Travel Karma

Travel karma is the bad luck, bad weather, bad room, bad case of Montezuna’s revenge… all the moments that you hope you’ll look back on and laugh about someday. That Jamaica honeymoon your brother booked, and the hotel had a fire? Blame it on travel karma. Our week on Malta in the autumn month that the travel agent swore got only 2-3 days of rain, and we were there for all 5 of them? Oh, yeah. It was travel karma.

There’s nothing you can do except shrug your shoulders, find a comfy café to hang out, and pull out the book you brought along.

Travel karma is other moments, too. It’s serendipity, the magic of being in the right place at the exactly right time. It’s the town festival you stumble into while out exploring. Travel karma is the restaurant with the fixed price menu that turns out to include champagne throughout the meal. It’s when you jump on a train 10 seconds before the doors close to leave.

Every so often travel karma gives you a heady dose of both moments…

We booked a charter flight to India.

Where we were headed
Where we were headed

I don’t always sleep well on the eve of a trip, and slept especially poorly this night. The next morning we were on a very early ICE train to Frankfurt to get our flight to India. The ICE is a sleek, fast train that makes few stops and great time.

I hauled my train pass out of my travel purse out of my day back for the train attendant to check. Tired, I reminded myself that I would need to put the pass back in the purse and the purse back in the day pack.

I didn’t.

We got off the train and headed up into the airport. A few horrified minutes later I realized my purse was right where I’d left it, on the seat of a train now heading to Amsterdam… containing my passport. And my credit cards. And my train pass. And $$s. And €€s, all the ready money I was carrying as we weren’t sure how easy it would be to find cash machines.

We could get more cash in the airport and use Uwe’s credit cards, but I wasn’t going anyplace unless I got my passport back. The helpful folks at DB (Deutsches Bahn) contacted the train and they checked: my purse still lay on the seat where I’d left it! The problem was that the next scheduled stop for the ICE wouldn’t be until Köln, several hours up the tracks. DB would hold my purse for me there. There was no way I’d have my passport back in time for us to make our plane.

It was too late to do anything but rebook the flight to India. If I said “Uwe, I’m soooo sorry!” once, I said it 100 times. Man, did I feel awful. But – it was travel karma.

Uwe climbed on the next train heading back to Stuttgart (looking a whole lot less happy than he had early that morning) and I caught a train to Köln. The DB personnel hadn’t been able to report if my purse still contained my valuables. My passport was stamped with the resident alien visa that allowed me to remain in Germany. And without my passport I couldn’t head back to America to see my country, or my family, or go anywhere, for that matter. I felt oddly vulnerable. This situation was bad, and the more I worried about it, the worse it became.

As I sat on the train I bargained with the travel gods: “Just leave me the passport.”

When we reached Köln I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since supper the night before. I wasn’t ready yet for good/bad news about my purse. I bought myself a sandwich and a coffee and stalled for five minutes. Then it was time… I headed to Lost & Found and told someone my story. Of course, I no longer had any ID to prove who I was. He asked me to describe the purse and what was in it.  I flinched inside as I told him.

The nice man vanished into the back and returned with my purse. “Go ahead and check that everything’s there,” he suggested. I know my hands shook as I unzipped it and looked.

Not a pfennig had gone missing. I shrieked Ya-hoo! and he laughed. Then I said thank you and left the little office.

I went directly to the flower vendor kitty-corner to Lost & Found and bought the largest bouquet of white blooms they offered. I marched with the bouquet back into the Lost & Found office. The employees all looked up astonished when they saw me again.

My voice quavered. “These are for all of you. It’s not enough just to say, ‘Thank you for doing your jobs’. It’s so great to know that there are still honest, helpful people in the world!” Nonplussed, they accepted the flowers, but everyone was smiling.

The train trip back to Stuttgart from Köln took 3 hours. The next charter flight to India left 3 days later. When we got finally got there I had one of the most amazing trips of my life. I probably used up a lot of good travel karma on that day I had to journey to Köln, but I hope I’ve added to my karma account since then. And I will never, ever forget my belongings on a train going anywhere. That’s one lesson I’ve learned!

© Jadi Campbell 2013. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. More pictures from India and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

En route
6-8th century Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist cave temples, Badami.
Nandi Purmina festival Hampi, India
Nandi Purmina festival

29 thoughts on “Travel Karma”

  1. Travel karma is very unpredictable as to how it spreads its tentacles. Always relieved when it goes the right way.

  2. Enjoyed sharing the adventure with you. I recently took to wearing a sort of travel vest with lots of inside AND outside pockets while travelling. It keeps the valuable stuff firmly attached. Not too handy in hot climates, though.

    1. Yes, Julie, it’s the eternal worry for the traveler! Pants with securable deep pockets down on the legs are good, as is a purse worn across the chest zipper-side to the body. I like your vest solution, too. Now, if I only had eyes on the back of my head…. Thanks for commenting and happy trails, —Jadi

  3. Hi, I once had a purse robbed on a local train in Mumbai – luckily there wasn’t much cash in it and certainly, not anything as valuable as a passport but, the shock of having things taken right in front of your eyes shook my faith in man’s goodness of spirit shook me up quite a bit. Am so happy for you to have found your belongings.

    Also, as an Indian, I feel it is my duty to welcome you to India – a biig hug from me and hope you have a good time. A word of advise though – please be cautious. As in any other country, there are good and not-so-good people here.

    1. We had a wonderful time! We saw only a tiny corner of the subcontinent and look forward to returning and exploring more. India is one of the most amazing places I’ve been in the world. Cheers, —Jadi

  4. What a wonderful story, Jadi! I’m sure your stomach was in knots when you realized what happened. I know I totally panic when I’m separated from my travel purse on a trip … I just want to staple it to my body. And what a great ending – the flowers were the perfect finish. So glad that the trip turned out well. All the best, Terri

    1. Your description of wanting to staple your travel purse to your body says it exactly! I still get separation anxiety if I don’t have my passport with me. —Jadi

  5. For me it was the joy of knowing I’d packed medications for travellers diarrhoea when it recently struck in Vietnam 🙂

    1. Yes, it’s those little things that can make or break a trip! I laughed when I read your comment, but I know the situation. Glad you came through it fine. 🙂 —Jadi

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