It’s funny, lately, my trip-planning neurosis has effected smooth sailing on my weekend getaways—but Liverpool, my sweet, sweet Liverpool, was an exception.
My bestie Darla, who is on a three-month grand tour of the U.K., had planted roots in Liverpool for two weeks in October. I made arrangements to visit her for her final weekend there. It was Halloween, and we were giddy with excitement about planning our matching Halloween costumes (just kidding, we were stressed out as most twenty-something are when it comes to throwing together a last-minute Halloween costume that somehow bridges the divide between sexy, functional, thoughtful and cost-efficient). We decided on 1920s Flappers.
I booked the cheapest bus I could find (£7, plus £2 for a reserved seat, plus $1.50 to reserve the seat next to me and have extra space for bags. Not bad Flixbus), and set off on a Thursday afternoon. But my day was already falling apart. I had had a late night out the evening before which include an unsettling kerfuffle with a friend, and I had gotten about three hours of sleep. I had to scramble to get my things together that morning while also finishing a design project for work that took much longer than necessary. I barely made it to the bus stop on time, after being forced to leave dishes in the sink and trash in the bin (probably the most disgusting thing I’ve done in a while). But I did at least make the bus. I handed my suitcase to the driver to tuck in the undercarriage an then went to find my seats—only to find that the seat numbers on the bus didn’t align to the seat numbers on the seat-booking interface. There was a woman in my seats who refused to leave because I couldn’t prove she was in my seats (my tickets said seats 11C & 11D, but the seats were labeled 21C & 21 D), and she nonchalantly told me, “It’s not a big deal, you can just sit wherever.” Mind you every window seat was taken—so I ended up with all my things that were meant to have a set of their own plopped on my lap in an aisle seat. I tried to make the most of the situation and at least get work done—I still had that design job to complete— but alas, the Wi-Fi was not working. I shut my laptop, my eyes, and my mind, and, accepting defeat, went to sleep.
Upon arrival at the Liverpool bus station, I sprung awake and quickly grabbed all of my things. Stepping off the bus, I pulled out my phone to book an Uber. I messaged Darla to let her know I would be on my way to our AirBnB and I started looking for places to grab a bite on the way. I hadn’t eaten all day. I walked down to the Uber pickup point, trying to orient myself in the new surroundings, but, just as I spotted the Uber pulling up, my stomach dropped.
My suitcase. My effing suitcase.
I turned around and booked it back to the bus port where we’d disembarked. The bus was gone, and there was no sign of my bag anywhere. I started to panic. Tears swelled in my eyes. I started choking in my breath. My suitcase — all of my clothes, my makeup, my shoes, my hair products, my vitamins, my books, my Flapper getup — gone! Gone! My Uber was waiting. And I had to get that project to my client ASAP. My head was spinning. I was exhausted and starving. I was spiraling.
I hopped in the Uber and called the Flixbus support line on the way to the AirBnB. I explained the situation through heavy sobs and asked to get in contact with the driver to have him turn around. I was met with an explanation of protocol. I had to fill out a form online describing my lost items and they would track it in their lost and found system. That was the best they could do, and it would take about five days minimum to hear back. And that was that. My poor uber driver tried consoling me and advised me to go back to the station the next morning to see if it was there because he had something similar happen. I thanked him for the advice and he looked at me with pitying eyes as I got out of the car. I was a wreck.
I checked into the AirBnB and met Darla. I was in leggings and a college sweatshirt, with wet hair in a bun and no makeup on. My eyes were swollen and puffy. We had tickets to go to an event that night. But that was obviously not happening. Darling Darla talked me off the edge, ordered us some pizza, and helped me Google what to do while I finally sent the project off to my client. By the grace of God, at least I had my wallet, phone and laptop in the backpack I had been carrying. We resolved to go shopping the next day to get me some clothes to wear and try to salvage what was left of the weekend while also calling every bus company out there to locate my bags.
I slept heavily that night.
Okay, so here’s where things started to pick up. The next day, I blew off work and spent the morning shopping—one of my favorite mood-boosting activities. I bought all new clothes, underwear, socks and shoes. Liverpool has amazing shopping streets and all of my go-to spots for cheap clothes—H&M, Primark, Zara and TK Maxx, were withing a 5-minute walk of each other. I bought new makeup and hair products. I spent more money than I could afford to, but I also needed those things so my hands were tied. I topped things off with a consolation coffee from Starbucks and started to feel better.
Friday night, donned in new clothes and shoes, I went out on a mini bar crawl with Darla. We enjoyed lots of girl talk and banter as we played music and got ready together in our AirBnB. Those moments are the ones that fill my heart when everything else seems to be emptying it. If I was in Harry Potter, my pre-Patronus montage of happy, dementor-Defeating memories would be a film roll of us just laughing and talking about boys and hyping ourselves up before a night out.
We had a great night out, hopping around from the world-famous Cavern Club on Mathew Street to the young and bustling Soho Bar in Concert Square. We danced and danced and finally went home, exhausted. The next day, Darla went off with her Liverpool fling (a boy she’d met the week before) and I spent the day wandering around the city. The Royal Albert Dock was by far my favorite area.
Here’s where I plug in that I really fell in love with Liverpool that day. It’s a fascinating city with beautiful architecture, quirky people, cheap food and drinks, and live music on every corner. It’s totally walkable, easy to navigate, and has a great mix of indie/locally-owned pubs and bars and shops mixed with the familiar franchises and staples. Most importantly, it’s coastal; just a few minute’s walk can get you from the city center to the piers where the sea breeze engulfs you in its wild and unruly.
That night we were at it again, off to another club for an evening of loud music, dark lights, smoke machines and gawdy Halloween costumes. I was particularly enthralled with a man dressed as a doctor who was carrying around a case of spare ear plugs. My kind of fella. I stayed a few hours, eventually ditching Darla, her fling, and my Doc for the comfort of bed. A lazy Sunday followed, complete with more pizza and a trip to the Liverpool Museum. I met the Doc later that night for a few drinks, and enjoyed a quieter night on the town. On Monday, it was back to life, back to reality (a.k.a. work), and then I packed up to go home on Tuesday.
Finally, this is where it all turns around. That Tuesday morning, as I waited at the Liverpool One Bus Station for my coach back to London, the big man upstairs was looking out for me. The bus pulled up to the stop and, to my astonishment, it was captained by the same driver from my Thursday trip! I sheepishly asked him if he remembered a suitcase being left and he said yep! And we could pick it up in Birmingham at the bus headquarters on our way down to London.
I nearly cried all over again.
The nightmare was over.
Now, I can’t return the clothes and makeup I bought in Liverpool because they’ve all been opened and used at least once, so now I have double everything. But I am so relieved to be reunited with my luggage. I looked like an idiot trying to haul a suitcase, a massive Primark shopping bag, a backpack, and a tote bag on the Tube back to my flat, but I did at least make it in one piece and no casualties along the way.
What I learned from this experience is how important it is to slow down, prioritize sleep, and not try to do too much simultaneously. I’ve made a deal with myself to focus more on sleep, set boundaries, and launch into future adventures with a fresh mind rather than a frazzled one. I’m so grateful that the trip turned out to have a happy ending, and most importantly, a banging story to tell. But I hope that next time I’m in Liverpool, things go a bit more smoothly.