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Those of you that were keeping up with my Photo of the Week project/real time updates know that as soon as we got back to Koh Tao from Vietnam I locked myself in our bungalow and glued myself to the computer for two weeks straight. I was not only catching up on work I had avoided while traveling, I was also trying desperately to work ahead so that I could enjoy the holidays with my family and friends. I was overjoyed at their visit, but that also meant that in addition to trying to cram in loads of work projects, I was juggling the travel plans for three different groups of people. I was slightly overwhelmed.

Which may be how I ended up making the biggest mistake of all my travels.

My family was flying into Bangkok, and they generously bought me a flight from Koh Samui (the closest island to Koh Tao with an airport) to Bangkok so I could meet them at the gate. As usual, I was packing at the last-minute and having my typical packing anxiety. When I finally had a moment of calm I was on the ferry and thinking of how lucky I was to be missing out on the hassle of the 12 hour bus ride to Bangkok. Smooth sailing for me!

It was smooth sailing, until the moment I realized I didn’t have my passport. Or any photo ID.

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I quickly tried to do damage control in my head. My flight was at 6am the next morning. There were two ferries a day from Koh Tao to Koh Samui. I was on the first one. Could I get back to Koh Tao in time for the second one? (No.) Could I show up at the airport and try to fly domestically without ID? (Ha.) Could I pay a speed boat one million dollars to take me from Koh Samui to Koh Tao and back? (I considered it).

At this point I was lathered into a complete panic. I called Mark, sure that he would see through the dark tunnel and clean up my ridiculous mess. His solution? “Sigh. Well, I guess you’ll have to take a bus.” Well, we can’t all be crisis resolution managers. At this point my mom and sister were already en route, so there was so way to them if I couldn’t sort this out. I pictured them waiting for hours at the airport meeting point and I wanted to cry.

I decided to call my friend Suze, who I interrupted from decorating her apartment with paper snowflakes. She is the calmest person I know and I had a feeling she could talk me down from the edge. Mark had beat me to it and the two of them were already devising a plan to send my passport as cargo on the afternoon ferry. There was nothing I could do but wait. I checked into my hotel and tried in vain to get some work done. Suze called and told me my passport was now in the hands of the ferry company, Lomprayah, who had been briefed on the urgency of the situation. I walked to McDonald’s but my stomach was still in knots and I could barely finish half my meal. That’s how serious this was, people. An hour before the ferry was due, at 5pm, I made my way to the dock to spend my time more productively: wringing my hands and pacing back and forth. I trust Lomprayah and wasn’t worried about theft, but still… this is South East Asia, and organization standards are relaxed.


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The Lomprayah employees quickly took me under their wing. Despite very little shared language, they insisted I take a seat and proceeded to share weird fruit and kind smiles. When the ferry finally appeared in the distance, the youngest girl pointed at the boat, smiled, and patted my arm. I wish I was as sure as she that everything would be alright.

As passengers came flooding off the boat I was back on my feet, anxiety rising. Where was the cargo? If I didn’t intercept it now, where would it go? Would I be able to access it by 6am the next day? The young employee saw a man carrying a brown folder step off the boat and discreetly waved him over. While she kept a lookout for her superiors I thumbed through the pile of manila envelopes. There, in Suze’s sweet handwriting, was my name. I ripped the envelope open and out came my passport, and a tiny paper snowflake. My stomach un-knotted itself for the first time in 7 hours.

I know what you’re thinking. How could I have been so stupid? Well, I was just going to Bangkok and back. Not leaving the country. And every single other billion times I have gone to Bangkok and back has been by bus. So I think the concept of “passport” did not even register in my frazzled mind. Did I mention I was kind of stressed? And I’m also kind of a head case? Bad excuses, I know. But believe me, I was properly punished. I have never thrown out McDonald’s french fries before.

With proper photo identification in hand I was off. In just over 12 hours I would arrive in Bangkok and reunite with my family.

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40 Comments...
  • My stomach was in knots for you by just reading this post! Phew! Glad it worked out 🙂
    Annette | Bucket List Journey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2012

      I was a lucky lady! Sometimes I can be a space cadet… I’m glad I have friends who can bail me out!

  • Olivia
    February 9 2012

    Oopsie!

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2012

      First comment to make me LOL in ages.

  • Steve McKee
    February 9 2012

    you walked to …. McDonald’s? AAAARGH!

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2012

      Hey, we don’t have any fast food here on Koh Tao! I start to go into withdrawl!

  • Kathryn
    February 9 2012

    How weird am I? The snowflake falling out of the envelope with the passport made me tear up. What an amazing friend!

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2012

      I am very lucky to have a friend and boyfriend willing to bail me out of my disasters, and do it with humor! Lucky lady indeed.

  • Diane C
    February 9 2012

    Oh I had a stomache ache too reading this but was so moved that you kept moving forward and by what a good friend your Suze is!

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2012

      She certainly is! And I hope I’ll be the first one she calls if she ever does something so silly as well 🙂

  • We ALL make silly mistakes. The good thing? We learn and grow!!! And at the end of the day you prevailed!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2012

      It’s true. I NEVER hear stories like this and think “I would never do that.” I hear them and think, “Yup, that’s me!” I’ve got to find a way to be a little less spacey!

