How To Lose Everything In Vegas . . . And Then Get It All Back.


Two puffs of smoke, stale booze, and a prostitute greeted us as we stumbled into Vegas for my daughter's birthday.

Not exactly what mom and dad had in mind when we decided to take the kids to the city of bright lights, but hey - that's travel!

We can't plan for everything in this world.  We don't know what's going to happen next.

There is now.  Now is it!  Now is all there is.  And as long as you have a now, whether it be good or bad, you have a chance - especially in Vegas!

So there we are.  We're dragging our backpacks, art kits, and stuffed animals through the suffocating alleys of the casino in search of anyone who can help us get a room key and direct us towards the pool.

Our kids are entranced.

The have Monopoly!  Batman!  Look they have Transformers!

Yeah . . . you guys can't play those games.

Why not?

You're not allowed.  Those games are for grownups.

Why do grownups want to play Transformers?

Grownups like to pretend they hate Transformers, but secretly they love them just as much as kids.  Vegas is where grownups act like kids.

But kids don't smoke, Dad!


We make our way to the registration and I notice even more smoke coming from the massive TV's.

Ughhh . . . another bombing.  Wait!  What???  Oh no . . . someone bombed Boston!


Even over the parade of digital tweeps my daughter can hear my mumbling and sense my angst.

I think there was a bomb in Boston.  Let me see . . .  Oh no . . . at the Marathon!

Someone bombed Boston?!?!?!?  On MY BIRTHDAY?!  Why would they do that?  Is it still there?  Where?  When?

I don't know, Honey.  Let's put the bags down and we'll figure it out.


We flop into the safety of our beds and flick on the news.  There is Boston.  There is our home.

Little Sam blurts out,

Did that lady get shot by a bomb?


And that lady?


Are they dead?

I don't know.

That's Boston?


These people are stupid!


The people with the bombs!

Yes they are.


We get dressed and we go down to the pool.

I don't know what you're supposed to do in the wake of tragedies today.  I don't know what is politically correct, proper, or sensitive.  It seems we all have something to say in the wake of tragedy, but very little to say in times that seem to be peaceful.  Sure, some tragedies hit closer to home than others, but what does one do at a time like this?  What's the protocol?  Do we get on the phone and call our family and friends?  Do we stare at the TV all day and get all worked up?  Do we get our swimsuits on, head to the pool, and make sure we spend every minute with our family?  I don't know.

These moments of helplessness keep us guessing and questioning.


When morning comes, we're packing up and getting ready to head off to Sequoia National Park for a week of camping.  Again we are trudging through the casino with our bags, art kits, and stuffed animals, trying to get to our trusty little Kia and leave Vegas behind.

Halfway through the parking lot we freeze.

Where's the roof bag?  OMG - the roof rack is gone!

The straps to the rack are still sticking up in the air as if they're embedded in concrete, but the bag is gone.  Some bold person came by in the night, sliced the straps to our roof bag, and walked off with a 200 pound case filled with all our camping gear and then some.  And while this is not a big deal in the scheme of things, it still sucks.  Thousands of dollars worth of gear is now gone.  Our personal stuff is gone.  It's kind of all we had.  Just some more emotional juice to add to an already emotional few days.

In tears, our daughter belts out,

They took our food!  What are we going to do without food?  We can't live without food and water, Daddy! (There's those ecology lessons coming forth.)

We can buy food, Sweetheart.

But our stuff.  Our tent!  Our sleeping bags!  My . . . they took my scooter!  Sam - they took your scooter!

Sam raises his lightsaber.

These guys are stupid!  I'm gonna Lightsaber them!

Mom jumps in.

Sam, don't say stupid!

Daddy said it was OK to call the bombers stupid!

I shrug my shoulders.

It's not nice to say stupid; we all know this.  But the word exists for a reason, and I'm pretty sure "stupid" was invented for times like these.

After a few security papers and some pouting at the front desk, we get ourselves a free night stay from the hotel and start filling out police reports.  Sequoia is out.  Insurance is a possibility.  We wait.


