I think millennials always have two major problems when traveling: staying connected and finding a power source. I believe the latter is more difficult because nowadays, many young people will effectively be incapacitated when their mobile devices lose power. So petty but true.
It happened to me last year en route to Moscow via the Trans-Siberian Railway. I brought two power banks: the slim one with 1,500 mAh (milliampere-hour), which in today’s terms would only charge 25 percent of the iPhone 7 Plus; and the bulky 5,000-mAh one. I felt confident then that I would survive the six-day train travel. Yes, I survived, but my power banks didn’t. I forgot to bring a universal travel adaptor. And even if I did, the power outlets on the train could only supply limited electricity.
That’s a lesson learned that I utilized on my Europe trip this year. Aside from bringing my two ever-handy power banks, I had an extra brand-new one with 5,000 mAh; a universal travel adaptor; a power extension cord; and lots of phone cables. I felt confident again that I’d be fully energized on my trip.
Sure enough, I had so much power in my hands that I wanted to share it with other people who forgot their power banks and travel adaptors… like this Colombian family I met during my trip to Toledo in Spain. The Colombian Dad, who was seated beside me at our tour group’s lunch table, was having a problem because their luggage got left behind the airport. He told me he put most of their power sources and cords in their check-in baggage and the power bank they brought had no charge left. They needed to call the airport security to get their baggage delivered to their hotel in Madrid.
I felt sorry for them. I understood their frustration, especially when the Colombian Mom said she wanted to tell her family back home that they landed safely in Spain. Of course, there was a telephone at the restaurant but they might be charged an exorbitant fee for a five-minute call. On Facebook or WhatsApp, it would be free. But they didn’t have any battery left.
So after a pep talk to their smart 10-year-old-something son, I offered the Colombian Dad my power banks, iPhone cord, and my one-and-only travel adaptor in the condition that they would return the items on the bus. They agreed. Problem solved. Everybody was happy.
We had two hours to explore the huge medieval city of Toledo. My initial plan was to go to the palace, but it was 30 minutes away from the restaurant on foot so I just wandered around. I discovered some good finds: an amazing sword workshop, and a souvenir shop that sold crusader figurines and medieval jewelry. I was happy not only because the city satisfied my craving for medieval history, but I had helped a family in need, and that strengthened my thoughts on why helping can empower a lot of people.
Back on the bus, I checked my phone to see the photos I’d taken of the medieval figurines and to post them on my Instagram account. The Colombian family boarded the bus a little late. Mom brought her son to the window seat beside the Dad. They were seated in the opposite row, while Mom sat at their back. No mention of the things I lent them. Something’s not right.
Almost 30 minutes had passed and Dad kept silent. I politely asked him for the stuff and he got panicky. First, he returned my power banks. Okay, done.
“And my iPhone cord?” Dad gave me a broken cord. “Oh, this is not my cord. Mine’s not broken.” Mom opened her bag and gave back my cord. Awkward.
“And my travel adaptor?” Dad started to hyperventilate. “Oh my god, I think they [the restaurant staff]didn’t give the adaptor back!” A complete moment of awkwardness.
“How much is your adaptor? I’ll just pay you,” Dad said loudly, while the Son was looking at us. I was surprised and frowned. He insisted that he would pay even more than the original cost of the adaptor. Actually, I was thinking where I could get a replacement – and not because they seemingly lost my item.
Our tour guide tried to calm the Dad down. I was just speechless and thinking about my next move. After all the commotion, Mom talked to the Dad in Spanish. Then the lost power adaptor magically appeared in the pouch of Dad’s bag. “Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought they didn’t give it back to me! I’m really sorry!”
Yes, the Dad was terribly sorry. He must be, because he lied in front of his child! But I didn’t say a thing. I just smiled and told them at least they were able to contact the airport security to get their luggage back.
Just when I thought that I felt empowered to help someone, I realized I gave it to the wrong people. How could a father blatantly lie in front of his child? I don’t like to sound judgmental, but I can’t help but feel sorry for their family. Okay, I don’t know what their background is, but that kind of attitude is what keeps travelers from helping others in need.
The full trip back to Madrid was really awkward because the family was just seated opposite me. When we alighted from the bus, Dad said he was sorry while Mom couldn’t look at me straight. I just smiled and wished them a safe journey to their next destination.
On my way back to the hostel, I contemplated the incident and realized the hassle it would bring had I really lost my adaptor and other power sources. Aside from this incident, my remaining days in Spain went eventful till I arrived at Athens… when I encountered black cats and eventually lost my power banks.
Power Up on Your Travel
Phone Power Bank (手机充电宝, shǒujī chōngdiàn bǎo)
Where to buy: Bainaohui Electronics Market (百脑汇电脑商场), 10 Chaoyangmen Waidajie
Price: RMB 60-200
A 10,000 mAh power pack may look like you’re holding another phone though! But there’s a lot of smaller and thinner ones in the market.
Miniso Power Packs
Where to buy: Miniso branches everywhere!
Price: From RMB 89
The ubiquitous faux-Japanese store has an incredible collection of cheap power packs, if buying on Taobao or JD.com seems too complicated for you.
Waterproof Solar Power Bank
Where to buy: Taobao
Price: From RMB 98
When you’re in the middle of nowhere and your regular power bank dries up, don’t worry because this solar power bank will save the day!
Power Bank Organizer
Where to buy: Taobao
Price: From RMB 29
Not only you can store your Hello Kitty power bank here but also those snaky cords. Hey, it’s so big that it can double as your beauty pouch too.
Universal Travel Adaptor
Where to buy: Taobao
Price: From RMB 78
You got the perfect power bank but you don’t have the right plug to charge it. So having a universal travel adaptor is a must. You will love having this and feel so ready to go anywhere fully charged!
Photos: Andy Penafuerte; Taobao, Easyacc.com