Finding a Missing Traveller
May 15, 2013 4:19 PM   Subscribe

My brother left for Rome, Italy on Monday to do a summer job for a lab there and we (his friends and family) still haven't had any contact from him. I'm worried that something might have happened to him and his wife and kids are worried sick. Is there any good routes to trying to find him in case he's been in an accident? I don't have the name of the lab he's working for or I'd just call them :(
posted by Ikazuchi to Travel & Transportation around Rome, Italy (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have no experience with this situation, but I imagine that the U.S. Embassy in Rome might be the best place for you to start. According to their site:
In Case of Emergency
The numbers below are provided for U.S. citizens who are distressed and require emergency services such as assistance with the death, arrest, illness or injury of an American citizen.

Embassy ROME - If you are an American citizen with an after hours emergency and are within the Rome consular district, please call the switchboard at (+39) 06.46741. The Rome consular district includes the regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria, Abruzzo, and Sardegna.
Do you happen to know if he registered with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program for U.S. citizens traveling to or living in other countries?

Here is the U.S. Department of State's page about American citizens missing abroad:
Sometimes concerned relatives and friends call us when they haven’t heard from a loved one who is abroad. We can help to pass messages to these missing Americans. Consular officers use the information provided by the family or friends of a missing person to locate the individual, and pass the caller’s message. We check with local authorities in the foreign country to see if there is any report of a U.S. citizen hospitalized, arrested, or otherwise unable to communicate with those looking for them. Depending on the circumstances, consular officers may personally search hotels, airports, hospitals, or even prisons. The more information that the caller can provide, the better the chances are that we can find the missing American.

Privacy Act – The provisions of the Privacy Act are designed to protect the privacy and rights of Americans, but occasionally they complicate our efforts to assist citizens abroad. As a rule, consular officers may not reveal information regarding an individual American’s location, welfare, intentions, or problems to anyone, including family members and Congressional representatives, without the expressed consent of that individual. Although sympathetic to the distress this can cause concerned families, consular officers must comply with the provisions of the Privacy Act.
Here is the "Where do I start?" section of (some of the information is UK-specific).

Good luck, I really hope you get in touch with him soon!
posted by divined by radio at 4:35 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This might be obvious, but where is your brother staying? Can you contact his hotel/apartment/landlord and see if he is checked in?
Have you contacted his airline to know he definitely made it all the way to Rome?
Do you know what type lab he is working in? (university? govt? bio? chem?) If it was narrowed down a bit, might the name jog his wife's memory?
Good luck, I hope you hear from him soon.
posted by florencetnoa at 4:41 PM on May 15, 2013

The chances of him being in an accident are very very low. Much much more likely is that he's had the red-eye jet lag hit him big time and his sleeping patterns are all over the place. If he left on monday, he'll be there as of tuesday (yesterday) and he may have spent the time since then in a confusion of sleeping, being exhausted, and day-being-night. It's still, at this stage, much much more likely he'll resume contact and nothing bad has happened.

Do, by all means, try and contact the aforementioned organisations. Starting with the airline to check whether his flight was delayed, and then whether he got on and off the plane.
posted by Wordshore at 4:52 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Is he sponsored by a stateside organization? A university? If so call them, they can put you in touch with him.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:57 PM on May 15, 2013

You can try having his wife log in to their credit card websites and look for charges. I had to do this when my parents went overseas and didn't check in when they had promised to.
posted by xo at 4:58 PM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would agree with divined by radio with a couple of additions.

1. Italy and internet don't always mix. You have to go to an internet cafe and bring your passport and it's a bit of a hassle. More of a hassle if his Italian isn't great. If he has gotten in and has been busy at the lab he may not have wanted to email at work but the process of getting on the internet elsewhere could have been too difficult to deal with right away.

2. Italy is six hours ahead of Florida (the travel itself takes even longer) and he may be jet-lagged. or just so busy eating pasta alla carbonara and being in culture shock to call immediately.

3. US phones usually don't work in Europe. He may need to pick up a temporary cell there in order to make long distance calls.

Hope this helps to avoid some panic. Contact the state department with the understanding that it could just be some normal delay caused by being in another country. Hope you hear from him soon!
posted by donut_princess at 4:58 PM on May 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Surely his wife and kids know what lab he's expected at or who sent him to Italy? That organization would be the first point of contact to track him down. They likely have some awareness of his travel arrangements, where he is supposed to be staying, etc...
posted by zachlipton at 5:16 PM on May 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yeah, the obvious thing to do is call his hotel or whoever is hosting him.
posted by Justinian at 5:34 PM on May 15, 2013

Here is a time zone converter, so you can always know what time it is in Rome vs. where you are. EX: 9 PM Wednesday in Miami is 3 AM Thursday in Rome.
posted by divined by radio at 5:56 PM on May 15, 2013

These are the things I can imagine you doing:

--Call the airline and make sure he got there
--Call the hotel or landlord at the place where he's staying to make sure he arrived at the hotel
--Find out the name of the place where he's working and call them
--Call the US Embassy as described above.

