Forgotten, Lost & Broken
The more I travel, the lighter my bag gets and the days of what if and maybe I’ll need are basically gone. Now I can fit everything I need into a 50L Marmot Duffel for trips around a week, and have never had an issue using it as a carry-on. Longer trips or ones where I won’t have access to doing laundry I’ll use a Deuter 65L Travel Backpack that can easily be checked.
I’m still a late packer, often doing it just hours before leaving and never using a list. This leads to the first of my issues, and fortunately the one that brings me the least pain.
On just about every trip I’ve ever taken there’s been something left at home by mistake, usually remembering what it is as I’m pulling into the airport or just as the plane is about to land. One time I may have accidentally forgotten my passport in a hotel safe, but that’s another story for another time.
Aside from the crucial items like a passport, money or keys, anything you’ve forgotten can likely be bought or borrowed when you arrive at the destination. Toothpaste, swim trunks, whatever, it can all be bought when you get there.
An exception that will hurt most in the wallet is when sunscreen or bug spray is forgotten in countries where locals don’t wear it. For example, most native Costa Ricans don’t wear sunscreen, so it’s sold as as a tourist item. While available at nearly ever corner and grocery store, be prepared for sticker shock, as it’s often priced at $30-40 per bottle, about 4x what you’d expect to pay here in the States.
Losing anything on a trip sucks, but it’s bound to happen. In my travels I’ve never lost anything of serious personal or monetary value until recently. While out on a beautiful afternoon doing some stand-up paddle boarding off the coast of Playa Dante, Costa Rica, a small wave I didn’t see coming knocked me off my board. Falling off a SUP is fairly fun, at least when the water is warm. Sadly, it wasn’t until I was pulling myself back onto the board I realized my prescription Ray-Ban sunglasses were no longer on my face.
Placing the paddle atop the board I quickly dove down through the sandy water and started looking around the bottom for them, perhaps 10′ down. Nothing. Gone. I spent the next 10 minutes paddling around in circles hoping to see them at the bottom of the Pacific, but never did. Had I spent $10 on a floating sunglasses strap, I’d still have them.
On a recent trip to Europe I had not one but two items break on me. The first was shortly after take-off when I plugged my Shure SE215 headphones into the armrest jack, to watch a movie. A friend loaned me a set last year, spending $100 for earbuds seemed ludicrous, but he assured me once I used them on a plane, I’d always want them. He was right, because they block ambient noise and are extremely comfortable, especially when falling asleep with them in ear. Upon putting them in, audio was normal in my left ear and faint in my right.
This problem happened once before, so I knew there was a hopeful solution I could do to make things work. Shure headphones come with replaceable cables, and a disconnect and reconnect at the driver where the cables meet fixed the problem before. This time, I managed to pull the cables loose, breaking them, and not at the connection point. The start of an 8-hour trans-Atlantic flight was about to suck.
It wasn’t until after I broke my headphone cables that I took a second look to see there was two audio jack holes in the armrest. Luckily, Swiss Air provides headphones to all travelers, but a simple $6 adapter would have done the trick, but I’ve never dealt with that before on any domestic or international flights. Ordered one as soon as I got home, along with replacement Shure headphone cables. My hulk-like strength set me back $35 on replacement cables.
I always travel with the headphones Apple includes with the iPhone as I find them to be incredibly useful for making phone calls. In this case however, having a backup still wouldn’t resolve my issue with not having the adapter.
The second item that broke was an Anker Powerline Lightning Cable, billed as probably the world’s most durable cable. It’s not. Admittedly I was suckered into their slick ads on Facebook and finally bought a few of them, the 3′ cable failed at the connection point, exactly where OEM Apple cables fail. Luckily, Anker has an 18-month warranty on the item that I was still well within, have submitted a claim to and as of publishing, waiting on a replacement to be sent.
Because of the high likelihood of failure to charging cables, their light weight and small size, I always travel with a few of them just in case. The Anker 1′ Powerline Lightening Cable is always inside the Shure case with my headphones, as chances are if I’m using the headphones I’m using my phone. It seems to be the perfect length to plug into most seat-back USB chargers and let the phone rest on the tray table.
Murphy’s Law, Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It’s a terribly pessimistic outlook, but mitigating how to deal with adversity when thousands of miles from home can often make or break a trip.