In Madrid, with nothing but my health
Gone – my iPod, camera, passport, wallet with my license, cash, every credit card, really, any card with my name on it was gone. I was in Madrid, Spain for a tradeshow and with nothing to link me to my actual identity, I had 16 hours to catch my flight and, hopefully, maintain my identity, credit rating, etc.
Long story short, at the tradeshow, I put my bag behind the booth for 3 minutes while typing an email on my blackberry. When I went back, it was gone.
If you are unprepared like I was, follow my example as it seemed to work pretty well. However, if you are reading this, you should now know better than to be unprepared.
- While crying, I took inventory of what I did still had. . . my blackberry. If you have every read the book “Hatchet” that is what my blackberry meant to me
- Next, inventory of my credit cards. A nearby booth had computers with internet so I got phone numbers for each credit card and started cancelling them
- While online, I got the address and phone number to the US embassy in Madrid and my hotel (including fax). I called the US Embassy emergency number to find out what I should do.
- Next call - my parents. Three years ago I had given them a photocopy of my passport, hopefully they still had it and could fax it to my hotel.
- In case my parents didn’t come through, I emailed my employer. When you are employed they always photocopy your driver’s license.
- I went straight to my hotel and immediately got a new room since the thief had my hotel room key.
- The front desk pointed me to the police station (the embassy asks you what measures you took to find/report your lost passport). My friend who lives there accompanied me (unfair advantage). It took an hour, but would have taken 2 with out her as my translator.
- Arrive at the embassy when it opens (8 am) - get in the line for American citizens. When you get in, you take a number, fill out 3 forms and take a picture (4 Euros). Although they didn’t ask for an ID, they did take the faxed photocopy of my passport when offered (thanks mom & dad!). I had a temporary passport (good for 3 months) 1.5 hours and $100 dollars later, which my friend provided, so keep cash separate from your passport. They do accept euros, dollars and credit cards, but the credit card network was down. PS: Don’t expect sympathy from anyone at the embassy.
Here is what I should have done:
- In the United States:
- Leave photocopies of your passport and credit card front/back with someone you trust and leave a copy in your office.
- Memorize your Social Security Number and Passport number.
- Create a document with phone numbers to (1) ‘the keepers of your photocopies,’ (2) your credit cards and (3) the US embassy for where ever you are traveling. Email yourself the document and keep one copy - separate from your wallet.
- Take no more than 2 credit cards with you.
- Whether traveling on work or pleasure, back up your computer!
- In the country:
- Keep your passport and extra cash in your hotel safe, not on you.
- Keep your valuables/credit cards in multiple places.
- Keep bags and valuables in eye sight at all times.