I don't know what kind of resources you have at your disposal, but I speak Italian and if it turns out that you need someone to make a call in Italian (i.e. to the hotel if they don't speak English) you can Memail me and I'd be happy to help.

Nthing that he is more likely befuddled/sleep deprived/having trouble figuring out the phone/internet situation than anything else. Hope you hear from him soon.
posted by feets at 6:17 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I make no promises, but I am actually going to be IN Rome in 2 days' time, if you know where he's staying and would like me to try to physically leave him a message....memail me, and I'll let you know if I'm able to get something to him in my travels.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:19 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

But yeah, if he only just left Monday, that's only been 48 hours, maybe not even, and he's probably still dealing with "where's the grocery store where do i do laundry how do i use the metro station WHAT IS GOING ON AND OH SHIT I NEED TO FIGURE THIS OUT IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE TOO ON TOP OF IT" acclimation. Memail me if you really still want me to keep an eye out, but I wouldn't worry.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:21 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband will never let me live this down but the first time I went to Europe, I flew to Prague, went to the place where I was staying, napped, showered, started wandering around the city, and called him crying about 36 hours after the last time I talked to him, overwhelmed by culture shock. I'm also a bozo in that I won't call to say I got somewhere unless specifically told to.

The thing I would ask is, is this unusual behavior for your brother? Is he a seasoned or novice traveler? Possibly a stupid question but would he be able to figure out how to call home? Is there someone he definitely would call or email? I would be really unlikely to call or email my father but I would call my husband or sister. Did he share his itinerary? I usually send a copy to someone staying stateside, typically my sister.

Also, when he comes back, have a debrief where you explain that, next time, he needs to call when he gets somewhere, share copies of his itinerary, etc.
posted by kat518 at 7:23 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Send him an email that says “We’re worried. Are you alive? Yes or no.”
posted by oceanjesse at 7:37 PM on May 15, 2013

1. It's Wednesday. If he left the US on Monday, he likely wouldn't have arrived in Rome until yesterday. If he's the sort of person who is prone to bad jet lag, he could easily just be coming around and ready to be normal again. I agree that it's very odd that he wouldn't have checked in at all since leaving, but he hasn't really been "missing" all that long considering he was likely in airports for 12+ hours during that time.

2. I'd start with his hotel or wherever he was supposed to be staying. If he never checked in, you'll know that you have BIG problems. In which case you're probably going to want to start with the embassy. If he did check in, it's annoying that he hasn't called family back home, but he is likely safe.

3. You mention that he's in Rome for work. Do you have any way of contacting his job or anyone who would have bee liaising with him prior to his first days at work?

Nthing everyone who has said that wifi is thin on the ground in Italy, cell phones can be weird/not work, pay phones can be difficult to figure out, etc. Especially if he arrived and immediately had to start work, figuring out how to get in touch might not be priority #1.

Was there some plan for how he would get in touch with you to say that he had arrived OK? If this was not discussed at all, I would err on the side of "my laid back laissez-faire brother just hasn't gotten around to getting in touch yet and has no idea we're worried".
posted by Sara C. at 7:54 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, I am not 100% sure, but I think if he had been in a car accident and was unconscious at the hospital, and he had ID identifying him as American, the hospital would call the US Embassy. So you might even start with them if you don't have the information to start the inquiry another way.
posted by feets at 8:01 PM on May 15, 2013

I hope you hear from him soon! Like others have said, he is probably jet-lagged, overwhelmed, and really busy starting a new job, and doesn't even realize you're worried or how long it's been since you talked. It hasn't been very long, considering that it can take a couple of days to really 'arrive' in a new place like that. There are all kinds of reasons somebody can be slow to get in touch when they're traveling... he is most likely fine.

I just wanted to say I can very much relate to this experience. My brother used to travel internationally a lot and fall out of touch (when he's not traveling we normally talk on Gchat daily) -- I'd only realize how little information I had about where he was/who he would be with after a few days of not hearing from him, and then my imagination would ignite. I've embarrassed him a couple times by anxiously tracking his whereabouts down through his friends/school/work he was associated with, and he was always surprised and had no idea I was freaking out. But I realize this is a very subjective thing, and my brother is just kind of oblivious like that.

Hope everything turns out okay. Keep us updated.
posted by perryfugue at 10:28 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Buongiorno. I'll second/third/fourth what everyone else has said and make a similar offer to the Empress'. Hit me up via MeMail and I'll try to get a "Hi I'm from the Internet and you need to call your family because they're worried." message to him.
posted by romakimmy at 12:33 AM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Finally contacted by my brother - he was zonked when he arrived and couldn't get a connection to contact us until this morning.

Thanks for all the information and support everyone!
posted by Ikazuchi at 8:26 AM on May 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

A top travel tip for all: when travelling, tell someone where you are going. Saves embassies a lot of time taking calls from distressed relatives of loved ones who are just taking really long naps. Glad your brother turned up ok Ikazuchi! I hope he gave you or his wife the details of the lab he's working for and his accommodation.
posted by bimbam at 9:13 AM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

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