ne of the best pieces of advice I’ve never followed in my overseas traveling is to leave expensive smartphone at home and buy a cheap, disposable burner phone once you reach your destination.
Of course, most of us take our expensive smartphones with us. They’re our umbilical link to our world, virtual and otherwise. All our contacts are stored there, our music libraries and podcasts, our banking and travel apps, our social media platforms, our GPS, our camera.
How else but through our phone would we share our breathtaking adventures with our friends back home?
Anything can happen on a trip, so I pay a little extra each month for insurance in case my phone is damaged or stolen. Thank god for that.
The first time disaster struck I was in the Netherlands. My companion and I were driving from Amsterdam to The Hague on the A4 in a sleek, gleaming gray Mercedes turbo diesel station wagon equipped with all the bells and whistles.
We were hungry, looking for a place to grab some lunch and a place to pee.
We took a short detour into Hoogmade, a picturesque village on a canal near Leiden. The village was charming, but we struck out on the food front. So we got back onto the highway.
I was fiddling with my phone, probably looking for a place to eat, when it slipped out of my hand and fell between my seat and the center console.
I couldn’t reach it with my hands, so I thought, “Why not move the seat up to get better access?” Without hesitation, I pushed the button to move the seat forward, and almost immediately heard the sound of glass being crushed under the weight of a Teutonically engineered car seat frame.
“Oops,” I said.
My companion asked, “What just happened?”
“I think I crushed my phone,” I said. Now we’d have to listen to her music library, I thought silently. Now she would be the only one taking photos of the rest of our journey. Crap.
Several miles down the road, we turned off for Voorschoten and ended up in this water park called Vlietland. We parked and walked around, checked out the boat rental area and headed into the waterfront restaurant. Sitting on the deck, taking in the fresh air and the tranquil surroundings on this late August afternoon, I felt relaxed, uncoiled.
My companion noticed this and said, “You’re taking the death of your phone rather well.”
I was taking it very philosophically, I told her as we sipped our gin and tonics. “I am literally detached,” I said. “Untethered. Disconnected from the rest of the outside world.”
“Well, I know how you feel about your Facebook,” she said.
“Less time on Facebook means more time being in the now, being here and experiencing the moment without some ulterior motive or need to share every bleeping moment,” I said.
She laughed. “Well, any time you see something you want to photograph, let me know.”
After a delicious meal of halibut, pork belly and veal washed down with a crisp, cold glass of white wine, we wandered around the park a little more before setting off for the Hague, where we pinned our hopes for humanity on the Peace Tree at the Peace Palace.
My companion took on the role of chief photographer and navigator for the rest of our trip.
The second time I lost a smartphone was a little more jolting.
My companion and I were in Barcelona, riding the metro one afternoon, after we’d been at the beach, drinking and gazing upon the Mediterranean. After walking along the beach we found the same metro station we’d disembarked from and descended to the underground.
The car was crowded, loud and hot. The train lurched and bumped along, and I alternated between protecting my phone, which was precariously sticking out of the pocket of my shorts, and protecting my companion with a possessive hand at the small of her back.
We arrived at our station and the doors of the car opened. Everyone seemed to push at once, and I put my hand on my companion’s back to guide her out. When we got onto the platform I noticed my pocket felt lighter. I patted it down, and sure enough, the familiar bulk of my cell phone was absent. I looked around suspiciously, first blaming one guy and then turning around and blaming some random woman behind me.
For all I knew, the phone had fallen out of my pocket onto the tracks.
For some reason, I was more agitated about the loss of this phone. I felt violated. And there had been omens. In the course of two days, at two different restaurants, our meals were interrupted by women screaming that their purses had just been stolen.
To add insult to injury, when we got above ground there was a phone store.
And once again, I had to rely on someone else to chronicle the rest of our trip.
Next time I head overseas, maybe I will leave my smartphone at home.