A theft in Albuquerque

I will not let it ruin the rest of my journey. I will not. I will not. I will not.

This is the new mantra that I keep repeating to myself after my rental car window was smashed and a knapsack carrying precious cargo was taken. I have never been the subject of theft like this before. It sucks. Big time.

I alternate between being sad (about the objects forever lost), worried (about potential identity theft and how insurance will handle the damage claim), guilty (for dragging Emilie, my road trip co-pilot, through four hours of phone calls, a police report and a rental car exchange) and disappointed (in myself for not tucking that bag under the seat more).

Although I am trying not to dwell on the situation, I can’t help reliving the moment when I was locking up the rental car in that Old Town Albuquerque parking lot. I glimpsed at the knapsack and considered shoving it under the seat better or throwing clothes over it — but decided against it. The bag hadn’t caught the eye of anyone for days and days and days. This afternoon would be no different. I was being paranoid. It would be fine.

Of course, I was wrong.

I will not let it ruin the rest of my journey. I will not. I will not. I will not.

The precious cargo that filled that bag included my passport and a DSLR camera holding beautiful photographs of Nepal, India, Thailand and China. These are the two things that I mourn most, the photographs especially. Some of those photographs had been uploaded to my iPad, thankfully — but most had not. Everything else in that bag can be replaced. But these tangible memories, unfortunately, are forever lost. As a creature who cherishes visual and written documentation, I mourn this loss tremendously.

I hope that the person who stole my bag enjoys the images and is inspired to journey to these destinations some day. I also hope that the many, many pictures that I took of monks inspire tremendous reflection and guilt upon what he or she did. I realize that this is wishful thinking, but that is why we have hope.

I will not let it ruin the rest of my journey. I will not. I will not. I will not.

There is a lesson in this experience somewhere. I have to see this little tragedy as a gift. Otherwise, I will conclude what has been an epic five months on a very sour note. It could be as simple as this: During a road trip, carry all precious cargo on your body at all times, no matter how heavy the load. Or it could be this: Erica, you have been traveling for nearly five months and have been very fortunate, this is a small casualty in the grand scheme of things.

But I think the bigger gift is this: the elevated empathy that this theft gives me for others who might experience a similar violation. Now that it has happened to me, shaken me, disturbed me, affected me — I can better be there for others who need logistical and emotional guidance in similar situation. I have witnessed a few friends experience deeply personal thefts over the years, and I’ve felt sorry for them. But now I feel really, really sorry for them.

For instance, when I was studying abroad in London, a flat-mateĀ had her prized student film stolen. It was her only copy. So much energy, time and love went into that film. I felt terrible for her at the time. However, more than a decade later, my empathy for her is ten times stronger. The tremendous violation she must have felt. The anger. The reliving of moments when she was directing that film. The deep, deep mourning of losing this tangible testament to her life’s work — lost, likely in the hands of someone who could care less. The way I feel about my lost photographs is likely on par with how she felt about losing that student film. She probably still thinks about it to this day, the same way I will wonder about my photographs years from now. I wish I could travel back in time, to that kitchen in London where we shared a pot of tea to grieve her loss, to offer her a hug and some more authentic words of comfort.

Looking a these frustrating blips in life in a positive way definitely has itsĀ challenges. Most definitely. But this is the true test of yoga. It is not how strong or flexible you are on the mat, or how long you can sit in lotus position with the eyes closed. It is moments such as this, where life throws you into shitty situations off the mat, when the real yoga is practiced.

As I face the end of a sabbatical journey that has been defined by an exploration of yoga in all of its forms and championed by the mantra “Be Present” — a shitty situation such as this is only fitting. It is the universe testing me on what I have so far learned.

And I will not let this blip ruin the rest of my journey. I will not. I will not. I will not.

I need to let it go, move forward … and probably steer clear of Albuquerque in the future.

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