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    • Jo Hatcher

      Columnist
    • March 7, 2015 in Bloggers

    When the unexpected happens

    Here’s part two of the story I wrote about our scary volcano trip. If you missed the first part, you can read it here. And stay tuned for the end to know the real learnings in this adventure.  

    I left off when we looked in the back of the truck and it was completely empty.

    Where was my backpack? My purse? Did they unpack it with the other guests at the last hotel? For a fleeting moment, I thought, you know, we’ll get our stuff back. It will just be inconvenient. I’ll have to just suck it up and sleep in my clothes tonight. 

    The driver said he would bring us our bags the next day. Before we left for the airport. 

    Right. I believed him.  What else to do at this point?

    There was no one at the hotel which was dark and locked up tight. The owner had apparently given up on us as we were the only guests that night and he’d gone home.   

    Once again, adventure. Boiling pots.

    We just wanted to get back to the airport for the flight back the next day. Please. I just want to see my granddaughters again. 

    The three men searched in darkness, to see if they could find someone to let us in our room. Oddly, they found a set of keys on a ledge somewhere and opened up one of the rooms for us.  So bizarre but welcome.

    That night lying in bed, staring at the ceiling of the tiny thatched roof, under the mosquito net that draped around us,  my husband and I wondered, well, who knows we’re here? Will someone come to take us to the airport?

    We had no food, no water, just ourselves. We fell into exhausted but a fitful sleep while we waited until daylight.

    The morning arrived and we discovered we were right by the ocean, in a beautiful landscape with palm trees, tropical blue seas and black coral.

    We found the dining room and saw that there were two coffee cups and a place setting waiting for us.

    At 7:30 a.m., a young woman with a bright shiny face and very white teeth appeared and welcomed us to breakfast. 

    She told us her father was the owner of the hotel and they had all wondered when they had gone to the airport to pick us up “what had happened to us.”

    She also mentioned that she had forgotten her keys the afternoon before and left them on a ledge.

    It was nice to have the fresh payaya and coffee. And homemade bread. At least we wouldn’t starve. And the potential for being boiled in a pot seemed much diminished.

    We got to the airport on time and returned from our journey safe and sound. 

    It’s now eight weeks later and we haven’t seen the backpack or my purse. My ex-husband, Robert, is a member of Parliament in Vanuatu. He has spoken to the Member of Parliament from Tanna. A police report has been filed and my son has made numerous calls to try to locate the stolen possessions. 

    Just two days ago, my ex-husband wrote to say that a new saga had developed. The police discovered the house where the backpack is and were planning to make a raid on the house when the head policeman got appendicitis and had to be rushed to the hospital. Honest, I’m not making this up.  You have to laugh.  

    I still have hope that some of it will be returned to us. Why I have hope, I can’t say. But it could happen. Maybe when pigs fly. I am still hopeful.

    This was an expensive learning opportunity.

    I have been through a range of emotions about it from anger, sadness, to grief and blaming myself. Ultimately, it has been important to me to realize it was an adventure and that we didn’t end up in a boiling pot somewhere on a remote island. 

    I always come back to one thing: that we came back safe and unharmed. That we had each other. That things could have turned out so differently.

    If there had been any intention to harm us for any reason, I wouldn’t be writing this story today. And, my family would only know that we visited the volcano and after that, no one would know what had happened to us.

    Part of me still hasn’t let go entirely. I’ve thought why I took so much stuff with me. I didn’t even need most of the things in the bag. We were gone overnight, for 24 hours, not on an extended sabbatical. What was I thinking? 

    I  thought of the disparity in the expatriates and tourists who go there, to this place where people are so poor. And I know that they would have delighted in finding the $500 in my wallet. 

    And too, I’m beyond grateful that I remembered to take out my passport and my military ID before we left. Had I not, I wouldn’t have not been able to get back into Japan or leave the islands. Vanuatu does not have a American Embassy. So much to learn when you travel.

    There’s always learning in something like this if you want there to be. And I do.

    I choose to focus on the fact that we came back from the volcano without harm, how lucky we were, and that it was a big adventure. 

    I choose to not harbor any grudges about the people who stole our stuff. 

    I choose to see it as part of our adventure, although my husband  has a slightly less benevolent attitude toward the “adventure.”

    Also, a big part of it is about forgiveness.  Not so much for the people who took our stuff, but for myself. 

    I have to let go and stop blaming myself that we got into the wrong vehicle, that I didn’t know which hotel we were staying at, that I took so many valuable things with me I didn’t need, and that I let my guard down when I shouldn’t have. 

    Cameras, money and purses can be replaced. It’s a hassle. It’s disrupting. It’s expensive but it can be fixed. I discovered I could indeed live without my makeup. And that I could buy more if I wanted.

    I’m choosing now to forgive myself, to forgive the thieves and to learn from this incredible experience. And actually, I choose to go there all over again. 

    And I choose not to let this experience dampen my love of travel and adventure. There.

    When have you had something stolen from you or had a huge loss? How did you handle it?

    What did you learn about yourself? About life?

    Join the conversation.

    If you liked this story, you can sign up for more by going to JoHatcherRetreats.com.


      • Maya North

      • March 10, 2015 at 9:44 pm
      • Reply

      Sure glad you made it out safely! My husband lost all his credit cards and the thief had a mighty fine time in Thailand spending his money! Blessedly, the card’s fraud policy covered it all…



      • That must have been challenging trying to cancel the credit cards! And thank goodness he wasn’t liable for it. Thanks for sharing your story, Maya.



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