Karma police?

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 11. Travails, Paris by Howard4 Comments

My last week’s experience well prepared me for this topic. In short, my bag was stolen.

It happened so quick that I spent the last few days pondering a question: How did it happen?

I spent my fall break in Luxembourg and Frankfurt. While traveling alone there, I never had any worries about personal safety. I have traveled alone to Yosemite and spent two nights near the top of the waterfall in winter and survived. I was alone in Amsterdam a few months ago, tripping and “tripping”. I have walked so many times from Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Washington Square Park 3 o’ clock in the morning. I mean, what could possibly happen to me?

The stay in both places was so amazing that at one night I was even dreaming if I could just live there forever. Now in retrospect, I think the good time I had there foreshadows my later mishap. As they say: “what goes up must come down”.

The morning that I left Frankfurt was rainy, but still it was pleasant. My friend drove me to the train station and we said goodbye to each other. I walked in and got on my train. The seat was unprecedentedly comfortable, and especially I went to bed pretty late the night before, I was ready for a long nap on the train. So I put on my headphone while charging it with my laptop and closed my eyes. I woke up a few times in between, mainly because there were people getting off the train and talking loudly. But with the beautiful music coming out of my headphone, what could be worse? I went on sleeping.

I did not recall how long was my nap, but I woke up and thought about reading on the train might be a good idea. I looked up to locate my bag… but there was nothing on it.

Oh man, what happened?

Did anyone take it by mistake?

I was pretty sure that I put it right above me.

I sat down, tried to remain calm and to think who could possibly take it. There was no way people would take it by mistake, since there was no one sitting in front of me, and my bag was right above me. It must be stolen. God. It was stolen.

I immediately went talk to the conductor, but there were no cameras on the train so they could not help me at all. I was not really worried or anything. I just sat down and think about what went wrong and what made me deserve this punishment: My camera was in it. It had all the memories of my trips from North America to China and then to Europe. Now they are gone. The book I bought from Shakespeare bookstore, The sickness unto death by Soren Kierkegaard, was also in it. I have not yet finished it. But now I wished whoever stole my bag would also get that sickness unto death. My passport too. It contained all the stamps as a reward for traveling around. Now I don’t have the visa page and possibly cannot travel to Iceland for the winter break. All the tickets I bought for museums, exhibitions, plays were also in it. I was going to collect them.

After I realized all the stuff I had in my bag, my mind went blank.

Maybe I did something bad to deserve this? I really don’t know.


  1. Howard,

    I am SO sorry that this happened to you! Some people are just awful; it sucks but it’s true. The most important thing to remember is that even though you must have captured some beautiful pictures, it was still YOU that experienced those amazing places. Bad things happen to good people, unfortunately; I doubt you did anything that directly correlates with this event. It’s just another life experience you have under your belt. You’ve experienced something awful, but not the most awful; remind yourself to be thankful for your health, as that is not something you can replace. Try to find the silver lining in the awful situation; at least now you’ll never leave your bag alone!

    1. Author

      Hi Isabel,

      Thank you for your comment, Isabel! You are right that the whole experience reminds me to be thankful for my health. And also, I did try to find the silver lining in that awful situation, as you suggested. When I got off the train, there were people who heard of the incidents came to ask me if I need help. There was a couple who graciously gave me their extra chargers for my iPhone, and told me that It is only going to be better. And yes I will never leave my bag alone!

  2. Howard,

    I already posted a comment for this week, but I felt the need to write a note to you as well. I am so sorry you lost all of your belongings. While I too am a huge fan of collecting Passport stamps and museum stubs and new books (my heart was extra saddened to hear you lost a special, unfinished book), try to remember that you are separate from your belongings. You are not stripped of your status as a well travelled individual just because someone decided to be a jerk; in fact, you are an even more experienced traveller now. I’m glad that at the very least, you have this blog to remind you of your journeying – both the physical and the spiritual – this semester. Things will turn up – just keep your eyes open!!

    1. Author

      Hi Ashley,

      Thanks for your comment! I agree with you and now treat it as a valuable experience/lesson to me. I think the best part of travel is the experience– whether it is good or bad. And with all different experiences, it eventually builds up one’s overall identity. Now I’m actually glad that I could experience something like this, so next time it won’t be happening to me again, and also it makes me realize that my own memories are much more important than what is stored inside those physical entities.
      Thanks again!

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