Last Wednesday morning, I left for an 18-day trip to Spain, a trip that I’d been planning for over a year. Or at least those were my plans.
After a series of delays, I finally arrived at the Madrid airport at noon on Thursday. I went through customs and to the baggage pick-up area. My luggage was not there, and I was told that they’d be forwarded to my hotel. Fine. I went to an ATM, withdrew a few hundred Euros, put them in my wallet, and proceeded to the Metro station, to get to my hotel. As I went to deposit money into the ticket machine, I realized that my wallet was missing.
I filed a report with the airport police. Beyond that, they were no help whatsoever. I explained to them that I had no money other than some small U.S. pocket change, and no way to get money. I asked them what other people do in this situation, and they just didn’t respond. I tried to borrow a couple Euros so I could get to my hotel, but no deal.
I knew that if I could make it to the hotel, I could get on the phone and get my trip back on track, but there was no way to get to the hotel. I also knew that once I was reunited with my luggage, I’d at least have the “emergency” money I always stash away in each bag. But there was no way to get to the hotel. I even entertained thoughts of panhandling or hitchhiking, but was very reluctant to do this in a foreign city.
I kept checking about my luggage, and was now told that it wouldn’t get to Madrid till the next day, or later (I actually didn’t get it until Saturday).
So I couldn’t think of any other option, other than simply going back home. It felt like my vacation was already ruined, and I should just cut my losses and head home. I had the electronic ticket for my return flights on me, so all I had to do was to exchange it for an earlier flight.
To make a very long story very short, I finally was able to get on a flight the next day, after spending 19 hours in the Madrid airport, and it took me 2.5 days to get home.
So. Here I am back home, dealing with all the missing wallet-stuff, canceling all my reservations and train tickets, and still determined that I will go back to Spain (for a shorter, simpler trip) when all of this is behind me.
So now I’m wondering, to those of you who are more seasoned travelers: What to people do when they’re stranded in a foreign country, with no resources whatsoever? Did I have any other options, other than returning home, or eking out a new life for myself in Spain?