Radio Shack World Tour

Cliff carries a lot of stuff. More than I do, by far.

You may have gleaned from his various gadgety posts, camera compositions and programming geek-outs that he’s a bit of a device devotee. That’s fine – I benefit greatly from that. With the MyFi, we’re almost always connected to the internet; we can empty the camera card with the card reader and laptop and keep batteries charged with the charger, giving us near limitless photo-taking abilities; our GPS device has a pedestrian function, so it’s helpful whether we’re driving or not.

Unfortunately, all of these things take up space, physical and mental. Each of these devices has a cable with which to connect and/or charge it and those cables need to be transported without damaging the port. A few of the devices have their own bags in which they live. And none of these are the bare necessities of travel, i.e. clothes, shoes and toiletries. Those all get transported separately.

Too much stuff!

So you can imagine our dismay when Cliff left one of his bags of devices on the train.

He was outfitted much as he is in the above picture: camera bag on belt, backpack with tripod and lens case on back, purse with iPod Touch, cell phone, navi as well as wallet and passport. Upon getting off the train – which was making its one-hour trip back up the Zugspitze – we didn’t notice anything. It was when we got in the car and started looking for the GPS device that the realization dawned: the purse was gone. Not in the backpack, not in my purse, not already stashed in the car, simply gone – along with about 500€ worth of electronics, Cliff’s credit cards, driver’s license and his proof of U.S. citizenship.

We rushed back to the ticket kiosk to ask the guy there when the just-departed train could next be checked for a missing bag. He was very helpful and sympathetic and called the next station, then passed the alert on to all of the other stations along the way. However, no one saw it. We had one more hope. The trip up the Zugspitze is a three-part journey: first a regular train, then a cogwheel train and, finally, a cable car. The guy called up to the final station of the cogwheel train and they said they would contact him when it rolled in. About 15 minutes later, just as we were giving up and preparing to call the banks and have our cards canceled, the call came in. The purse was there!!! Most of the way up the mountain, but it was in possession of the rail workers and would come back down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in about an hour. We had some coffee to pass the time and rolled back up just as the train arrived. Not only was the purse there, but it was entirely untampered with! All contents present and accounted for.

As happy an ending as this is, I don’t really want to risk this rigmarole again. So I’m putting this out there to other gadgeteers and photo enthusiasts *cough*Snooker*cough*: how do you keep track of everything? Is there anyone out there that carries a comparable amount of stuff who has found a way to efficiently consolidate?

13 thoughts on “Radio Shack World Tour”

  1. tqe | Adam

    Holy cow!

    What luck. I’m always afraid that I am going to forget something, but I never have. I’m glad that ultimately it was resolved without the loss of anything.

  2. cliff1976

    Yep. Big relief there when the train guy gave us the thumbs-up while on the phone with the engineer halfway up the mountain, and another big sigh when we were able to determine that nothing was missing or even appeared to have been inspected.

    I have heard of other Americans whose stuff had been stolen (or just lost?) while traveling abroad, away from their “European hometown,” so I know it’s survivable, but I REALLY REALLY was dreading the hassle. Especially after having lost a wallet containing a German driver’s license already once (in 2006 or 2007, I think) and having to swear an oath about returning it if I ever found it, and all that.

    I don’t know what the lost/stolen passport replacement process is, and I hope I never need to.

  3. Mom

    As gut-wrenching as losing all the valuables was, the safe and honest return of all your things just makes me smile. How heartening! Good for you, wonderful for the employees who did their job so well. Now, to downsize your inventory….


  4. Headbang Eight

    My solution to not losing valuable stuff from on your person, is a ruthless dumbing down of my personal routines.

    I force myself to put everything in EXACTLY the same spot in the bag, and carry Exactly the same bag for as long as it holds together.

    Mindless ritual, so I never have to actually think about remembering anything, and I can just feel sure it’s done. Furthermore, if something feels undone, or out of place, or just plain odd, I notice it.

    Ironically, that means I don’t downsize the inventory. That would be change, the enemy of routine, which requires actual memory and self awareness.

    It would make sure I lose stuff.

    My better half is always trying to find a safer place to put things, or a safer place to carry something, or a piece of personal stuff I can do without. That guarantees I lose something.

  5. Brian

    Can you do some device consolidation? A Touch, cell phone and navi seem redundant when they could be replaced with one device that does all those jobs. Camera equipment is the killer. What if you “need” your macro lens and don’t have it. Perhaps a larger backpack geared toward the camera stuff with extra pockets for all your other shim-sham could help. I think the key is to consolidate down to fewer bags to remember. Of course, when I travel I pack pretty much everything I own plus a half dozen books and as many magazines, so take my advice fwiw. I push my LL Bean rucksack and Crumpler camera bag to the point of seam failure.

