I’m married today because I got robbed in Spain.
In retrospect it could have been a lot worse. The man across from me was bleeding. A woman was sobbing. Several children were crying. I was the lucky one waiting to file a report at Madrid’s airport police station. I had only had a backpack taken. No harm. No blood.
Looking back, it was a simple but impressive move. As the train from the airport was coming into a station on the way into the city, a man dropped a cell phone. I leaned over to pick it up and hand it back. His accomplice grabbed my backpack from the seat next to me and disappeared out the train doors right before they closed. By the time I noticed my backpack was gone, we were speeding away from the station. There was nothing I could do.
Next time, it will be my cell phone that he’s dropping to the train floor, prompting another unlucky Samaritan to return it.
Three years earlier the most amazing girl I had ever dated had told me not to contact her again. We had first dated when she was in college and I was in grad school. Then we went separate ways, but always reconnected at least once a year. Finally the letter came ending things for good. She wanted to grow her business. She knew I wanted to continue to see the world. She didn’t want to hold me back, nor did she want to wait for my wanderlust to wane. Much easier to end things.
I moved on. I spent two summers in Oslo learning Norwegian. I went to friends’ birthday parties in Lithuania. I spent months in the south of France, eating my weight in Pain au Chocolats. And when a couple of friends invited me to travel around Spain with them, I accepted. My only request was that we not start in Madrid. I had traveled to the city before and didn’t love it, and I didn’t care about going back. But I told my friends to book me the best ticket for their planned itinerary. They booked me into Madrid.
The cell phone dropped. I handed it back. And my life changed. It was the first negative thing to happen to me in 50+ countries. I bought new toiletries, but traveled around Spain for two weeks without a phone or camera. I even had to search out an Air France office – of course the very last time I would ever fly with a paper ticket was the first time I had a ticket stolen.
When I returned home I no longer felt like seeing as much of the world as I could. Travel wasn’t fun anymore. Maybe Colorado can be interesting. Maybe I should concentrate on my job and work from a physical office for a while. And maybe I should see what Missy is up to after three years. I was sure she was married with kids. But something told me to reconnect – despite her missive asking for no future contact. I was different now, no longer a traveler.
I wrote and said hi. It was an old-fashioned letter, handwritten, stamped and mailed. She shouldn’t have gotten it. She had moved eight months earlier and her mail forwarding had expired. Somehow it made it to her new mailbox. We’re still not sure how.
She wrote back a few days later. She said that she was now ready to get married. To me.
I flew out to California the following weekend and we planned the wedding.
Post-script: Our kids are 7, 9 and 11. My travel pause only lasted a year.