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The Boston Globe

Travel

Essay

A traveler and her luggage take two different trips

Emma Pierce-Hoffman (left) with Sara Budde at Machu Picchu in Peru.

Emma Pierce-Hoffman (left) with Sara Budde at Machu Picchu in Peru.

This is the story of a duffel bag carefully packed for a 23-day trip to Peru and the 15-year-old girl who missed it very much.

Emma flew from Logan Airport to JFK on a Tuesday evening. The Boston weather was clear, but New York was stormy. The flight was delayed over three hours and when it left in a hurry, there were only seven passengers on board, including Emma. Oh, and no luggage. Emma got to JFK, waited an hour in a line of six people to file her lost baggage claim and, despite having three hours between flights, barely made her Lan flight to Lima. In Lima, she filed a lost baggage claim. Again. She and her group ran to catch their flight to Cuzco. And, yep, filed another lost baggage claim. Just for good measure.

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Five students, along with one of their Broadreach trip leaders, had their bags lost. Two of them got their bags within two days. Lexi, Brianna, Emma, and their trip leader, Cameron, remained bagless.

Emma and Lexi’s bags traveled up and down the East Coast, from Boston to JFK, from JFK to Atlanta, and then back again to JFK. On day five they made it to Lima. Hooray! Only one more flight to reach Cuzco.

Not so fast little duffels. Although Emma and Lexi duly filled out their customs forms upon arrival in Lima, Lan Airlines only had one — and it wasn’t Emma’s. Without that form, Lan said it would not fly Emma’s bag on to Cuzco. “Fue imposible!” She would need to come back to the airport in Cuzco and complete another form. Copies were not accepted, only originals.

Emma was hiking the Inca Trail for four days on her way to Machu Picchu, never to return to Cuzco. And yes, she had been wearing the same clothes, underwear included, all those days.

Kate at Broadreach and the travel agent, BeeLine, worked hard to get the bag to Cuzco. Sometimes they got yelled at by Delta staff who said, “It’s Lan’s responsibility!” and sometimes by Lan staff who said, “Delta has the bag. It’s not our job to take care of it!” Sometimes they were told, “We don’t know where the bag is.”

So Emma’s duffel sat in Delta’s baggage office in Lima for two days.

Emma Pierce-Hoffman with her duffel.

Emma Pierce-Hoffman with her duffel.

Enter a very brave Delta employee. Carlos (not his real name) had the bag. He was looking right at it, he said. But Lan wouldn’t put the bag on its flight to Cuzco until they got that original customs form. I mean, got that form again. Carlos said he had talked to Kate and knew that Emma was very, very sad and that she needed her bag. He talked to the Lan office staff and they shook their heads no. Carlos said he would try again.

Then Carlos performed a minor miracle.

Except it is unclear what he actually did. He said he stole the record locater from Lan, took it and Emma’s duffel through customs, where he chose a line in which the agents “didn’t know what they were doing” and put the bag on the belt for the next flight to Cuzco.

Even though we had had it with Delta, Carlos was our hero.

Emma got her bag on the evening of day eight of her trip. She had just returned from Machu Picchu where we’re guessing she had a transformative, if hygienically lacking, experience. Cameron said Emma was happy as a clam.

He was still waiting for his bag.

Debora Hoffman can be reached at deboraruthhoffman@gmail.com.
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