  6. cliff1976

    Headbang Eight: sounds like two diametrically opposed forces are at work there. Good luck with that.

    Brian: I hear ya. We’re working on the device consolidation angle, for one of us, at least. Details on that very soon, perhaps.

    I have yet to find the ONE TRUE backpack or bag for my camera stuff. I’ve got a gray CompuDayPack thing by LowePro which I really like because it supports a full-size lappy and DSLR with a couple lenses/pouches/extra stuff. All very sectional and accessible. But my (lightweight and actually rather portable tripod) won’t fit in it. The tripod has its own little case and should strap, so I could wear that externally along with the CompuDayPack, but that violates the concept of getting it all in one bag. Plus, my big green (ancient, sometime smelly) backpack which was a second at Costco about 10 years ago is big enough that with my camera stuff and tripod and purse in it, I can still throw in a change of clothes and toiletry bag for use as a carry-on for plane travel.

    I’m also trying to reduce the overpacking tendency for non-gadgetry. But it’s hard.

  7. Snooker in Berlin

    Sorry I’m so late on chiming in.

    I’m all for the consolidation factor. All in one bag, I say.

    How about a phone that is a GPS and can function as quick and dirty Internet as well? I’m thinking one iPhone on full service should do. My only concern is what kind of charges will stack up during travel.

    As for the camera equipment, I also go for consolidation. My everyday lens covers most functions just fine for the main camera, and I keep a smaller “all rounder, but a little arty” on the second body. Instead of taking the big flash, I opt for a small one that can do most of the needed work.

    For me the biggest task is having a good idea of what I am going to use for sure, and deep consideration of what just MIGHT be used…, then making the hard choices and living with them.

    But don’t let that fool you, my backpack is always packed tight and heavy. Sweet No says that if I ever get back problems, we will know why.

    I mean, why can’t they come up with something that can double as both an umbrella AND sunglasses? Because any given day in Germany I may need both or neither.

    Once while being caught in a torrential downpour in Paris at Place de la Concorde, the umbrella was spectacularly useless… it would have taken a scuba diving dry suit to avoid the horrible drenching we and about 2,000 Frenchies got. BUT, most importantly, waiting in my backpack was my trusty backpack rain cover… yea for preparedness!

  8. Sarah

    @HB8: Ah, but you seem to be starting from a place of organization. That’s another hurdle we must overcome. Nothing ever ends up in the same place twice.

    @Brian: Hey you! I totally concur – fewer bags is the answer. Now to find the magic bag. I keep telling Cliff that if we find the bag that does everything we want it to do and is well made, that we just need to pony and buy it, regardless of price (within reason – I don’t want him to fall in love with an Hermès backpack).

    @Snooker: It’s the making of hard choices that I think gets us. A million what-ifs later, he still ends up bringing everything, just in case.

    As a general note, we might be able to swing the phone/GPS consolidation soonish, if Cliff’s current phone would hurry up and die. So that’s one device down!

  9. Jul

    Sweet that you got it all back. Reminds me of countless stories I heard when we lived in Switzerland. If you’re going to lose important stuff, I recommend doing it there.

    We do a rather dorky bag count whenever we transition in travel. Purse, camera bag, carry-on, rolly-bag… each counts as one, so we can easily count up to 6 between the 2 of us. Better than leaving something important behind.

    On the gadgetry front, Scott just came home with a brand new iphone for me, which will replace 3 of my old constant gadget companions: phone, compact camera, and ipod. Exciting.

    1. cliff1976

      Congrats on the consolidation! Sarah’s iPhone will also replace our GPS while we’re in German mobile network coverage areas.

      Doesn’t help ME though anytime I’m traveling without her. I need my work phone to “break.”

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  11. J

    It doesn’t really surprise me that everything was still in it. Unlike in the USA, Germans are very good about turning things in when lost or leaving them alone.

    I lost my wallet several years ago with 200 Euros in it along with my credit card, d/l, etc and a few days later the Whateveramt (that handles lost and found) they called and told me that they have it. Quite frankly, I was just glad to have it back and when I noticed the money was missing I didn’t really care. Then the lady told me that they had deposited into an account set up for when things like this happen and it’d be back in my account in a few days.

    I was shocked, but in a good way.

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