As is always the case, the sun rises the next morning and we begin the day.  We have no idea what is going to happen next, but the night before Heidi and I had a real good conversation.  We decided that we are in this for the long haul.  We decided we're not doing enough.  We're not traveling with enough purpose, or working hard enough, or doing what we set out to do.

This travel life assumes a delicate balance.  It comes with great highs and lows.  It offers surprises, and setbacks, and many tests.  Losing our stuff is just a test.  Unlike the daily tragedies that occur around the world, we can bounce back from this with ease.  It's a mild bump in the road.  It's no big deal.  And it surely isn't a reason to stray from the things we believe in.  In fact - it's a propellant.  Bad stuff, mishaps, failure - these are all things that will make us better if we let them.


We decide to hop on over to Palmdale, CA because we have a week to kill before we start a house sit in San Diego and we really have no other choice.  Camping is not an option at this point, and the hotel in Palmdale is practically free if we use our reward points.  So, despite our angst over having to cramp into a tiny hotel room for a week in the middle of nowhere (sorry, Palmdale), we jump in the car and keep pushing forward.

During the 4 hour drive to the hotel I make a decision.  I decide many things are going to change.  I get fired up, motivated, inspired.  I realize again, that I don't have to understand why things happen.  It doesn't matter why things happen because I can't control it anyway.  All that matters is what I do.

We have so much to do.  We can't let theives, or loss, or frustration stop us.  We have a choice.  We can get sad, angry, or mad.  We can start running scared or throw in the cards.  Or, we can get to doing what we know is right and forget everything else.  There is only now - take it or leave it!


When we arrived at the hotel we were starving and exhausted.  The kids were a mess.  Everyone was pretty much done, and Heidi and I were doing all we could to shine the light.  And then we entered our cheap, crappy hotel in the middle of nowhere.

As the doors parted, we saw before us a ginormous spread of food.  Burgers, fries, hot dogs, salad, and everything else.  Apparently, complimentary dinner was just starting.  There was free, UNLIMITED wine and beer.  And not just beer, but good beer!  Beer I had never heard of before!  And they were handing us pitchers to fill up at our leisure.

I told Heidi that possibily we may have pushed it all too far and maybe we died and went to heaven, but then we saw Sam was refusing to eat his burger and grabbing all the cheese and we knew we were still good to go on this Earth.

Amidst the chaos of free food and beer, we realized we hadn't checked in yet.  So Heidi wanders up to the front desk and comes back 2 minutes later with this big grin and tells me they upgraded us to a 2 bedroom suite - for the whole week!

Why?  What did you say?

I didn't say anything.  They just said this is our best room and enjoy!

What the hell kind of hotel . . .

Mom!  Dad!  They have a movie theater in here!

And so I started looking for the cameras and waiting for the surprises, but none came.  It just so happens that we stumbled onto the perfect situation for us, at the perfect time, in the perfect place.  After 3 months of crawling all over each other in tents, losing our stuff, repairing our car, and racing around the good ole' US of A, we seem to have stumbled upon our gem.

The kids are raving that they have their own beds.  Our daughter just told us she is making dinner on Friday and is searching the internet for recipes.   It's amazing, and it shouldn't even exist.  I've stayed in hundreds of hotels and never had 2 bedroom suites and free beer flung at me before.  Why now?  Why?!!  We have free laundry here for goodness sakes!  The kids have their own bathroom!  What is going on!?  All this can not be coincidence.

Here's what I think.  Better yet . . . here's what I believe:

We are all supposed to do something, and most of us know what that is.  When we work at it and believe in it, things happen that propel us forward.  But when we get lost and start getting off of our path, something kicks us in the ass and tries to get us headed in the right direction.  It's up to us to follow the lead.

The world is full of tragedies.  We can't avoid them, we can't ignore them, but we can use them.  We can allow ourselves to be reminded of the fact that we have a job to do, and nothing short of tragedy will stop us.  And if we do this - we will succeed.

