New York City: The First 6 Hours

This is the start of a series of posts on my recent trip to New York the weekend of July 20, 2012.

Sunrise on our way to the airport.

Are you forgetful?

I hate to admit this but I am pretty forgetful when it comes to STUFF. For example, my keys, my wallet and my metropass.

Sure, I’ve got an explanation for everything. One of my reasons is because I switch between 2-3 bags at least twice a day 3 times a week and I forget to move items back and forth.

Which inevitably, COSTS. Costs me time and money. What a waste of both. Best case: I’ve only forgotten about it at home but it isn’t misplaced or lost. Worst case: lost and I have to replace it.

Well, the worst possible way for me to be reminded of how forgetful I am?…

Losing my passport. On vacation. And only realizing it after checking into a hotel in NYC. 

I wanted to die. Right there. I opened all my bags in the hotel lobby and dug throughout. Nothing. This can’t be happening. This is happening. I just ruined our trip.  How could I have been so careless? What happens now? Panic sunk in.

Everything seemed to be going well. We got to take the short line through security because my sister had her American Express card. I had the best nap on the plane.  It made up for the few hours of sleep I had the night before. It was the first time where I wasn’t afraid during take off, the first time I took Gravol for motion sickness ON the plane instead of before and the first time I watched the takeoff from the window seat without feeling queasy.

My mind was racing trying to retrace my steps from boarding the plane (the last time I remember it in my hand as I searched for a seat). Up until getting off the plane and stopping at Au Bon Pain to look at pastries (yes, just to look) and walking to our shuttle pick-up. I got nothing. The last memory was boarding the plane with it in my hand. I’m kicking myself wondering why I didn’t use my passport holder/wallet.

My sister called the shuttle service and left a message but couldn’t get through to Air Canada. I couldn’t get through to the consulate so we ended up speed walking to the consulate (luckily nearby our hotel). We spoke to a consular representative, I tried my best to keep it together until I had to call some references and when my friend picked up I broke down. I managed to get a few important words in.

“I need your help. I’m in New York. I lost my passport.” *bawl* I felt so ashamed having to admit it. The second I heard myself say out loud “I lost my passport”, I fell apart. This was real. And I there wasn’t a quick fix for this. This was happening during what was suppose to be a fun weekend away.

The first 6 hours in New York, I was scared, panicked and extremely worried for what was to come. Luckily, I wasn’t alone and my sister was right there with me. I felt terrible for getting her into this mess. My stomach was cramping during the entire ordeal and it hurt everyday on our trip. Probably from the stress of thinking everyday “When am I going home? Will I be able to laugh about this one day? How long can I afford to stay here?” Feeling stuck somewhere is a pretty scary thought. I never wanted to be home so badly before.

What ended up happening was this. We ran to the nearest 3 minute passport photo shop (in the heavy rain – the weather was dark/cloudy and was very appropriate for how I was feeling) to get passport photos while filling out some paperwork.  We were told an emergency passport would take approximately 3 business days. It could be earlier but could be later. “For real? I can’t handle this kind of uncertainty right now, my stomach is doing somersaults” I thought to myself. This made my sister and I very anxious because we didn’t know when we’d be able to fly back. It was around 5:30 when we were checking into our hotel and starting our trip.

And inevitably, this made for quite a stressful weekend. We made sure to double check our belongings before leaving anywhere. Even though I tried to enjoy myself in NY and I would say I did enjoy myself, I would find myself feeling very anxious about my eventual return to Canada and wondering what I would have to go through at the Airport. Which made for a pretty stressful monday as we had to check in to see the status and decide whether to extend our stay before our hotel check out time. We ended up staying an extra night and had to go through the same drill on Tuesday morning. Luckily, Tuesday afternoon we were called to the Consulate and I got my emergency passport. I could go home and it was a mad dash now as my sister rebooked our flights for that night.

I have to admit though. It has never felt so good to be home. When I passed through Customs, a big weight lifted. And that stomach cramping that bothered me everyday on our trip was gone.

It was a very painful lesson that I haven’t forgotten. The lesson being to safeguard your belongings especially when travelling. Double check, take your time. I needed some time after coming home to collect myself before I could post about it. I even contemplated whether I should or not or just share about the trip and not share this part of the trip. People are going to think I’m so irresponsible. A complete wreck for sure. Aw man, I sure hope not. I hope, that this might make other people feel better when they find themselves in similar scenarios. My main advice would be make sure you always travel with valid government photo ID if in fact you find yourself in my scenario where you have lost your passport, a photocopy of your old one is only helpful in the declaration form (declaring it lost).

By the end of that first day, I felt very thankful. I was very thankful for Sandeep, our guest services representative at The Sheraton, the concierge who helped us look up numbers and let us use their phone and the consular representative who helped me get home.

