Traveling provides an opportunity to enhance our knowledge, meet new people, and enjoy the taste and atmosphere of far-away places. Traveling can be interesting and fun, unless something goes wrong. Flying is one of the safest ways to travel, but there are risks. A few days ago, a Spanair MD-82 flight to the Canary Islands crashed on takeoff and killed 153 people. Nineteen people survived the crash. No amount of preparation can get you ready for this type of accident, but most trips end up uneventfully. People get to where they want to go in spite of the delays in the airports, and they accomplish their business or they have a good time.
As I was walking in the living room today, the porcelain figurines on my bookcase caught my attention, and I thought about travel. These ceramic figures are the only survivors of a trip that I took to Europe many years ago. I had gone to Spain and Italy on business for a couple of weeks. When I did not work, I took the opportunity to know the countries better. In Spain, I drove a rental BMW from Madrid to Costa del Sol in Andalucía, which is by the Mediterranean Sea. I visited cities like Torremolinos and Marbella, but I did not get as far as Gibraltar. Many faces in the south of Spain reminded me of my maternal relatives. I am sure that some of my ancestors came from there.
One of the interesting things that you can do on a trip is to gather souvenirs. You can look at them later and remember where you were and re-imagine your adventures. As I traveled in Spain, I encountered some beautiful ceramic figurines and bought four of them. The price was about $15 Dollars each because they were Tengra ceramics, rather than the more expensive Lladro ceramics. My statuettes were carefully wrapped in multiple layers of paper and placed in large boxes.
After one week in Spain, I spent another week in Pisa, Italy. From there, I drove to Rome where I stayed overnight in preparation for my trip back to the United States. After I packed everything in the car to go the airport, I went to check out of the hotel. During the time that I was checking out, someone jimmied the car open and stole all my luggage. The thief probably had a small car and could not fit the bulky boxes with the ceramics. I went to the police station and filed a report. I received a copy of the complaint, and drove immediately to the airport. I checked-in the boxes with the figurines with the airline and took the flight home.
When I arrived in Washington, D.C., I waited at the baggage return for my boxes, but they never came. I went to the airline counter to ask about my lost boxes, and they told me that they would investigate. So, there I was with only the clothes on my back after a two-week trip to Europe. The customs agent eyed me with suspicion, but let me through. My boxes with the four figurines arrived safely several days later. They had been loaded on a different flight by mistake.
I spent the next few weeks going over my receipts to make a list of what I had lost. I submitted claims to my employer, to the car rental agency, and to my home insurance. Of course, the insurance agents asked me if I was in financial trouble, trying to figure out if I was pulling an insurance scam. In the end, I got reimbursed for most of my losses. I only have these ceramic figures to remind me of that trip, and I also know that somewhere in Italy, an Italian thief is wearing my clothes.