If you’ve ever backpacked in Australia, you know that party hostels are abundant and the party only stops for roadtrips and beach activities. I once woke up behind an Irish flag that wasn’t mine to my dorm mate looking for her shoes because the boys had hidden all of the footwear in the dorm the night before while playing ‘floor is lava’, high on the power hour of goon that I didn’t stand a chance of finishing.
Before you get all frowny brows on me, let me tell you – this isn’t a story of drunken escapades leading to unforeseen consequences. This is a heroic journey of a girl on the road to recover her most valued possession, her passport. If this gets made into a movie, maybe Jennifer Lawrence could play me.
It all started with The World Bar. It was full.
It was a Saturday, after all, and most of the clubs in King’s Cross were packed. I probably shouldn’t have been out at all – in less than fifteen hours I would be boarding my flight back to Finland and leaving behind nine months of bushwalks, ridiculous tan and wine that someone would always offer me a glass of. The cute German guy promised, though, that we could go to my favourite bar in the area if I went out that night, so off we went.
After we got turned around from The World Bar, we followed a dodgy looking promoter to a bar nearby that promised free shots that ended up costing us seven dollars each. We left soon and stumbled to an Irish place near the hostel, where I proceeded to sit moodily in the corner with my arms crossed as the guy was asking if I wanted to dance or to drink or even enjoy life in general. I was done with clubs, especially when they weren’t The World Bar. Twenty dollars was all I had left of Australian money, and they were back at the hostel as a deposit for my room key. I was feeling miserably homesick for Australia, a place I hadn’t even left yet and where I didn’t belong to but which had made me fall in love all the same. I hadn’t slept in three days.
But when Gangnam Style came on, it just pulled me out of my chair and into the dance floor. The German guy was smirking now and bantering me for being such an angsty teen. I laughed, because I was suddenly having a grand time. One wartered-down jello shot was all I had had that evening, but I didn’t need alcohol to hop along to the familiar moves of the song.
It was towards the end of the era when it was still cool to do the dance when Gangnam Style came on. So we danced.
We danced like Australians until the lights came on. You know that Australian dance move where you just stand still talking to someone while you wave your arms? None of the other songs could inspire the kind of havoc that Gangnam Style had awoken. We made our way back to the hostel, where my packed up bag was sat next to my bed already.
The next morning I woke up late, too late, I only had half an hour before the airport taxi would come and pick me up. I couldn’t find my earrings anywhere and I just remember thinking how it was just my luck. They were a cheap, pearl look-a-like pair from H&M but I couldn’t seem to hold on to them, it was already the third time I’d lost a pair like that. As I packed my cabin bag and made sure I had everything, the German boy – sweet&helpful as he was – managed to locate one of my lost earrings.
At that moment the feeling of missing something came over me. It wasn’t like the feeling of having forgotten something, as your stomach lurches to your feet; it was more like a distant dread, now just a worry, inching closer and closer. I had checked that I had everything, but still.. Had I not…? It couldn’t be… I vaguely remembered how I had reached to my bag at some point to close the button that held it shut. It had a bad habit of falling open.
If you’ve never been a foreigner in Australia, you should know that the only form of identification that is allowed on the clubs and in bars is a passport, that is why I always had to have it with me when I went out. And boy, had I went all out during my time. Nine months of wild parties and nights that went by in a blur and I had managed to hold onto my precious – but now, on the last morning, after a night of not drinking or dancing wildly, I had lost it.
I still had the photocopy of my passport so I figured to just cut my losses and try if they’d let me travel back home with just that on me. After all, there had to be a reason they always told you that you should have a copy of your passport, right? But as soon as I got to the airport and explained my situation, the helpful lady at the desk informed me that a photocopy would not be enough for intercontinent travel. It was a Sunday so the consulate was closed and there was no way of getting an express passport.
The only way now was to get a hold of the bar I had been in the night before and see if they had found it. I had already tried ringing them once that morning, but they informed me that the owner wouldn’t open the bar until eleven – the guy on the phone was just an upstairs tenant who didn’t even have keys to the bar. He warned me, though, that the chances of them having my passport were very, very slim.
Finally, at quarter past eleven, I got a hold of the owner. My heart jumped right up my throat when he said that they had a passport all right… What was my name again?
“Yep, it’s yours”, he confirmed.
The lady at the desk took my luggage. I only had a handbag and twenty dollars that would cover the cost for an airport train ticket there and back exactly. So I ran.
On the train I tapped my foot against the floor nervously. I could almost hear a clock ticking, like I was in a bad action movie filled with unnecessary special effects. I had exactly one hour and fifty-five minutes for my mission.
Central Station… and I ran through the hallways, trying not to slip on the recently mopped floors, just a whirlwind of a determined backpacker rushing towards the King’s Cross Station train. By the time I got out of King’s Cross Station I was slowing down and cursing that I didn’t spend less time doing shot and more time doing surf. I rushed into the bar and basically grabbed my passport from the owner’s hands, who seemed to be deeply amused by my dire situation. It was a relay race where the passport was my baton and the only contestants were me. I rushed back to the station, and just as I was stepping down the last steps onto the platform, I saw the door to the train start to close. I had time to look up at the sign announcing the next train towards the Central Station – ten minutes. There wasn’t even a time for a decision, it was just what I did – I sprinted the last steps and just as the doors were snapping shut, I jumped into the carriage. I felt like Indiana Jones.
My momentum carried my onwards and pushed me onto a homeless man, who pulled down his sleeve and showed a dagger made of a stick. He asked me if I wanted to buy one of his paintings, which was all black abstraction on an A4 paper with holes in it. Strange how you remember the details. I kindly declined and wondered, if catching my flight on time was worth getting murdered on the metro.
Running from platform to platform, in and out of trains, I finally made it back to the check-in counter five minutes after check-in had closed. After five more minutes of shuffling me from one service person to another, they finally found the lady who knew my situation and rushed me to the security check through the express line. And of course they had to stop me… Because of freaking scissors in my hand luggage. Ah, what a classic.
When I finally got to the gate, there were three people still in front of me boarding the plane. Getting to sit down in an airplane has never felt better.
Australia ruined my passport. It had ‘yo’ written on the last page by some Belgian guy who thought it would be the best place for him to write down his phone number. It was bruised and the edges of the pages dirtied from having spent a night on the floor of an Irish bar. Last year I had to get a new one because the Indian embassy wouldn’t stick the visa onto the battered pages. Now I have a new, shiny passport, and as exciting it is and will be with tons of stamps from faraway lands, it can’t tell the story of the stupidest mistake a backpacker can make.
Have you ever lost or forgotten your passport?
All pictures from Sydney.