, but thankfully, I have never lost my passport.
I couldn’t believe it when I got the email from the guy in London. I’m so ridiculous!
Oh gosh Lauren! I can’t imagine that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realised that your passport was still in the room. It doesn’t surprise me that the bus driver wouldn’t go back. One thing I have learn’t from travelling is to look after yourself, because hardly anyone else will help you in your hour of need!
I’ve had some wonderful people help me out when I was in need before, but yeah, this guy wasn’t going to turn around. I’ve become so much more independent while traveling regardless!
My nightmare! Actually, I once left my passport in the toilets of the airport on a stopover in Rome and they had to make an announcement on the speakers…SO embarrassing! I love your storytelling style btw, that was such a great read!
Thanks so much for the compliment, Camille! :-) So funny that they made an announcement about your passport, but at least you got it back! I’ve left my debit card on the floor of an airport before and the same thing happened. I thought I was going to be kicked off the plane!
Wow great story, makes me feel so anxious, I like to carry my passport with me at all times. This way I always know where it is. I am obviously really careful about where I go out, ie: not walking around unsafe locations at night etc.
I definitely used to be like that, but I think I became complacent after so long spent carrying it and nothing going wrong…
I would have done the same thing and stayed quiet trying to save face! Glad it all worked out well though!
Thanks! It was so hard to make myself speak up, haha.
I once left my passport in the safe at a hostel in Lagos, Portugal. I was halfway to Lisbon on the bus (4 hours), when I realized. The next day, I took the first bus back to Lagos, spent the day on the beach, and then back to Lisbon! Never going to do that again!
Hahahaha, oh no, what a nightmare!
Oh girl, we’ve all done this.
I studied abroad at Oxford when I was in college. At the end of my semester I had planned to spend five days in London by myself, enjoying what was left of the tepid English summer. I did two sweeps of my dorm room at Oxford before I left to catch my train to London; I checked and re-checked in corners and drawers, in my shower and under the bed. Satisfied that I had everything, I left to catch my train.
Cue two hours on the rails and a twenty minute walk to my AirBnB during which I thought of nothing but all the things I was going to eat in London and how this time I’d actually ride the Eye like everyone had been telling me to do. However, immediately after I arrived I realized I had left my passport under my mattress at Oxford, where I had hidden it. (Ostensibly from the cleaning staff but apparently even more effectively from myself.)
I immediately panicked, called Exeter (my college at Oxford), told them what was going on, made sure they’d send someone to bring the offending document to the front office, got back on the train, rode the rails for another two hours, and picked up my passport. I then took the train BACK to London that same night.
By this last leg of the trip it was about 2AM and all the train stations were deserted except for the sloppy weekday drunks and particularly shady homeless people. I was exhausted, angry at my own stupidity, and scared because I was a woman alone, at night, in an unpopulated place. I tried very hard to avoid eye contact with absolutely everyone and kept a death grip on my bag as I waited to change trains, shivering in the creeping chill of England’s summer evenings.
Luckily I made it back to my London AirBnB without incident and had a wonderful time thereafter. We’ve all done this at least once, and with our luck it’ll probably happen again.
Wow, what a story! Yours sounds even more traumatising than mine! :-) Glad it all worked out in the end for you, and hope it’s a long time before something like that happens again!
My husband and I went to Greece & Egypt in 2000. Flying into Ayhens and heading to the taci syand to go yo the hotrl, my husnand asked about the likelihood of our taxi driver knowing English. I replied, it’s a major metropolitan ity .. he’ll KNOW English. He did not. :-D I had my guide bokk (with map and address for hotel) and after having him stop twice to ask pedestrians if they could provide directions, we finally pulled up to the hotel … a small entry off a busy street with a large tree blocking our view of the hotel sign. I started to gather our things, trying to pay him, and expeditiously remove ourselves from his cab … all the while my husband is asking, over and over, how I kmow this isthe place. Long story short, in all of the mayhem, I had left a travel folder with all of our airljne tickets, passports and some Isreali money in case we made it there, too. I was beside myself .. hotel would not help, couldn’t call taxi, it was horrible. Spent hours on phone with VISA credit card company who just really talkes to me and calmed me. The next day, we took a side rip to the US Embassy and got new passports … cash only please. We rebought plane tickets except for ticket home. Funny .. as a former airline employee, our plan was to heas to airport at end of our trip and somehow get home without the physical tickets. This was before ticketless travel and it was befoe 9/11/2001 … much would be different today. Well, LUCK was on our side … the night before our flight home, we were scheduled to stay in the same hotel that we stayed at the first night night. We decided to just spend the night in the airport and when I called the hotel to cancel they told me that they had been trying to get ahold of us and that the cab driver had found our travel folder and it was that the police station waiting for us. Side trip #2 was to the police station to retrieve our belongings .. completely inventoried and accounted for. After that, I dont worry about it so much, but I haven’t been in remote areas either. As I start my travel adventures up again, I’m sure I’ll take better precautions and be wiser. ;-)
I felt this so hard! I lost my passport in Nicaragua thanks to my own stupidity. I was wearing a money belt, took it off to go the bathroom and forgot it! I don’t think I will ever forgive myself, especially since my passport had so many stamps I had to pay for more pages! At least I can never lose my travel memories!
