The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Maybe I Should Play the Lottery

The last couple weeks have been hell on me emotionally when it comes to money. A figurative roller-coaster ride that has had me at deep lows to exuberant highs.

As travelers overseas, I think one of the greatest fears a lot of us have is having no money. The greatest fear is probably losing a passport, but money indeed makes the world go round for us backpackers. Regardless of how cheaply we travel, we’d still be screwed and unable to do what we love without that income. Most every travel blog details out their budget(not me. I’m too lazy). And yet, overseas, we become more vulnerable to what would be considered slight inconveniences at home. So, lets take a look at the timeline that I’ve dealt with in the last little while in dealing with some of these realities none of us wish to happen.

Saturday, August 6. 11:30pm
Knowing that Deutsche Bahn(the German train company) has really good deals on tickets when you book online in advance, I decided to buy my ticket for Berlin. When it came time to pay I punched in my Global Payment MasterCard number(A MC connected directly to my chequeing account rather than as credit). It gets declined. I try again. Declined.

Call bank as they have a 24/7 card support line. Well, kinda. More on that in a minute. Here’s the conversation:
Me “Yes, hi there. I just tried to use my Global Payment card to purchase a train ticket and it’s been coming up as declined. Would you be able to check it for me? Gives member number”
Lady: “Ah yes. We sent you a new card out a few months ago that you should’ve received by now. They’re the ones with chips now. You old card was automatically cancelled two months after the new card becomes valid so you just have to call and validate the one we sent in the mail.”
Me: As the realization hits me as to what happened. “Ummm . . . there’s a slight problem with that. I’m currently in Europe. I haven’t been home in eight months and won’t be home for another seven at least.”  Understand. The card that was cancelled still had an expiry date on it for another year and a half.
Lady: silent for longer than usual “Uhh . . what? Really? Oh no . . . “

I felt sorry for the lady as I could tell from the sound of her voice that she felt as helpless as I. She informed me that there was no one in that could do anything at the moment but told me to call as soon as they open on Monday as it’s possible to have my card reactivated for a time being.

Sunday, August 7, After Midnight
The next hour was spent calling Cuets, the company that issues the Global Payment cards, home to my grandma(where my mail goes), then up to my dad’s bar where my brother-in-law was as he was taking care of all my mail. Spent a nervous hour waiting to call him back as he was out fishing. He had received the cards but didn’t think something like this would happen. Plan hatched for my sister to take the cards to work with her Monday and wait for my call as to what might happen. Also called DHL and the German Post on how to get something posted.

Monday, August 8, 8pm
Having sent a message to the bank from my bank account secure messaging service about getting my card reactivated, I didn’t feel too nervous about getting back to the apartment a couple hours after they opened. Email stated they couldn’t reactivate the cards. Decided that wasn’t good enough so I called personally, explained the situation with the woman on the line Going away party (5)and was told to wait ten minutes for a response. The answer: She phoned Cuets herself and managed to convince them to reactivate the card I had. Also informed me that it would be faster for my sister to post my cards to me to Berlin(where I was meeting Jordi and Esteban) than for them to get the cards and ship them to me. We did just that. Got address from the boys, phoned my sister at work and she mailed it off as soon as she was done.

Have I said how amazing my sister is?

Thursday, August 11, 11:40am
I stayed in the apartment watching the tracking number website with baited breath all morning. The previous night the package had reached Berlin and was now “With Delivery Driver.” Then the sound I was waiting for: Buzzer rang. Girl on the other end said “Post!” I buzzed her in and leaped down the three flights of stairs to take the package directly. Within an hour I had both cards activated. And that night, managed to take money out of an ATM with the new cards.

It Ain’t Over Though . . . .

Tuesday, August 16, 12:40pm
I had a couple hours to kill before my train to Prague so I took the metro from the train station to Brandenburg Gate and bought a few postcards. I sat under one of the sides of the massive gate and wrote them out. I took my wallet out of my pocket as I kept some addresses in it. Wrote out the postcards, stamped them, and headed back to the train station.

Postcards officially in mail. Walking through the station my hands did my usual random pocket touch.
Where’s my wallet.
Oh. My Fucking . . . .

Back at Brandenburg Gate. Wallet not at where I was sitting. Tour group nearby spoke little English so no help. Postcard store nearby with information booth had nothing turned in. Cops guarding road to USA Embassy didn’t know. I was freaking out a bit by now. Ran to security guard of a bank. Nothing. Went into bank. Nothing. Went to guard at the door of the USA Embassy. Nothing. First cops I talked to came up then. One, who spoke nary a word in English, used his radio to call his central office. I had been running around for 20 minutes now.

Suddenly, a hope. Cop turns to me and says one word in German that I recognize: “Canadian?”

Something had been turned in at one of the main police stations near the main train station. I shook all their hands vigorously, saying “Thank you” over and over again before running like a madman back to the metro to go back to the train station

At train station. Now where the hell is the police station. All I know is what the cop wrote down for me. Station 34. Not the one in the train station and no one spoke English so that didn’t help. Wandered outside, got directions to a station which turned out to be a Parking Office. They directed me to another direction where I got lost and asked a street attendant who pointed me down another street. I was now 20 minutes from my departure time.

Then, like an angel in the mist, I found Police Station 34. Wrote my name and birthday on a piece of paper and they made me sit for the longest minute and a half of my life.

And suddenly, there it was. My wallet. Intact. Nothing stolen. All money, all cards still there. It had been found a minute after I had got up from writing the postcards and promptly given to a police officer at the alternate entrance to the USA Embassy who must’ve seen the metro pass I had that showed the Main Train Station as a stop or something, and drove it to that station.

Safely aboard train to Prague. All credit cards, money, passport, ID, and the like on my person.

I must really be one lucky son of a bitch born with a horseshoe shoved up somewhere as NO ONE is this lucky. No one.


  1. Thank goodness you found your wallet. I would have been freaking out as well if I lost my credit cards and id.

  2. Yeah, this was on a different scale than the camera thing too. In retrospect, it was like one of those realtime movies where you only have so long to defuse the bomb. I only had a couple hours before my train left the country.

  3. I agree - no one is that lucky. I think someone's looking out for you ;)

  4. One of my favorite things about long-term travel is the incredible problem-solving skills that you learn just by existing. Glad it all worked out for you, Corey.