Are you an International Traveler?

By Amy Chavez

For The Bali Times

Once foreigners move to Bali, they take on a new image — that of international traveler. Friends back home start describing you as “worldly,” and you become a bit of an authority on all things Southeast Asian.

But to be a true international traveler, you have to have lost your passport, money and other valuables (or had them all stolen), at least once. If you travel enough, it’s bound to happen sometime. Since I had never lost anything in 20 years of international travel, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when it finally did happen.

Of my own accord, I left my travel pouch, with boarding pass, passport, credit cards and US$3,000 in cash, sitting in the airport transit lounge bathroom of a country I was only passing through. Ehem.

Actually, I think my stuff just got tired of me and left. My credit cards were worn. My passport was about to expire and faced living out its retired life in a drawer. And the cash. Cash is so used to exchanging hands several times a day; it must have been bored sitting in my wallet for over 48 hours while I was changing sides of the world. Especially the $100 bills. To me, they’ve always held a certain aura — of wealth and admiration. And the bills know this. They prefer to be showing off, flashing themselves about between high rollers in cities from Havana to Buenos Aires and Dubai, rather than just sitting in a dark wallet. No wonder they decided to bail.

And the boarding pass? It was probably just fed up and decided to take a hike.

Needless to say, when I realized this personal mutiny three minutes after it happened, it was already too late. My stuff had vanished. And so I re-boarded the plane, and with visions of the movie The Terminal starring Tom Hanks, I mentally prepared myself for arriving in the next country with no passport.

If you added up all the things a person loses in a lifetime – pens, coins, lip balm, sunglasses, hats, single gloves – it would add up to a pretty sum. So on my flight, I thought of some inventions that might help prevent not just international travelers, but all people, from losing their stuff.

Personal vacuum. Everyone should have one of these to use immediately after getting up from your seat. Car seats and sofas seem to be even worse pickpockets than people. A quick pass over the seat with a personal vacuum would recover all those coins and keys that have gotten trapped while you’re weren’t looking.

The body alarm. Doesn’t it surprise you that of all the things we have alarms for — cars, houses, banks — we don’t have any alarm to go off when people try to steal directly from us? If you had a heat- and body odor-sensitive alarm that would go off as soon as anyone tried to steal your backpack or pickpocket you, no one would dare go near you if you were walking alone or even if you were in a crowded market.

The body magnet. It would be a lot easier to keep track of things if each person had a magnetic strip on their bodies that matched a magnetic strip on their belongings. That way, if you left your wallet in the phone booth or the bathroom, as soon as you turned to walk out — Zing! Your wallet would come flying back to you.

Antigravity device. I once knew a climber who duct-taped lip balm and sunscreen to a string that was tied to his belt loop. That way, when he was climbing up a mountain face hundreds of meters in the air, he didn’t have to worry about losing his lip balm or sunscreen while taking it out of his pocket. So why are we more willing to risk losing things at 1 or 2 meters? Go ahead and duct-tape your wallet and your telephone cards to a string. You’ll never lose them again.

When I arrived at my destination, the airport staff were very understanding and immediately issued me a temporary passport. From there, I went to the US Consulate to get a new passport while swearing to myself I would never lose anything again.

But the next time I went to the beach in Bali, I couldn’t help but think that our bodies really are ill-equipped for modern life. You’d think God would have given us marsupial pockets or pelican bills so we would have a safe place to put stuff. Instead, we can’t even go to the beach and go swimming without leaving our valuables behind on the beach towel.

Or maybe we were just never meant to have so much stuff.

If we could just be born with a special string where we could at least tie our valuables to our bodies, that would be perfect. At least we could go to the beach without having to worry.

On second thought, maybe God did give us something for that. He’s probably up there right now saying to himself, “Why, oh why, do they keep cutting off their umbilical cords?”

Filed under: Travel & Culture

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