Lost and Found in Los Mochis
© Copyright 2021 by Brian Wettlaufer
Photo by Marv Watson on Unsplash
Are coincidence, fate, and good fortune different experiences than divine intervention? I suppose it depends upon circumstances and your personal convictions. I faced this question head-on years ago while on a journey through Mexico.
Frank, a fellow backpacker, and I were traveling to San Blas, a sleepy little off-the-beaten track village on the Pacific Coast. To get there we travelled south by bus from Los Mochis to Tepic where we would catch a local transfer. After a couple of hours on the road I realized the leather pouch holding my passport and American Express checks was missing from where I kept it safely slung around my neck and under my shirt. Panic is too tame a word to describe my reaction. A tsunami of anxiety, dread and terror overwhelmed me. I frantically searched my backpack, pockets and, to the amusement of fellow riders, climbed over, under and all around my seat, then others nearby - without luck. In a moment of false relief, I prodded Frank to fess up, thinking he was pulling one of his many pranks; he was not, and I deflated into despair. We had not gotten off the bus since leaving Los Mochis so I must have left my pouch back in the hotel room, where I usually tucked it under my pillow at night. But if thatís where I left it, what were the chances it was still there?
I decided to get off at the next stop, catch another bus back to Los Mochis and hope and pray along the way the pouch was still at the hotel. Frank would continue to Tepic, and we chose a hotel from the guidebook where Iíd meet up with him as soon possible - provided I found my pouch intact. If not, my journey was over.
The bus hadnít travelled more than fifty miles or so from Los Mochis, and I donít remember where I got off, but I recall it wasnít so much a town as an intersection of rural roads with a few adobe huts but at least there was a ticket office, so I waited under a hot Mexican sun for a return bus on one of the longest days of my life, desperate and almost destitute.
I felt helpless and squeezed by circumstances, pressured by my problem. I had a few pesos in my pocket, enough for a day or two of cheap accommodations and food but not near enough to leave Mexico. Without money and identification, my prospects looked bleak; borrowing money to return home would have stressed the budget of anyone I knew, not to mention the problems not having a passport entailed. Los Mochis wasnít big enough to have a consular office and the embassy in Mexico City may as well have been on the far side of the moon to me.
But this logical thinking and problem-solving helped keep my emotions in check and soon I regained composure and began to appreciate, in an odd sort of way, my predicament. Accepting the fact there was absolutely nothing I could do sitting there, miles away from my pouch of lifelines, I determined all I could do was take one step at a time, get back to the hotel in Los Mochis and pray my pouch was still there. As I prayed, a calmness overtook me and I felt confident all would work out for the best - and if it didnít, I knew I would somehow survive. Instead of concentrating on my problem, I thanked God for the good fortune of being young, healthy, and wealthy enough to take a months-long adventure in a foreign country. I felt comforted knowing that He would come to me in that dark hour. The more I prayed for a resolution, the more confident I felt it would arrive.
To pass the time I listened to music on my Walkman, like James Taylorís, Carolina In My Mind, Bruce Coburnís, The Coldest Night of the Year and Simon and Garfunkelís, Bridge Over Troubled Water - songs with soulful lyrics that fit my lonesome traveler psyche. Then a song, not on my Walkman, came to me that so perfectly fit my circumstance I felt it heaven sent. Kris Kristoffersonís, Me and Bobby McGee landed on my tongue and the line, ďfreedomís just another word for nothing left to loseĒ struck me hard and rang true. It was the perfect antidote to my despair.
I had nothing left to lose. I was free, not only because I was powerless to lift my burden at that moment but because, and more to the point, with so very few possessions, I had little left. I was temporarily stranded and facing significant obstacles, but I wasnít in physical danger; things were serious but not desperate; I had options. My fate was in Godís hands and that realization calmed me. There was hope yet.
I returned to Los Mochis in that positive mindset and hurried to the hotel. Ascending to the second floor I could see the open door to my room at the end of the hallway. My feet and heart quickened and just as I arrived in trepidation a housekeeper appeared with my pouch in her hand!
Relief washed over me. Momentarily dumb struck, I finally blurted in halting Spanish, ďEso es mio!Ē I hugged the pouch like a long-lost pet and my obvious joy must have been all the proof she needed it was mine. I stood for a long while, savoring the glorious glow of what I believe was divine providence and answered prayers. I inspected the pouch and convinced all was there, quickly left, but to this day my exultation at that memory is tempered by regret I did not reward the housekeeper for her good deed. I hope she forgave me.
I caught an overnight bus to Tepic and re-connected with Frank next day. We continued to San Blas - and beyond - but I was a different traveler forever after. More optimistic, I stepped lighter and had a deeper appreciation for not only the adventure I was on but also my lifeís journey. Somewhere in Guatemala Frank decided to return to the States, and I continued solo until, months later in Costa Rica, my depleted funds forced me to turn back, too. I eventually arrived home poor in pocketbook but richer and wiser in outlook, thanks to divine intervention in Los Mochis.