Gone Missing at the Airport

A couple of hours before dawn I was awake and packing my luggage ready to leave Bali for the final time. Over the four months of my solo travels in SE Asia, the island and the friends I’d made had become a comforting base from which I had left and returned a number of times. This time though, it really was goodbye. I was embarking on the final step of my adventure before arriving back in the UK in time for my mum’s 80th Birthday celebration at the beginning of March 2018.

I used an app on my phone to order a Bluebird taxi to take me the short distance from the guest house to the International Airport for my flight to Bangkok. Within what seemed like a matter of minutes, the car had arrived, I’d bundled in with my bags and before I knew it I was being dropped outside the airport terminal. It was just after 5.30 am and still dark. I had that feeling of early morning bleary-eyed excitement I remember from childhood. The bright lights of the terminal building beckoned.

With the sense of calm of a seasoned traveller, I navigated my way through the security checks and x-ray scanners at the entrance and headed into the terminal building. Locating the check-in desk for my flight I was shocked by the huge queue that snaked back and forth to the desks for my flight and relieved I wouldn’t have to join them.

Standing in front of the priority check-in desk, feeling ever so slightly smug at bypassing the long wait, I reached into my bag for my phone to show my online reservation. I couldn’t find it immediately, but that’s not uncommon. I delved deeper into my bag. My heart was beginning to beat a little faster, I could feel a cold sweat developing on my hands, but my head was telling me it would be fine, it’s here somewhere. Yet, as much as I rummaged, my hand couldn’t locate it. I admitted to the woman on the desk, “I can’t find my phone”. She responded calmly, telling me not to worry it’d be there somewhere. As I emptied the contents onto the counter my mind raced through everything that lived on that phone, all my contact numbers, my photos, my travel arrangements and flight confirmations. There was now no doubt. My phone was gone.

I felt a wave of nausea as my thoughts raced to comprehend the impact of leaving the country without my phone. There was still time before my flight, I had to at least try and find it. I’d probably left it at the security scanners at the entrance. Yes, that’ll be it. A sense of relief replaced the nausea.

The security officer was really understanding but no, nothing had been left behind. He even rescanned my bags to make sure I hadn’t missed it in my search. Panic began to rise. I’m advised the Information Desk is the place to go, it’ll have been handed in there. Once again, a moment of relief as I am given some hope. But short-lived. The Desk is closed.

I gather my thoughts. Maybe I dropped it when I got out of the taxi. I head back to the taxi rank. I ask a few drivers if they have seen anything but no, no-one had. A Bluebird driver offered to call his office and let me speak with them on his phone. They needed the taxi number but I didn’t have it. It was on the app on my missing phone.

Standing alone outside the airport I remembered the tracking app I’d installed on my laptop and phone before I left the UK. The screen showed a map and flashed ‘locating device’, then like magic, a blue dot appeared, moving along a road heading north out of the city. A mix of elation and horror hit me. I have found my phone. But. It’s heading away from the airport.

Now I’d seen it on my laptop screen I couldn’t give up. I checked again. Amazingly the blue dot was now moving south towards the airport. I calculated I still had a little time before my flight would be boarding. I could wait just a little longer. I wasn’t ready to give up on it yet.

Moments later I saw the blue dot on the tracker moving steadily along the airport approach road. I looked up from my screen and there, right in front of me, my driver pulled up in his taxi with such a huge smile on his face, waving my phone in his hand. In the sudden surge of love I had for that man, a total stranger, it was all I could to stop myself embracing him in the biggest hug ever. Instead, I gushed my appreciation and gave him a generous tip, hoping that would convey the gratitude I felt at his effort to return my phone before my flight left.

Just thirty minutes later I settled into my seat as the plane prepared for take-off. My phone firmly in my hand as I switched it off for the flight. What an adventure I was having. Thinking back to a few months earlier when I’d arrived at Heathrow airport, ready to travel alone across the world, I was struck by how much I’d changed. My calmness came from a newly honed ability to focus on the immediate issue, rather than allowing myself to fall into the familiar trap of being paralysed by the catastrophic anticipation of a worst-case scenario before it had even happened.

Four months of solo travel had shown me that rather than be in fear of the unknown, one step at a time, I could handle it. And, best of all, I had an inner knowing that even if I hadn’t got my phone back that day, I would have managed, somehow.