I feel like a truly experienced traveler now.
I’ve been pretty lucky with my travels so far. Nothing has ever gone horribly wrong, I’ve always felt safe and secure, I’ve never gotten terribly lost or had an emergency situation. But all good things come to an end, and my good luck streak met its match when I lost my passport to the Iceland snowdrifts.
I’m not actually sure what happened to my passport. I had just gotten a new case for it which also acted as a wallet, so I was carrying it around with me most of the trip. In hindsight, that was not my smartest idea. We think it actually fell out of my coat pocket while I was climbing on top of our car to take photos of the northern lights. The things us photographers go through to get good photos, am I right?
I noticed it was missing while in Egilsstaðir on Wednesday morning. We went back to all the places we had been the previous night (to the grocery store, to get ice cream) but my poor passport was sadly gone. We filed a report with the Egilsstaðir police in case it turned up later, but we now had to contact the United States Embassy to see what my next steps were. Egilsstaðir is in the north of the country, which means we had two days to get back to Reykjavik. The embassy is located in the city and is only open Monday-Friday. My flight was leaving on Sunday, which meant I needed a new passport by the end of the day Friday, otherwise I was stuck in Iceland.
I didn’t need to make an appointment. Simply show up, and bring a passport sized photo of yourself (I didn’t have any photos, so I opted for a photo from the mall photo booth). Luckily I did have a picture of my passport on my phone which was a huge help when filling out paperwork. There are two forms you need to fill out while at the embassy. The first is sort of like a police report. You tell how you lost your passport, where it was lost, when, etc. The second form is to get your new passport, and is just like the form you filled out the first time around.
My new passport was just like my old one, but with less pages. My biggest concern through all of this was that I wouldn’t have a passport for my international trips coming up this summer, but the temporary passport is valid for one year. Keep in mind that most countries require a passport to be valid for at least six months after arrival, so really the temporary passport is only valid for six months. Still, this gives me plenty of time to apply for a new one without stressing about my upcoming trips.
I paid $135 for my temporary passport. The embassy gave me a letter in case customs gives me any trouble, and told me to present both the letter and my receipt when applying for my new 10-year passport. This way I won’t have to pay anything back in the states. The whole process at the embassy took less than two hours. I’m not saying I approve of loosing your passport, but it’s not the end of the world if you do! I was lucky that the US Embassy in Iceland wasn’t busy at all which probably resulted in the quick turn around, but getting my temporary passport and getting back home was completely painless.
Here are a few things I learned from this experience:
1. Don’t double your passport case as your wallet. I also lost my drivers lisence, debit card a credit card. (Honesty hour: I’m a little happy I lost my drivers liscence. I like really, really hated my photo).
2. Keep a back-up money supply and identification in a separate place. Luckily I had another credit card and my student ID in my real wallet.
3. Take a picture of your passport on your phone and “favorite” it so it goes into the favorites folder and you can easily find it years later.
4. Keep some passport sized photos of yourself in your suitcase. It will save you $20 and a trip to the mall photo booth.