When I was starting to put together an itinerary for our summer expedition, I budgeted four weeks for four European cities. After a lot of back and forth, input from various fellow travelers and friends, research, and a “fuck it, let’s do this” attitude, the itinerary morphed into eight cities over five weeks. Eight cities we had never visited before, and a ten page itinerary detailing over a month of travel. It was a masterpiece that took several months — booking airfare and train reservations, lining up hotel and Airbnb accommodations, researching excursions, planning day trips, strategizing what and how to pack for a family of four for a five week trip in six foreign countries. It was an undertaking not for the faint of heart. But it got done, and it’s impossible to overstate how good I am at travel logistics. Like, ridiculously good. There was little room for fuck-ups, but somehow Tom found a way. I delegated one simple task: please book a car rental for our road trip through the Alsace Wine Route during two specific days, clearly explained in an email. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS READ THE EMAIL. Did Tom read the email? Apparently no, because he booked he wrong dates. Not a big deal and easily fixed. The second fuck-up was not as easily fixable: DO NOT LOSE YOUR PASSPORT 36 HOURS BEFORE AN INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT. Shouldn’t have been hard when all of our passports were stored in a lockbox safe. However, a few weeks before our trip Tom took his passport out of the safe to do a banking transaction and then swore he left it on his desk. Except it wasn’t there. He broke the news to me on Friday evening, and our flight was leaving on Sunday afternoon. You can imagine how fun that Friday night was, ransacking every crack and crevice of our house in search of the missing passport. At one point in the middle of the night I even ventured into the backyard to peer into the bushes. You do desperate things when you’re desperate. We needed a back-up plan so I started googling like crazy to see what our options were. Predictably, it’s really really really hard to get a replacement passport issued within 24 hours, especially over the weekend when government offices are closed, especially when there isn’t a life or death emergency. The closest scenario resembling an emergency was that Tom feared for his life because of the threat of spousal homicide. I’m joking, because I channeled the shit out of my yoga practice and kept cool as a cucumber under the most provocative circumstances. Tom survived the weekend unscathed because of yoga.
I managed to find a passport application office that was open on Saturday and snagged the first available appointment. I filled out all of necessary forms online, including a lost passport report. The funny thing was, the passport application required an original certified birth certificate. Tom was able to locate his original birth certificate issued by the State of Texas in 1976, stored among his elementary school report cards in a crawl space behind a basement wall, but he had no idea where he put his damn passport.
We both woke up early Saturday morning after an anxious, restless night. Tom kept re-tracing his steps, trying to solve the inexplicable disappearance. The only change he made to his office in the past week, he said, was removing a backpack. He already searched the backpack, he said. He held the backpack up, stuck his hand into it, and, lo and behold, pulled out his passport!!! Unfortunately, when you submit a lost passport report, the missing passport becomes invalid and can no longer be used for travel, and a lost passport report cannot be cancelled or revoked, even if you end up finding your missing passport mere hours after reporting it lost. Tom went to his appointment and explained everything to the agency worker, who strongly cautioned him not to travel with an invalid passport, which meant that he would have to stay behind and wait for a new passport to be issued while I boarded a plane as a solo parent to two kids en route to Europe. OH HELL NO. The itinerary said nothing about me being a solo parent for any part of this trip. Determined not to leave the country without my husband, I called airport customs, explained the situation, and got just enough reassurance to hope that my husband probably wouldn’t get arrested traveling with his invalidated passport so long as he received his new passport before trying to re-enter the U.S.
Everything worked out in the end. We arrived to Munich on Monday morning and traveled to Salzburg by train without any issues. Later that afternoon, the U.S. State Department sent an email notifying Tom that his lost passport report had been processed. We barely made it through foreign customs by the skin of our teeth, and luckily the time difference worked in our favor. We embarked on our European adventure in the charming city of Salzburg as scheduled.
Salzburg was beautiful but we got the sense that it existed solely for the pleasure of tourists, kind of like an adult version of Disneyland. Its most popular excursion was the “Sound of Music” tour, which shepherded busloads of tourists like us to various location sites where scenes from the movie were filmed. Local German-speakers could care less about the film, but fans from all over the world flocked to hear behind-the-scenes tidbits while singing along to the musical’s soundtrack. We enjoyed the tour, but probably would have enjoyed it more if we weren’t so tired from the morning walking tour of the city that we had done immediately beforehand. The walking tour consisted of a boring lecture about the city’s origins, inhabitants, and industry, something about salt mines and wealthy bishops who built monuments to their egos. Blah, blah, blah, when can we have a beer? On the “Sound of Music” tour? Well then, what are we waiting for? A couple of buzzed parents might have dozed off here and there.
We were glad to have visited Salzburg and the kids loved it, but after it was checked off the list we were looking forward to all the exciting new places on the itinerary.