This post was contributed by Katie Chan
It was the last day of the trip of our lifetime. Inspired by Damon and Jo, of course, me and my close friend decided to go on a 2.5-week grad trip through Eastern Europe.
We camped in Montpellier, France, swam in the Adriatic off the coast of Makarska, Croatia, ate perogies that were out of this world in Krakow, Poland
And saw seriously nice views in Prague, Czech Republic.
This trip would be the first where we planned and booked everything OURSELVES. From day to day itineraries to walking tours to accommodations, we found a way to make it work. We wanted to travel on a budget, which is why we decided to stay at hostels throughout the trip. Although it was our first experience using them, we quickly found out how convenient, cheap, and social they were – hostels are your friend.
Prague was our last stop and on the last day, we decided to go down to the river and watch the sunset. Now, at this point, we had let our guard down which was totally our first mistake.
The trip had gone a lot smoother than we thought it would. Like, c’mon, a bunch of first time travelers in Europe – so much could have gone wrong. There were no transportation or pickpocketing issues that we had read so much about when we were planning the trip. The trip had gone off without a hitch.
After having a day full of positive energy and happiness, that quickly changed!
When we came back to our hostel, our money and my passport had been taken. We looked up, down, and around – nope… nothing. I was in such a frenzy of panic that I don’t even remember what happened next. Our flight was supposed to depart the next day at 7:30am. Getting your passport stolen the night before your 7:30am flight? Sounds like fun, right?
No one can ever actually prepare for these situations, because sometimes, $h!t happens, but here are a few things I’ve learned:
I definitely think I went into shock. My heart dropped when I found out that my passport was taken, and I couldn’t think straight. Try not to panic because everything will be okay. Your first step should be to report to the local authorities what has happened. Tell the front desk too; they will help you contact the police, and this proves to be especially helpful if you’re not in a country where you speak the local language. Reporting to the police is essential as you will need an official police report from the local authorities in order to apply for a new passport.
Disclaimer: The documents needed to apply for a temporary passport varies by country. Check your country’s website or call the embassy. These tips are specific to what I needed in order to receive my temporary passport… just sayin’.
You should also call home as soon as possible to tell them what happened. They are the ones that will be able to help you through the process on their end. You should also ask your family if there is anyone they know from that country, related or not, because having a local will help you so much in the process. If not, don’t worry – you’ll still get through this!
It helps if you happen to be stranded in the capital of a country because that’s where all the embassies are located. Make sure to call or search up the visiting hours of your country’s embassy because they vary. From my experience, they aren’t open for that long in a day. The Embassy will definitely be one of the coolest parts of this process. In official terms, you “present yourself to the Embassy” as soon as possible (Embassies are not open on the weekend, in my case two days after I had my passport taken) and you tell them what happened… They are the ones who will tell you what can be done. I won’t go into much detail because I am not sure about the process for other countries. I had to apply for a temporary passport in order to leave Prague to get home and it would take up to 3 business days. That meant that I would be in Prague until Thursday. Looking back, that honestly doesn’t sound too bad if it hypothetically every happened again!
After “presenting yourself to the Embassy” there isn’t much else you can do but wait. Don’t get stressed over anything because as long as you have submitted all your documents, know that the Embassy is doing everything in their power to get you home or to your next destination.
Take Time for Self-Reflection.
It sucks to feel stranded in a city. You might sit there, question your life, and ask what you could’ve done differently. But, hey, don’t beat yourself up – this is really just time for you to learn more about yourself.
Yes, my close friend left – after much resistance – on our originally booked flight. She really wanted to stay with me, but it made no sense. After dropping her off at the airport, the reality of being alone in a foreign city hit me. But this is not the time to just sit around. This is a valuable time to discover new things about yourself, especially in a foreign place and during a messy experience.
Don’t Just Sit Around
See this time as more days to experience the city. This is not the time to mope around like I did. Try to see things you didn’t have time for originally. I only visited Letna Park and the Communism Museum during my time, but I regret not going to the Jewish Quarter to see the Spanish Synagogue and not exploring Mala Strana more. But retrospectively, I could’ve visited those places because I was stuck for a few days without a passport. HAHA.
Just remember that these things happen in life. I was in Prague for an extra six days in total. Looking back on my experience, it’s something I can laugh about now, and it is a very fun story to tell.
Better yet, this is one of those stories that actually pushes me to travel more. If I can get my passport stolen, navigate getting a new one, and be stranded in a country for 6 days, I can basically do anything.
Meet Katie: I’m an undergraduate student with a serious bug to travel. Though still in school, I hope to study abroad in the future. Travel pet peeve: people taking photos where it especially says No Photos! Keep up with her on IG.
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