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SoCal misadventures – losing my wallet

The ocean is shown

For the first time on one of my trips, I lost my wallet. And when you’re 2,500 miles away from home, your wallet is not what you want to lose. Well, technically I only lost my debit card, driver’s license, some cash, and some medication. When I backpack, I have a small coin purse and only take the essentials. On my last trip to Southern California, I spent one night in Channel Islands National Park, where I had to take a boat to camp on an island. Even though I only hiked half of a mile to my campsite, I packed as if I was were backpacking.

Back on the mainland, my best friend, Crystal, and I changed in the restroom and parking lot of Island Packers in Ventura, California, and got ready to explore Los Angeles. While changing and getting ready, I grabbed some things out of my backpacking pack and put them in my purse. Or so I thought. We were in a hurry because it was 5 p.m. and we still had to drive three hours to Joshua Tree National Park. And we had to set up our tent for the night. We wanted time to explore a little bit of L.A. on the way, but we didn’t want to get in too terribly late. The day began with a five-mile hike, and we were already exhausted.

The discovery

On the way to L.A., we stopped at an In-N-Out Burger to experience this California favorite. I opened my purse to discover my coin purse with my debit card and license was not there. Paying for my burger with an alternate fund, I went on to enjoy my dinner.

Two women stand outside In-N-Out

“It’s just in the car,” I thought. “It never made it to my purse.” I could see it in my mind in the door handle, on the floor, or in the seat. I knew I had taken it out of my backpacking pack because I had a very distinct memory of that.

After we finished eating, I hurried to the car to put my mind at ease. I opened the driver’s side door knowing I would see it sitting there on the dashboard. But it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere in the front seat. That meant that I had to start looking in the mess of the backseat. The backseat was piled high with various bags and camping equipment. Crystal and I took things out, searched in bags, and looked everywhere. There was no coin purse to be found.

We were a 15-minute drive from Island Packers, so if we had to go back, it would add at least 30 minutes. Crystal was looking forward to visiting L.A., and I hated to take away from her time. But she said I must have dropped it in the parking lot, and we should go back and look.

When we pulled into the dark and empty parking lot, I just knew I was going to see it there on the ground. But there was nothing there but an empty parking lot. We looked everywhere. I even dug through the trash where I had cleaned up the car a little bit.

One of three places

I canceled my debit card and reported it lost. We were already looking at getting to Joshua Tree super late, and I didn’t want to waste any more time. Crystal and I decided it was in three places – somewhere in the car and lost among the piles of stuff, at the lost and found at Island Packers, or in the ocean. One possibility is I placed it on top of the car and forgot it when I drove away.

We arrived at our campground at Joshua Tree National Park dead to the world at 1 a.m. Pacific Time, which is 3 a.m. Central Time (what we are used to). The coin purse was never to be found.

A Joshua Tree is shown

My only guess is that it ended up in the ocean. In my frenzy, I must have placed it on top of the car and it flew off as I drove away. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t stolen because it took me nearly two hours to turn off my debit card, and no one had tried to use it.

It could have been worse

Although my mom was terrified I was going to get a ticket for driving without a license, there was so much more I could have lost. Fortunately, when I travel I have a backup for access to my money. So the loss of my debit card didn’t stop me from accessing my money.

I could have lost my phone with all my photos from the trip so far and so many other needed things. I could have lost my entire wallet. Had that happened, I would have not had credit cards and my backup account to fall back on.

A woman sits with Betty White's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

I could have lost something expensive, like my Garmin InReach. Now that I’m home, I have replaced everything lost with the coin purse. It cost me just under $25 to replace everything, plus the $25 in cash that was in there.

Lesson learned

All-in-all, $50 and an hour and a half of time, isn’t terrible for a misadventure. With as much as I travel, something like losing my wallet is bound to happen. It just reminds me to be more cautious on the road. And it reminds me of the saying “Go slow to go fast.” Had I not been so frenzied, I would have taken better care of my things.

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