It was 8:20pm at Mendoza, Argentina’s bus station and we were ready to hop on a bus heading north to Salta in 10 minutes.
Then something happened. Something I didn’t think would ever happen to me.
Within the 45 seconds it took me to ask the bus driver a question, someone distracted my travel partner and my small backpack was gone. Everything important, except for my phone, was in there. Passport, debit and credit card, driver’s license, camera, memory cards, journal and cash all gone. I felt scared, angry, sad and vulnerable all at the same time. I felt stupid for leaving my backpack on the ground. I knew better than that.
I immediately threw my big backpack on and ran. To where, wasn’t sure, but it was to look for what was stolen. About a minute later I stopped. Everything was blurry around me. People were running around catching buses, talking, laughing and I felt as if I was going to faint. I was stuck in Argentina with no way to prove my identity and no money. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that my photos from the past month and a half were gone and so was my camera.
It was in that moment I snapped out of it, standing there in the midst of the bustling station, and realized I could handle this situation in three ways:
1) Have a breakdown.
2) Get to the Canadian Embassy in Buenos Aires, get an emergency passport and get home.
3) Stay positive, get a temporary passport and finish the three-month journey through South America.
I don’t know how I chose option three, but I did, and it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I turned around and walked up to the police officer about ten feet behind me and told him I’d been robbed.
Once this happened and the decision to move forward was made, everything started to change. We met an officer who spoke great English that night. He helped us figure out where to file a report and find a last minute hostel for that night since the one we’d been at was fully booked until the next day.
The next couple weeks in Mendoza were especially memorable. The hostel staff was not only incredibly supportive, but they became our friends. We even broke the record of how long someone had stayed there! Between connecting with the officers again and new friends at the hostel, we learned more about Argentina than we could have dreamed. We also really got to see what the city of Mendoza, and the great wine, has to offer.
When my temporary passport finally came, the hostel manager woke me up while someone filmed my half-asleep and excited reaction. It was a strange feeling though. That place had become our home for more than two weeks, we made friends there and now it was time to move on.
Yes, I would love to still have my camera, photos and to have not gone through the trouble of getting a temporary passport. For some reason though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. On a personal level, I realized I had the capabilities to get through an incredibly stressful and emotional situation. I pushed through something I didn’t think I ever could.
That’s what travel can do. It can throw you into situations where you feel uncomfortable or scared, but that’s where you get the opportunity to show yourself you can conquer that. You can push on. You can stay positive. You can do what you once thought was impossible.