Now, some of you might not buy into what I am saying.  You might suggest that I am full of fluff and free beer.  Well . . . maybe you're right.  Maybe it is all just fluff.  Maybe there is no universal push.  Maybe you lose or win in Las Vegas simply because it wasn't your day or you parked your car in some thief's favorite spot.  Maybe.

All I know is that every time I take the high road.  Every time I do what I know I'm supposed to do, things work out.  I can't explain why or how, but they do.  I choose to know this.

How do you lose everything in Vegas and get it all back?  Well . . . that's easy.  You get up, you get out of Vegas, and you start doing what you KNOW you're supposed to be doing.  Problem solved!

And by the way.  The Staybridge Suites in Palmdale, CA . . . BEST HOTEL EVER!


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'How To Lose Everything In Vegas . . . And Then Get It All Back.' have 27 comments

  1. April 18, 2013 @ 1:29 pm Rose Townsend

    Amazing and thought provoking writing as always! I love this paragraph, "We are all supposed to do something, and most of us know what that is. When we work at it and believe in it, things happen that propel us forward. But when we get lost and start getting off of our path, something kicks us in the ass and tries to get us headed in the right direction. It's up to us to follow the lead." I believe this is true and have seen it in my own life and in others. I am thoroughly enjoying following your journey and learning from you as you go!
    Rose Townsend recently posted..Ninjago Legos and six lessons learned as a result of following our kids’ interests


  2. April 18, 2013 @ 2:19 pm Pablo

    I love keeping up with your site. You and your family are incredibly motivating!

    Growing up, my mom would constantly say, "Everything happens for a reason, the good and the bad". Sure enough, anytime something went astray, we would get back on track and something would make up for what had happened.

    That's awful about the luggage, but good to see you guys staying positive and being treated to a hotel suite! You guys deserve it :)
    Pablo recently posted..Guide to Finding Cheap or Free Accommodation


    • April 18, 2013 @ 5:12 pm Justin Mussler

      Thanks, Pablo!

      No worries on the stuff. You can always get stuff! It all happens for a reason, and we just have to put those reasons to good work!


  3. April 18, 2013 @ 3:03 pm Danielle Peloquin

    I had to write. . .This is one of the most inspiring posts I have read from you. Taking a negative and seeing the positive. Also I am very impressed by the hotel . . .and the arm it extended to you in the wake of your own struggles. It just goes to show kindness can be found anywhere. . . I hope you wrote glowing reviews like this post and any website possible promoting the hotel.


    • April 18, 2013 @ 5:10 pm Justin Mussler

      Funny thing about the hotel is that they have no idea of our struggles. It's total chance. They don't know we lost our stuff, or that we are traveling, or that we even went to Vegas. We never mentioned it to them at all.

      It is just how this hotel is. That's what makes it all so great!

      We just walked in and they started giving us all this stuff. Just a great hotel!


  4. April 18, 2013 @ 3:10 pm Lisa-Marie

    I dug this post!... and we totally live our life this way. We just move from one thing to the next doing what we feel we are supposed to be doing and keeping up the momentum. Sometimes life sucks but I always use the question, "will I be anxious about this a month from now?" A month from now you will have this great story of how all your stuff was stolen in Vegas but you soldiered on and the universe rewarded. You won't be anxious at all :-) What a great gift you are giving your kids.


    • April 18, 2013 @ 5:07 pm Justin Mussler

      Great point, Lisa-Marie! "Will I be anxious about this a month from now?" That's about right!


  5. April 18, 2013 @ 3:24 pm Tiffany F

    Hard work, dedication, and a fair bit of Karma it sounds like! Thanks for the post - it's what I needed today; although, I am sorry your family had to go through all of those things, but it sounds like you came out better in the end.

    We are knee deep in change right now, as our house sale closes this weekend, a new job starts next week, lost a young dear friend, and just good old fashioned overwhelm. We're taking your words to heart today: "All I know is that every time I take the high road. Every time I do what I know I'm supposed to do, things work out."
    Tiffany F recently posted..A Fresh Start


    • April 18, 2013 @ 5:06 pm Justin Mussler

      Thanks, but no need to be sorry.

