There are certain stages of grief we all go through when faced with the ultimate bad-luck situation. One writer chronicles a recent experience in Sicily—when a surprise Christmas trip, to her fiancé's ancestral homeland, went completely awry.

Lost Luggage
Credit: Getty Images

Stage One: Denial

It’s been over 24 hours since you zipped up your small, checked luggage. After years of traveling you’ve learned how to keep your luggage light—you even feel decidedly smug about it. But don’t worry, karma is waiting right around the corner to wipe that smirk off your face. Before you know it, you’re stalling at the airport baggage claim, staring wide-eyed at the carousel knowing that your bag with the cute identifying luggage tag is bound to pop through those dangling rubber curtains at any moment. It never does. Although, maybe if you just wait a little longer, and stare a little harder…

Stage Two: Anger

You fill out the lost luggage forms at the airport, doing your best to keep from throttling the person in charge of helping you, and from kicking yourself for quitting those foreign language classes in college. Two days later and no word on the luggage. You send menacing tweets, like, “It's been two days since I've had my luggage. It's starting to feel personal, @airline…” to the poor social media manager for said airline, demanding to know when you can expect to stop washing your undies in the hotel sink. They politely ask you to “check back later,” which turns out is all they know how to say. You seethe quietly over the fancy meal you reserved months ago, which would definitely have tasted better if you were wearing the brand new Italian leather boots you packed for the occasion. Your one saving grace: the electric toothbrush you threw in your carry-on at the last minute.

Stage Three: Bargaining

It’s been three days since you’ve changed and the hotel staff is starting to notice; they offer to call the airport on your behalf, which ultimately helps, since their Italian is much, much better than yours. Calling 13 times within an hour helps, too. On principle you want to hold out until your carefully packed items are returned to you, but practically you can't keep wearing the same airplane-appropriate and cobblestone-inappropriate flats. You tweet to the airline that you’ll stop posting angry messages online if they agree to send you a voucher to buy at least a novelty t-shirt. They’ve stopped responding, and you’ve probably moved to the top of their Unnecessary Pat Down List.

Stage Four: Depression

Might as well admit it: this vacation has been ruined. It takes tremendous willpower to step back into the same pants you've been wearing for a week now. You’re starting to fight with your partner. He’s not ready to buy new clothes (which is fine, because you might not recognize him in a new outfit anyway), believing today will be The Day, as he’s believed for the past six days. But you could really use something warmer, or at least something not covered in arancini crumbs.

Stage Five: Acceptance

After a week it's time to accept that you and your luggage were never meant to be. It's the New Year, so clearly fate wants to support your resolution of taking a more zen approach to life. Your new worldview keeps you optimistic, so you give in to living with less. You start looking forward to returning home, unencumbered by the responsibility of owning things, and bragging about your new stripped-down lifestyle to anyone who will listen. Of course, this decision comes at the exact moment your banged up luggage is delivered to your hotel room, full of clean clothes, hopes, and dreams. You embrace the luggage, which at this point has been to more countries than you have. You’ll get around to that zen thing eventually.