After I finished my study abroad program in Spain, I spent a few weeks traveling around Europe (I know, tough life). I dropped off most of my luggage in a locker at the Madrid airport (to pick up later), met up with some friends in Greece and Italy, and then met up with my friend Brandon for my final stop in London before heading home. We spend the first day walking EVERYWHERE. The next day, Brandon was preparing his things to catch a flight later that day to meet up with some other friends (I wasn’t leaving until the following day). He kept jumping between his suitcase, the bed he had been sleeping in at the hostel, and the locker he had kept his things in at the hostel to make sure he had everything.
“Sorry,” he responded to my obvious judgement, “I’m always paranoid I’m going to leave something like my passport behind.”
“No worries,” I replied. “I’m paranoid about that too.”
And then I realized I hadn’t checked for my passport since the day before.
I opened my purse and checked between the folds of the map we had been using all day yesterday. I checked in my suitcase between folds of clothes and random papers I had accumulated. I checked in the locker I had shared with Brandon, but knew I had not left my passport there. It was silly of me, but I never trusted leaving my passport behind in a hostel because I figured I would always know where it was if it was on me.
But I was wrong and it was gone.
In denial, I convinced myself that it was a horrible nightmare. I checked my suitcase at least a thousand more times. I ran through the hostel looking in every dusty corner. I double and triple checked with the front desk (Are you sure no one turned in an American passport? Ugh, I’m a stupid American).
Brandon only had a few more hours until his flight. Luckily he had his laptop with him and I was able to panic-Skype my parents in the U.S. before my rational brain took over and told me there was nothing they could do and I was the one who would have to go to the embassy to figure out what to do next. However this was a Sunday and they were closed so I had the rest of the day to wait.
I had a plan, the panic subsided, but honestly what I was most distressed about was that I lost all my passport stamps. I know it sounds silly, but that passport was filled with stamps from the first time I went to Spain and fell in love with its culture back in high school, it was filled with the stamps I had accumulated on each of my trips to my beloved Guatemala, and it contained all my prized, new stamps from my semester in Spain and weekend visits to Morocco, Italy, Greece, London…
Obviously I made it home okay, thanks to the extremely proficient British embassy, I was able to receive a new (temporary) passport that day in time to make my scheduled flight back to Madrid to retrieve my belongings and return home. That was the last time I used my passport. The new one I use now is sadly (mostly) blank and itching for some fresh ink.
But I get to utilize two passports for this trip: my actual one and a Pilgrim’s Passport.
The Pilgrim’s Passport (or credencial) is an absolute must for the Camino de Santiago. Not only do you get to collect awesome stamps, but it’s actually required to stay in the albergues (pilgrims only). You can get them at St. Jean Pied de Port, Roncesvalles, and Pamplona, and many locations along the way (just ask). Then, each albergue you stay in should give you a stamp as proof of your journey. The stamps you receive in the pilgrim’s passport prove that you have traveled from albergue to albergue and also is proof in order to receive your compostela (certificate) upon arrival in Santiago de Compostela. Technically you are only required to walk 100km of the Camino in order to receive a compostela…but what’s the fun of that?