On The Trail of the Missing Necklace


I knew before making the decision to take my new topaz necklace and matching earrings to Portugal that it wasn’t a good idea. In fact, as I packed, there’d been a raging battle in my mind whether to take them. My husband had recently purchased them for me and there hadn’t been many opportunities to wear them. In a mad impulsive moment, I decided to take them.

My strategy for packing the jewelry was to put it in my purse and keep it with me as we flew to Europe. That was a good decision for the long flight half way around the world, but while in Portugal I wasn’t sure where to keep the jewelry. Was I better off having it with me as I walked around the towns and countryside or was it better in the safe in our room, or stowed in the trunk of the car? There were negative aspects to all of these choices.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think about my jewelry much until the last day of our trip. My husband had his pockets picked twice in fifteen minutes on our last morning in Lisbon. The shift from feeling safe in a foreign land to vulnerable was swift and immediate. As we were preparing to go to our last dinner that evening, the dilemma of what to do with the necklace and earrings became paramount. Our room no longer felt safe and the box strategically tucked amidst the lingerie in my suitcase now seemed silly and naive.

Neither my husband nor I remember what happened to the jewelry after I suggested putting it in the safe before we went downstairs to dinner. I don’t remember handing it to him and he doesn’t remember putting it in the safe. I do know that when we woke up at 4:00 in the morning to catch our 6:30 a.m. flight, I wasn’t as attentive as I could have been. Even though we both checked the drawers, under the bed, somehow we missed the little gold box with a necklace and a pair of earrings.

When I unpacked after our arrival back in the states, I was devastated to learn that the jewelry was not among the clothes or trinkets that came home with us. At least, I knew where I had left them. But, what were the chances I’d get them back; a thousand to one, a million to one?

Even though it felt like an act of futility, I made the call and was told the maid was off for the day by the man at the front desk and told to call back two days later. The day came to make the call and once again it felt like a silly thing to do. “Oh well,” I thought, “There’s no harm in calling.” You have no idea how shocked I was when Paolo, the man from the front desk, told me they had found the necklace and earrings and they were safely tucked in the main safe.

It took another six weeks of phone calls and coordination to get the necklace shipped back to the states. The world is getting smaller, but it is still a challenge to ship packages of considerable value between the United States and other countries. Eventually, the necklace and earrings arrived home safe and sound.

What’s the lesson here? I can’t definitively say I won’t take nice jewelry with me in my travels around the world. I know I won’t pack them the same way. You do have to be careful of others who will take advantage of you, both in the U.S. and abroad. But, the biggest challenge is managing all of your own stuff. My husband and I have learned to travel very lean, but we still have to control the luggage, passports, souvenirs, cameras, and money we take with us. In the haste of waking up in the middle of the night, getting final items packed, and down to the cab, the jewelry was left behind because I didn’t specifically look to see if it was packed. That’s the problem. I had so many things to think about, I forgot to check to see if I had that specific box.

Not only did I want to share a tale of caution about taking valuables on your world travels, but also share the wonderful people who exist everywhere in the world. It becomes very easy to focus on the negatives that lurk behind every corner. For every person we’ve encountered that was challenging, we met hundreds who offered a friendly smile, kindness and compassion.



About Cathy Severson

Cathy Severson helps baby boomers find more meaning and purpose in their lives and work. Get your copy of her complimentary e-book Guide to Retirement Activities a comprehensive look at work, volunteering and leisure based on an individuals’ personalities. Call for a complimentary 20-minute consultation to answer your most pressing concern. 928.775.4949 or email Cathy at retirementlifematters@gmail.com

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