  • Tawny- Captain and Clark
    February 9 2012

    We all make these kinds of mistakes every once in a while. We’re glad it had a happy ending! I once left my wallet at an eco lodge deep in the amazon jungle. A kind stranger drove 12 hours to put it on a plane for me to pick up at the airport the next day. I told him to keep the cash from my wallet as all I really needed was my debit card. I’m still so grateful for the time and effort he put in, all for a stranger.

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2012

      Wow, that is an amazing story! I’m absolutely love tales about the kindness of strangers. I’m on the verge of making mistakes like this constantly (forgetting bags at airport security, leaving my blackberry plugged in somewhere random) it was just a matter or time before it caught up with me!

  • Jade - ouroyster.com
    February 10 2012

    Thank god you were on the first ferry and you had time for it to come across on the next one! phew!
    Jade – ouroyster.com recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 10 2012

      I am SO grateful for that fact! Of course I had taken the morning ferry picturing a leisurely day enjoying my hotel room… not pacing around trying not to puke! But it ended up saving me in the end.

  • Audrey
    February 11 2012

    Phew, that would’ve been so stressful! Glad your friends were able to devise a plan.
    Audrey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2012

      I’m lucky I made this mistake in a place where I had good enough friends to call and ask to spend the day running around for me! Imagine if it was some random island…

  • Jasper Allen Jacobs
    February 11 2012

    You are indeed lucky to have such great friends, glad to hear that it all worked out. I too once made that mistake flying from London to Edinburgh but luckily I have my Drivers License with me and they allowed me to travel as it was considered part of the United Kingdom. Needless to say I also learned my lesson.

    On another note… Do you regret packing up and going on all your adventures?

    Jasper

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2012

      I considered having my friends send my driver’s license at first because I was nervous to have my passport out of sight, but I was too nervous to try that here in Thailand as a non-Thai citizen.

      And as for regretting my adventures, that’s a loaded question! There are challenged and heartaches in the expat lifestyle, that is for sure. But I don’t regret a moment of it!

  • Toni
    February 13 2012

    Thank God for friends that are willing to help and for the amazingly helpful (as usual) Thai staff. I bet they were the longest 7 hours of your life haha Poor thing! I would have just sat there in a neurotic crying mess 😉
    Toni recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 13 2012

      Neurotic crying mess is a pretty accurate description of the state I was in!

  • Michelle
    February 14 2012

    Close call! 🙂 I’m usually paranoid and check to make sure I have my passport every 5 minutes in fear of it magically disappearing, haha.
    Michelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 15 2012

      When I used to live in NYC, I had this paranoid compulsion about touching my blackberry and my wallet before I would step off the train. It used to drive my boyfriend craaaaazy. If only I had retained a tiny bit of that paranoia!

  • Hannah
    February 17 2012

    I am new to your blog and am really loving it! You had me on the edge of my seat, routing for you all the way. You’re a great story teller 🙂
    Hannah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 17 2012

      Thanks Hannah! I rarely have very suspenseful stories to share- but this was definitely a major one! I’m glad I was able to convey some of the anxiety!

  • Grandma Burr
    March 9 2012

    You’re no different than the rest of us ! We’ve all gone off without the most important item that we’ll need. I drove from Mich. to Colorado without the new drivers license that I was sure to have before I left home. Didn’t get stopped until I was in Co., and Jack Leatherman got me out of that mess.

    • Meihoukai
      March 10 2012

      It sounds like everyone has a story about the time they forgot that most important thing when traveling! Hopefully that will be my one and only…

  • Pretraveller
    May 6 2012

    I also have a ‘forgot my passport’ story. I think it is more common than most people realize.

    In my case just a few years ago I was staying in a youth hostel in Interlaken, Switzerland. To protect my travel documents I had put them under my mattress while I slept.

    That day I decided at short notice to travel up to the mountains and after I had departed I realized that I had left not just my passport, but my airline tickets, spare cash and credit cards behind.

    While I had a nice day out I was anxious all day until I returned and found that my documents were all still where I left them… phew!!
    Pretraveller recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 7 2012

      Now this is exactly why I never hide things from myself… I KNOW that I would hide them too well and forget them! And I can completely relate to that feeling of anxiety, it’s the worst…

  • Sandy
    May 4 2017

    A happy ending but don’t we all hate that feeling of worry and panic? You have wonderful companions and a now funny story to tell. I have a sort of similar (well not really) passport story. I was a tween/teen don’t know what age but the family was taking a trip to Florida, most likely Miami. And it wasn’t until after we checked in at the airport, got through security and was at immigration that someone (the immigration officer) noticed that my passport was expiring that day! And our flight was leaving in a couple hours. Well talk about being efficient, I got passport pictures taken, notorized and an emergency passport created (thanks to my Aunt who worked in the passport office) all done in an hour and made it onto the flight in time.

    • Meihoukai
      May 12 2017

      WOW that is some serious efficiency! What country are you from? That’s a wild story!

      • Sandy
        May 12 2017

        Cayman Islands. We couldn’t do something like that today because now passport applications are sent to the UK where the passports are now sent from. They don’t even do emergency passports anymore.

        • Meihoukai
          May 12 2017

          Oh wow! What a hassle not to do your passports on the island!

          • Sandy
            May 12 2017

            Yeah I don’t know why they changed it but now we can also apply for British passports so that part is a good change.

          • Meihoukai
            May 15 2017

            Well I suppose that is a bonus!