Arghhh! That’s so frustrating. My passport is one of my most treasured possessions, although you probably wouldn’t know it from this post, haha.
I got my passport stolen in china twice within the same week. I had no money after the first snatching of my 9 hour layover in the country. I had to wait 4 days for the embassy to send help to me in a small layover town in xiamen. (Relatively small). I had to travel to goungzhou to remake it. After I thought I was cleared by immigration at their office to leave the country I was denied boarding my plane because the people who told me I was free to leave with my police report and replacement passport, I still needed an exit stamp. The problem was the exit stamp however at the public security beaureua I wasn’t aware of the top floor where all the heavy lifting happens. That was where I would receive the exit stamp to leave e the country. Shortly after forking up 300$ and being denied entry onto my plane to my destination in Indonesia where my friends and family were already long awaiting me , I almost died inside when I was told I was not going to be able to board my flight. I had spent the past week convincing everybody I knew and gathering up all the resources at my disposal to support me for the past week and a half living in china. I knew I was going to have to spend another week or two coming g up with the money almost over again. I collapsed into the airport bench where I had been living for the past 4 days sustaining myself on instant noodles and water. I bought two packs of cigarettes on my way back to where I had retired defeated after not being able to board my flight and when I woke up I looked in my bag to reaLie my replacement passport and 2 packs of cigarettes were missing. I instantly knew it was stolen because the cigarettes I had just purchased shortly before falling asleep where gone. Stranded gely they had left everything else in my bag. A MacBook pro and a about 200$ I had wired to me. All in all ittook in total 3 weeks of seriously budging ,living homeless in goungzhou and ximen for me to get to the next point of my journey. I learned the us embassy / consulate in gounghou is a joke. You can’t even rely on them to do their job. They will do next to nothing to help you with their excuse being ‘intervening’ in Chinese affairs. But that being said they will be hard pressed to even translate for you. Loosing g a passport is one thing. But loosing two passports is another. And losing your passports in China is a beast of another kind. The consulate told me I was you gesture person that had survived that little without money for over two weeks. It was mind blistering annoying and a terrible experiennce. I think most of the time locals understand your passport is your life and are willing to go out of their way to return or help recover a lost passport if found on the street, left at a hotel ect. In china it’s the opposite. They will steal it. Be warned. China is generally a shitty place even if you have your passport. Avoid it. Hong Kong bejing and Shanghai are probably alright. I wouldn’t know, but I imagine they are very convenient and easy for travelers. Mainland China is and the medium sized metropolitan cities are hell. Everyone will either rip you off or act with least investment in your well being. It’s a prison canp the entire country and everybody is watching out for themselves and only themselves. If you have business in china, if you are there for legitimate reasons , that’s one thing. But if that’s the case you won’t know the real china. What goes down whole sleeping at train station for there nights in end. Sleeping or trying to catch sleep at 24 hour McDonald’s , kfcs . I wouldn’t say the whole country is out to get you. But it’s one of those places in the world, where you just know if you rolled over and died , as a non-white person, nobody will really be moved or nudge an elbow. They might just check your bag and take want they need if they aren’t terrified enough of the police and continue on their way
Yikes! You could have written your own blog post about that! Sorry to hear you had such a poor experience in the country.
I lost my passport twice in the past 2 months also! The first time I was suppose to go to Spain with my whole family for my mams 60th I went to my folder where I always keep my passport and nothing. Asked my family, my dad just replied “don’t start” I was calm as cucumber didn’t think I could have lost it. Next thing my family leaves for the airport I stay home. I ordered a passport card it would take 1-2 days to come so I patiently waitied for 2 days staring out the window for the post man checking new flights every hour. The card arrived I booked a new flight made it to Spain. As I was just about to board my flight home I noticed an extra zip on the back of my bag. My passport was inside I had it the whole time!! Never felt so stupid in my life! After everyone searching that bag and me and paying a extra €300 for new flights.
The second time I flew to Greece with my boyfriend we had one to many wines on the flight over. As we were looking for our hostel a group of Greek girls showed us where it was so we joined them for a drink. My boyfriend took all the bags to the hotel and I took my purse and phone. The next morning we woke up I had no phone no purse( bank card, passport, all my money) gone. We got our ferry to the next island as planned I rang the Irish embassy in Athens. Told them my name that I lost my passport etc. they simply said oh hi eimear ye we have you purse and phone here we collected them from McDonalds in the city center. Never felt so relieved and thankful for nice people out there. Was so thankful got to enjoy the rest of our trip and just collect the passport before we flew home.
I wear my passport 24/7 when I’m travelling – even have a waterproof pouch for swimming. At night it lives under my pillow – but putting my pouch on is as automatic as putting my bra on. When I get home I have a couple of times wondering where my pouch as gone!