Have you lost your passport (or other important card/document) before? How was your experience? What life lessons have you learned while on vacation?

Please share in the comments.

11 thoughts on “New York City: The First 6 Hours

  1. That really captured the crazy 6 hours after you lost your passport! I still remember how happy we felt when everything was so seamless: from the check-in at the airport, skipping the long security line, to arrival in NYC. Then everything came to a grinding halt!
    I was really hoping we would just find it in your bags somewhere. At least you’ve learned to be more careful with your passport and government ID when travelling. Also, we both learned the process of how to get an emergency passport.
    As Etoile (from the Canadian consulate office) said: “Things could have been so much worse, you are not hurt or harmed in anyway, and you are with your sister in New York. So go enjoy yourself!”
    You can always replace documents – its just may be a bit of headache along the way.
    Now go get your driver’s license! LOL

    1. This is so true. Re: Consulate comments..unfortunately you had to go through such a stressful ordeal, but being “temporary” trapped in NYC is….Hmmm…not to shabby.

      1. Hey Dave! Yeah, we kept telling ourselves that. I couldn’t help but feel anxious about our departure date and my eventual questioning at Customs. I thought it would be like an interrogation. A part of me was also still afraid that I might be turned away at any point in the Airport. Now, I’m hoping to go back one day. There’s still so much we wanted to EAT and see.

    2. Yeah, she was right, things could’ve been worse. I remember her also saying “at least you have your health” and thinking to myself that my gut felt like it was all twisted, but other than that yeah, I’m healthy I guess.

      It’s so bad because I’m usually even more careful when it comes to air travel. Meh, chocking it up to life experiences. LOL!
      Also, when I think back, I was having a pretty hard week I forgot my metropass at home twice within 4 business days. Since I’ve been back though, there’s been lots of double checking when I move stuff between my bags.

  2. Oh Julie!, I can imagine how you would have felt. Even though I didn’t lose my documents, I pretty much could have in Shanghai when I got pickpocketed. I lost my Korean Resident Card, a credit card, and money. I felt like a chump b/c as careful as we are most of the time, things just happen and it can’t always be blamed on carelessness or irresponsibility. We’ll always focus more on the negatives that happen to us and dwell on the costs/inconveniences to us, but you got through it! You made the best out of the rest of your time there with your sister and you both made it home safe and sound – that’s what matters most! The stress and anxiety can take quite a toll on the body, so I hope you’re feeling better over time about the situation.

    Btw, I always thought that an expired driver’s license could still be used as valid photo ID? Perhaps that’s just in Ontario and not for government documents…

    1. Hey Ginny,

      Yes, when I read about your pickpocketing experience, I remember wondering about how you felt and what you took away from it. I tried my best to focus on the positive but it was pretty scary so I told the story the way I experienced it in the first 6 hours so my readers could catch a glimpse of what it was like for me.

      An expired drivers license cannot be used when applying for a New Passport. I learned that the hard way of course. After filling out the application and showing the Consular Representative. I’m not sure what an expired license is good for, I use to hear that a lot too “it’s good for ID”. But what kind of ID? Other than flashing it at an establishment serving liquor so I can prove my age, I’m not sure.

      I am definitely feeling much better about it over time. It’s been about three weeks now. Time helps and supportive friends. Thank you.

      1. Happy to hear you had helpful people to get everything sorted out for you. You’re right, the expired license is probably only going to prove your age for bars/clubs and that’s about it.

        The pickpocketing incident happened so fast and I was left stunned. I knew there wasn’t much I could do but laugh it off, curse, ask myself “why me?” and continue on with my day.

        I learned to keep my passport in the hotel safe,carry only enough money for what I intend to buy, and carry copies of documents. One tip is to scan all your documents and save it in your Gmail inbox for emergencies in case you ever need to print it out abroad.

      2. That’s great that you were able to laugh it off and still go on about your day. That’s really the biggest take away. Life goes on no matter what, so just accept that it’s happend and move on.

        It’s a great tip and one that I practice as well. I also carry copies of my documents everytime I travel, with extras at home with someone and a copy with my travelling companion.

  3. I could feel your anguish as I read through your post. :S I’m glad that you had your sister with you and some supportive people along the way!

    My short story to contribute is that I once stuffed two pieces of government ID into my bag before a trip. It was a good thing because one of them was expired – I hadn’t even checked! I could’ve missed out on a trip that I had been anticipating for a long time. So I agree – make good habits to keep everything in check!

    1. Thanks Chris! I tried my best to write it so it told the story as with enough detail so my readers could see what I was going through.
      Thanks for sharing your story too. It’s a good thing that you brought two pieces of government ID with you. You can never be too careful! And in your case, it came in handy.
      This was definitely a big wake up call for me. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst (have some extra government ID), in case I need it to replace the other. haha Never again, I hope.

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