Lost and Found Tourist Treasures

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Bert Martinez

While traveling, vacationers typically gather more than just memories-snow globes, seashells, stacks of refrigerator magnets-but what about the things they leave behind? While many travelers believe their lost belongings are doomed to fade into a black hole, never to be heard from again, some are reunited with their possessions in unusual and inspiring ways.

Just this past February, we heard about a Spanish fisherman who netted a camera dropped off a cruise ship sailing near Ireland over two years earlier. The camera no longer worked, but the memory card inside was still filled with pictures (ever lost or found a camera? Check out I Found Your Camera, a blog that aims to reunite people with their memories). Miracles like this happen more often than you might think. Below are two tales of travelers who lost everything, only to be reunited later, and the story of one man on a mission to connect travelers with missing items. If you have a miraculous lost and found story of your own, tell us about it at TravelComments@aol.com.

A Man Without A Plan(ner)

Bert Martinez lost everything on the final night of his vacation in Hawaii. After enjoying his last meal, he left the restaurant and realized he left something very important behind: his day planner. This was in the days before PDAs and Smartphones kept track of daily routines, but inside was much more than just his schedule-the planner also contained his credit cards, identification, and most importantly, his airplane ticket. Martinez raced back to the restaurant, but it was too late, the planner was gone. He had no idea what he was going to do.

The next day Martinez arrived at the airport, hoping somehow everything would turn out for the best. He tentatively approached the ticket counter and explained what had happened. The clerk asked his name, went to the back room, and miraculously returned with his day planner intact. Martinez was blown away. The clerk explained that the manager at the restaurant where he lost his planner was married to an airline employee. Once the manager saw the plane ticket tucked inside, he gave it to his wife, who brought it to the ticket counter.

A Journal is Worth Far More Than A Thousand Words

While Martinez struggled to find the practical, others, like Emily Wolman, have lost items of a more sentimental nature.

Wolman, a commissioning editor at Lonely Planet, was driving around New Zealand when she spotted a picture-perfect scene: beautiful striated rock formations with flat tops, called Pancake Rocks, stretching along the coastline. She pulled over and hopped out of the car to snap a few quick pictures. While walking back to her car only a few minutes later, she realized her backpack was missing.

"The bag contained my life-my wallet, passport, traveler's checks, laptop, airline ticket home, and most important to me, my travel journal."

After lingering in the area for longer than she originally planned, just hoping her bag would turn up, she decided to continue on her trip to Queenstown.

After spending a month in Queenstown, Wolman journeyed back the way she came, passing a police station in the town where her backpack was stolen. She pulled over, and thought she'd give one last try to finding her bag. She explained her situation to the policeman, who told her no bags had been turned in during the last month, but that she should come back in a day or two, just in case.

The policeman's words ignited an ember of hope and Wolman put the brakes on her journey once again. She ventured to the station every morning, looking for word on her bag, but nothing had changed. Finally, she decided it was a lost cause. She was going to press on, but only after one more try.

Wolman stopped by the station with low expectations. She started to thank the officers, who had been kind to her during her search, when an officer suddenly reached into a cabinet and plunked her bag down on the counter. Despite being soaking wet, Wolman knew it was her long lost bag.

It seems as though Wolman's backpack had gone on quite a journey of its own over the past month. The back-story behind the sopping wet backpack goes as follows: a father and son were fishing on a river 125 miles away when they spotted a bag floating by. They grabbed it, and upon noticing the passport inside, realized it was probably stolen. The pair took the bag to a local police station, where it was eventually reunited with Wolman.

Upon seeing her bag, she tore into it, and found it mostly intact. Her money was gone, but her passport, laptop, and airline ticket were still there, despite having some water damage. Wolman kept digging, looking for her travel journal, a green leather covered account of a yearlong journey. While the cover was warped, and the pages swollen, nearly every word was still impressed upon the page.

"I still wish I could find those two fishermen and thank them somehow."

Reuniting and It Feels So Good

David Stone, a metal-detector enthusiast and creator of www.ilostmyjewelry.com, finds joy in reuniting others with lost possessions.

Nearly seven years ago, Stone, a former nature photographer, began scanning beaches with a metal detector as a way to relax. Among the bottle caps, old batteries, and miscellaneous coins, Stone began finding more precious items, like custom designed jewelry, platinum set diamond wedding rings, and dozens of men's wedding bands.

Knowing many of these items had value far greater than their cost, Stone sought out to reunite them with their owners. He began contacting hotels surrounding the areas where he made his discoveries, but found most of them to be unhelpful, asking him to leave the jewelry with them in the hopes someone came looking for it.

Stone felt uncomfortable leaving such meaningful property with any hotel, knowing that many people who lost things on the beach would consider them gone forever and would not likely report them missing. He decided to take matters into his own hands and started leaving his business cards at nearby resorts, directing people who have lost items to his website. Once there people could scan through pictures of his recent finds, or submit a description of a lost item, along with a location of where it might be.

Stone has found jewelry in six different locations, ranging from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to St. Martin, and updates his website with information on his current whereabouts. He has already reunited dozens of vacationers with lost possessions, and hopes to continue helping others.

"You don't often find people in this world who are concerned so much for others and take the time to help their sorrows," said Lee Glowacki, who was reunited with his wedding band after Stone found it in the ocean behind a beach resort. "Thanks to David Stone a miracle has taken place."
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