What Losing A Passport Taught Me About Travel
“Passports please,” the man behind the counter said.
Such a predictable yet nerve-racking request. Thankfully, those little blue books were in my purse right where they were supposed to be, and I let out a sigh of relief. We had been running late this morning and then hit city traffic. Our flight to the Bahamas left in less than an hour and all we wanted to do was get on that plane because with three kids, there are way too many variables about what might happen in between.
The man handed back our passports and continued typing away, getting us checked in. “I need your return information,” he said. Now this I was not expecting. I knew I had it on an email somewhere and frantically started scrolling through my phone.
“I also just need to see your passports one more time.”
This was getting annoying. I reached into my bag, pulled out the documents and handed them over. “There’s only four here,” he said.
“That can’t be.”
He held them up to prove it.
“Who’s is missing?”
“Your husbands,” he answered after skimming through the books.
Now, this is the part I should be able to tell you that we were able to stay calm, that we were able to stay level headed knowing we had all five passports in our possession less than three minutes ago. But that is not what happened. My teenager started shouting at me, “What do you mean it’s not here? You just had it!”
“What do you mean it’s not here? You just had it!”
“No kidding,” I snapped. “You don’t think I know that?”
My three-year-old began to whine. “I want to go Mommy. Let’s go to the plane, Mommy. I hungry, Mommy.” It was then I realized that we hadn’t eaten breakfast.
We continued tearing through all our luggage, all our things piling up on the floor around us. I peeked up and saw the anxious and growing line of travelers behind us. I had no doubt I would have wanted to kill us right then, too.
The man behind the counter had called his coworker over to help. They searched under the keyboard, in the trash, and even sent one man to watch the security footage.
“Did you take Daddy’s book?” I asked Neo. “Where is Daddy’s book?”
He just shrugged.
After a good ten-minute search, the man told us what we did not want to hear but knew was coming. “If you want to make your flight, you have to go,” he said. And at that I started to cry. Our family hadn’t traveled together in almost four years! This was our Christmas present!
“We can’t just leave him,” I cried.
“Just go,” my husband said. “I’ll figure this out.”
“If you can get to Buffalo before three O’clock, you can order an emergency passport,” the man said. “Its three hundred dollars.”
“Buffalo, like, New York?” I asked.
It was seven O’ clock in the morning. Buffalo was four hours away from Pittsburgh.
It was seven O’ clock in the morning. Buffalo was four hours away from Pittsburgh. As long as another snow storm didn’t hit, he should have plenty of time. I gave him a hug. “I’m so sorry,” I said, as if I might never see him again and not that this was just a major inconvenience.
We ran through the airport and when we got to the plane it had already boarded. As we maneuvered between the aisles, I felt the angry eyes judging me.
We settled into our seats and I exhaled loudly. I buckled my son in the seat next to me and looked out my window. I just didn’t understand why it had to be so hard. Travelling was supposed to be fun and exciting but not in the way that you think you might sustain a heart attack or have to leave a family member behind. I just wanted to do something special with my family, something we would always remember, and now we most certainly would but for all the wrong reasons.
We arrived at Atlantis, the resort where the competition was to be held and waited in a long line to check in. The lobby was swarmed with people and my two older sons had their hands full trying to keep their eyes on Neo who was running through the lobby, unable to contain his excitement.
Finally, as our turn approached they dragged him over, one arm in each of their hands. Then that little shit of a toddler did exactly what you could imagine him doing. He took those cute, chubby little hands and unzipped the outer layer of my turquoise suitcase. He shoved his hand down inside the pocket and when in reappeared, it was holding a little navy book. He presented it up in the air, like he was holding a trophy or some other award to declare, I am the winner. It was like he knew it all along.
I screamed. “I can’t believe it! “Give me that!” I tore the book from his fingers. To ensure they didn’t think I was crazy, I told the people in line behind us the story and then they told it to the people behind them and soon, a chain of laughter was created.
“I can’t believe it! “Give me that!”
I called my husband. He had already driven to Buffalo, not through a snowstorm but home through one and was scheduled to catch the five am flight. He didn’t exactly laugh but he didn’t sound mad either, just exhausted.
In our room, I set my luggage down and stepped out onto the balcony. The smell of the ocean filled the air. Palm trees swayed in the breeze. I could barely make out the water, just the white crests of the waves in the darkness. I rested my hands on the railing. We had made it. And though there always seemed to be some major catastrophe when it came to travelling with family, this is what I had to hold onto. That we would always make it and whatever mishaps we encountered on the way, we would laugh about later.
Travel isn’t easy and part of me thinks it’s not supposed to be. If you want to experience something magical, you are going to have to endure something hard. You are going to pass some test. Only then will you be rewarded with sunshine, waves, rest—each other. The important part we have to remember is that it’s worth it—it’s worth it every single time.
Photo credits for What Losing A Passport Taught Me About Travel by Lainy Carslaw.