I can happily say that I’ve taken a lot of flights in the past two years. On the other hand, I can unhappily say that I’ve experienced several times the loss of a suitcase and I know I’m not the only one. The last time that it happened my suitcase was in Amsterdam for 36 days while I was already at home in Italy without clothes.
During those 36 days I’ve experienced a range of emotions that I want to share with you in case it – hopefully won’t – happen to you in the future so you won’t be unprepared to face a nightmare.
STAGE 1 – SHOCK
When you have to pack two years of your life in two carry-ons and a 52 pounds suitcase you really hope you are going to find them at the end of that Odyssey that is your journey home: a one-hour flight from Madison to Minneapolis, a 7-hour flight to Amsterdam and then another hour and a half to land in Milan. Beside the 15-hours total nothing too bad happened. The flights were all perfectly on time and I landed in Milan half an hour before the scheduled time. Happy to finally be home I arrived at the carousel waiting for my suitcases. The two carry-ons arrived right away, the huge suitcase was still missing when the carousel stopped and I looked at it totally in shock. I waited for a couple of minutes, looking at the carousel trying to force it with my mind to move and bring my suitcase with all my clothes but nothing happened. I stared at it for what I thought it was an eternity waiting for it to move again, but at the end the only one that had to move was me. Just breathe.
STAGE 2 – ANGER
The Lost and Found office is usually right next to the carousels. Slowly, while I was in line, I came out from the shock and I internally burst into a fit of anger. I thought “how is possible that you lose a 52-pounds suitcase? You see it, it’s huge!” Then I realized all my clothes were in there and I was wearing just a pair of yoga pants and a sweater. I knew I had some clothes in one of the carry-ons but they were just two sweaters and a couple of underwear. I remembered that I had a lunch at a restaurant the next day with my family and I had no clothes because the nice ones were all in the huge suitcase. I reported the missing asking when they thought my bag was going to be found and the answer was: “I’ve no idea.” I went out of the sliding doors furious.
STAGE 3 – ACCEPTANCE
Slowly I started to accept it. I checked every single hour for the first days in my email box for updates from the airline company. I already experienced the two previous stages. When I was in the States my bag was lost twice but after a day it was already with me. Days slowly turned into weeks and I accepted that my bag was lost forever, trying to look at the bright side: I could have gone shopping.
Shopping always brightens up the spirits and I did quite a bit of it. Always remember to keep all the receipts because they will be used for the refund if after 21 days your bag hasn’t been found yet. Since I had to go to Barcelona a week after for my yoga teacher training I had to buy a lot of yoga pants, shirts, and sports bra. Things that I had put in the missing suitcase.
STAGE 4 – DESPERATION
I have to admit it, even though I did a lot of shopping, at one point, I woke up missing my clothes. I remember one morning, in which I knew exactly what I was going to wear but there was a problem: it was in the lost suitcase. You truly understand how important is something, when you lose it. Buying new clothes is awesome but having the ones that you love is even better. I seriously thought that I was never going to see my clothes again so I was totally desperate. I know, being too material is never a good thing but believe me when I say I’m not a material person at all. The clothes that I had in that suitcase were the only one that I really wanted, that I decided to keep because they had sentimental value too. When you travel a lot or you live abroad for a period of time, you learn what you really need and what you don’t. The clothes in that bag, I really needed them since they were the only one that I had and thinking that I had to redo all my wardrobe wasn’t as appealing as I thought at the beginning.
STAGE 5 – EUPHORIA
The fifth stage can lead to two different emotions based on the end of the story: euphoria or final acceptance that everything you owned has been lost. Luckily, my story ended with my bag returning to me. I wasn’t expecting the call from the airport at all. I replied to the Unknown Caller just because it was the fourth call that they were doing. When they told me it was the Milan airport, that they had my suitcase and that I could go whenever I wanted to pick it up I was so excited that I started to jump all over the room. I couldn’t believe I was going to have my clothes back. I just took the car, drove to the airport and brought my suitcase home. It usually takes me forever to unpack. This time I was so excited to have my clothes back that I put everything in the wardrobe right away.
The company apologized telling me that the label on the suitcase, the one with my name and destination, got lost so there was no way to identify it. They managed to give it back to me thanks to my description of the content. I want to finish with two advice:
- always put the label with your name and final destination attached to your bag (I didn’t and we know how it ended);
- when you have to pack and you have more than one suitcase, put a little bit of everything in each bag.
Those are two lessons that I’m never going to forget.