Lessons Learned: I lost my cell phone and actually got it back

Losing a cell phone at any time is inconvenient, but when you’re on the road, it can certainly put a dent in your travel plans.

I’ve yet to lose my wallet or passport while traveling, but I lost my cell phone last weekend when I was on a road trip in New England. It was well past midnight when I reached into my bag to charge it back up. Nothing. A mild panic attack later, I went to sleep (and told myself that it must be somewhere in the car because it was definitely not in the hotel room).

Turns out I had dropped the phone in a parking lot, and by some miracle, someone found it the next morning and actually cared enough to reunite me with it. I know that I was lucky, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to deal with replacing all my contacts — or finding a cell phone bill with mysterious international calls and excess charges.

In a time when people have come to rely on cell phones to be GPS devices and now mobile boarding passes, I was lucky that I could go to sleep for most of the time my phone was missing and wasn’t actually stranded because of my carelessness.

In retrospect, there were a lot of things that I should’ve done differently. Here are some lessons that I learned the hard way.

1. Always leave your contact info or itinerary with someone.

It was a last-minute trip, so I didn’t think about leaving my itinerary with anyone. I assumed that since it was just one night, people could always reach me on my cell phone. So when the person who found my phone checked my recent calls and reached my sister, my sister then called my mom, who didn’t know that I had even left New York (much less knew the name of the inn I was at). Sorry, everyone.

2. Print out a hard copy of your itinerary.

I’ve gotten in the habit of not printing out itineraries, thinking that I can just retrieve the confirmation number or address from a Web-enabled phone. Usually it’s not a problem, but as I learned this past weekend, it’s not a bad idea to have a paper backup. As it is, my phone battery has a way of dying at the most inopportune times, like when it’s pitch black and you’re trying to find a B&B. So sometimes you have to go retro, pull into a gas station, and actually ask a human for directions. On this trip, I ended up finding the inn the old-fashioned way — by picking up a free tourist map and navigating without the help of Google maps. Old school, but effective.

3. Accept that your cell phone is not really a lifeline.

By the time I was reunited with my phone the next morning, the battery was all but dead so I couldn’t use it on the drive back. The agony.

4. If you find a lost cell phone, try your best to reunite it with the owner.

To the good Samaritan who found my phone, thank you. I will be sure to pay it forward.

[Photo by effika via Flickr]