Where is your passport?

Eunice Kilonzo
4 min readApr 29, 2024
Milan Cathedral, Duomo in April 2024

Always carry your passport.

That’s an obvious statement, especially if you are in a foreign country, right?

So, over the Easter break, my husband, son, and I are dashing out of the house so we can make it to Geneva in good time to board the evening train for the less-than-five-hour ride to Milan.

Bags with light clothes for the warm weekend.





Most definitely, for my son and husband for the Schengen visa.


My passport?

I won’t need it, I thought. I have my legitimation card (that allows me to live in Switzerland and to travel within the Schengen Area without a visa)

Big mistake.

As I would soon find out.

It didn’t take long before I knew the gravity of my mistake.

When we arrived on the Italian side, immigration police came in and asked for passports.

I was now minutes away from learning my mistake.

After checking the two passports — those of my husband and son — they turned to me and asked: Where is your passport?

I only have this, showing the Swiss legitimation card.

No, your passport, not this.

I left it at home, in Switzerland.

And I could mentally see the little pouch in the wardrobe where I kept my passport.

Madam, we do not recognize this here. Only passport.


Where are you going?

Milan for the weekend.


Next time, bring your passport.

Sigh. I almost cried.

We arrive in Milan, get an Uber and head to the hotel.

We find a queue, and five minutes later, the receptionist asks: Passports?

Three guests but only two passports.


“We can only check in the two with passports. Madam, you need to go to the police station to get a police clearance to be checked in.”

Tears in my eyes.

Do I get the next train back to Switzerland and then come back tomorrow?

My husband and son were checked in while I went to the police station.

I am panicking because I have no idea what to expect, and with the language barrier, I am now very worried.

I should have just carried my passport.

I tell the taxi driver where I am headed and a snippet of the story in between a hushed prayer.

He felt the anxiety in my voice and asked, in English, how old my son was.

A year and a half, and he is teething. I said.

I’m not sure why I said the latter, but he listened.

Does he have pain? Pointing on the gums.

I said I think so.

“You should try Camilla drops, available in most pharmacies. It helped our daughter.”

Here was a stranger, a parent like me, listening and empathizing with me.

Shortly after, he dropped me off at the police station, and there was a slight drizzle. I joined the queue at the gate, and people ahead of me explained–in Italian–to the two police officers manning the entrance what service they needed. They were given a number and let in.

Meanwhile, I am writing down my entire story–forgotten passport, resident permit, weekend trip, checking in, etc.–on the Deepl website on my phone to translate it into Italian so I can show it to the police.

When I was called up next, I showed my phone to the police officer –a familiar nod a few seconds later that they had handled this before–and ushered me in.

In the two hours I waited at the police station, I saw a man share his half-sweater with a shivering woman as it was getting chilly with the rain. Another lady stepped in on my behalf to ask, in Italian, how far they were with my document.

I got the document, and shortly after, I left and was reunited with my family.

And I learnt several lessons.

The kindness of strangers that evening and throughout our stay in Milan was a great reminder that you can always find a way to help people, language barrier or culture notwithstanding.

Also, own up when you make a mistake. It is a lesson for next time, for yourself, but also for others.

On Sunday evening, on the train back, Swiss immigration officers, like their Italian counterparts, asked for passports.

I will never leave my passport behind ever again.

This is the sixth instalment of #KalundeLearns, my observations and lessons as I navigate living and working in Switzerland. You can read the previous post about why you should always show up.



Eunice Kilonzo

#Writer | 11 #Awards | #Synesthetes | #Health | #Media #Comms @Gavi | Past @WHO @safaricomPLC @UNEP @nationafrica @aphrc @Falling_Walls