What do you do when you’re in the middle of an open city square and you realize you no longer have your wallet? The wallet, by the way, that stupidly contains just about every last important thing you own.
Here are your options:
a. Fall into an uncontrollable panic, begin bawling your eyes out and hyperventilate until you start seeing stars. In that case, focus on the pretty stars 🙂
b. Try to retrace your steps and inevitably start beating yourself up about not being able to remember what happened and why you no longer are holding the wallet that you have NEVER left out of your hands.
c. Take ten large deep breaths, and then call Jennifer at CYA (or your equivalent Wonder Woman — mine just happens to be named Jennifer) because she knows how to fix any and every difficult or emergency situation.
Now, you may be asking yourself, is this a hypothetical situation being described just to help students learn how to handle emergencies, and even, perhaps, prevent being pick-pocketed?
This actually happened to me during fall break, in the middle of Athens. For just a few minutes, I got too comfortable, and the next thing I knew, my wallet was gone — Passports, iPhone, €35 in cash, debit card, credit card, drivers license, university ID, ICOMOS card, and to top it off, my birth control pills. I had managed to get my little portable survival packet stolen in the course of no more than five minutes.
Yup, it was ALL conveniently located in one place.
It legitimately didn’t feel real. My initial reaction was not necessarily panic as much as confusion. I could not fathom that this had actually happened — to ME! I am practically a local now, right?
Shouldn’t I be invincible to this kind of shit?!
That’s what I thought, at least. And I’m sure, looking back on it, that’s exactly why I was such a good target.
Anyway, once it actually hit me, I just felt like crying. But I held it together long enough to borrow a friend’s phone and make a few calls. First was Jennifer, who is essentially the guardian angle of the College Year in Athens program.
She was able to very calmly reassure me that we could handle the situation and she then proceeded to guide me through my next steps of filing a police report and working towards obtaining emergency passports from the US Embassy.
Second, I called my father back home to ask that he help cancel the debit and credit cards in my wallet, and to shut down my phone to prevent outrageous overseas fines.
When it was all said and down, within 48 hours I had filed a police report, replaced my passport, canceled all of my cards, shut down my phone plan and placed a fraud alert on all of my important personal information. So yes, it was, of course, stressful in the moment, and quite frustrating, but once I got through the process, I realized that all of those items were replaceable and that everything was perfectly alright.
As a world traveler, it was bound to happen at some point, and I like to think that if I can get through a situation as challenging and anxiety-evoking as this one, I can get through anything.
In fact, what really hurt me was not the fact that my stuff had been stolen, but rather that someone else needed the money so badly that stealing my wallet was a necessary way of survival. I guess having been here for a few months, I just feel sad that the overabundant influxes of refugees and immigrants in this country are so unsupported that they need to resort to alternative and often illegal forms of obtaining money with which they can support themselves.
I do what I can to support the many individuals of this city that are struggling to survive. But I am only one person. If we each did one small thing everyday to help someone else, maybe we wouldn’t have these global crises.
In any case, if you ever end up in a situation similar to mine, just know that it will be okay.
It happens to the best of us. So just keep moving forward.