      I have been wondering what you guys were up to.

      You just have to keep going.

      I hope things work out!


  6. April 18, 2013 @ 4:50 pm Renee — RambleCrunch

    I love this post, Justin. Love it. The part about having all your stuff stolen sickened me, because it's happened to us before (in CR, as I mentioned earlier). But what a marvelous turn of events with the hotel. Enjoy yourselves. And what a great travel tale you've ended up with! :-)
    Renee — RambleCrunch recently posted..Meet the barking parrot


    • April 18, 2013 @ 5:04 pm Justin Mussler

      I'm enjoying it for sure! The sooner I forget about crap like this, the sooner I start getting good stuff done.

      Thanks, Renee.

      Funny enough, we almost went to Mexico because of this. In the end, for some reason, we chose Palmdale. Remarkably, it's working out!


  7. April 18, 2013 @ 10:37 pm Patti

    I have always believed that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reasons become clear, sometimes not. Either way you just have to know it's what was supposed to happen. It sucks that you lost your belongings but the insight you gained is priceless. Safe travels ~
    Patti recently posted..Southern Oregon – Upper Table Rock


    • April 19, 2013 @ 5:40 pm Justin Mussler

      Costly and priceless at the same time? Weird, but true!

      Thanks, Patti!


  8. April 19, 2013 @ 1:56 am Nancy Sathre-Vogel

    YAY!! The universe really does conspire to help us - but only if WE do our part by getting out there.


  9. April 19, 2013 @ 10:35 am Tammy

    Travel Angels at work perhaps?


    • April 19, 2013 @ 5:37 pm Justin Mussler

      As always - and they didn't even know we had hit a snag! That's the best part!


  10. April 19, 2013 @ 10:56 am kate

    Thank you. This really touched me. I needed the reminder to trust my gut. Everything works out the way it is supposed to. My brother died 4 years ago and I made the decision to stay at home with my kids. My husband is in construction and every time his project ends, I question if i should go back to work. In one of your older posts, you said you need to have your WHY in orderto get out of debt. This reminded me (since i am 4 yrs into my journey ) you also need your WHY to stick with something.


    • April 19, 2013 @ 5:43 pm Justin Mussler


      I can tell you that we have many, many moments where we doubt, and yet, we stick with it because it is right! Often the hardest things are the right things. You just have to keep thinking and working and braving forward.

      You can always add a new part to your journey from home!


  11. April 22, 2013 @ 1:55 pm Eddy Baez

    It was almost like an episode of Seinfeld. When he throws a $20 dollar bill out the window and then finds a $20 dollar bill in some old jacket. The food and beer talk got me real hungry now. It sounds like you guys are having a great time. Keep it going!


    • April 22, 2013 @ 6:44 pm Justin Mussler

      Now I have to find that episode and watch it again!

      The food was/is great! It all works out in the end if you stick with it, but it takes A LOT of work!


  12. April 24, 2013 @ 3:18 am Erin

    Quality words, will visit soon again.


  13. April 24, 2013 @ 9:44 am Kate

    Argh - I've never had anything stolen before but I imagine it feels very violating. Glad you have bounced back and that your points came to the rescue!
    Kate recently posted..Melbourne Hare Krishna Vegetarian CBD – Great budget option for vegetarian backpackers.


    • April 26, 2013 @ 12:59 am Justin Mussler

      It wasn't so bad. I think the kids took it worse because it's just stunning in the moment.

      The points were huge! And it appears insurance will save us as well!

      Thanks, Kate.


  14. April 25, 2013 @ 3:18 pm Rhonda

    Wonderful post. I think you have to believe in "something" whether it be God or Buddha or a higher power or just the power of the universe. When you are on the right path and put your faith out there that it will be ok it almost always is!


    • April 26, 2013 @ 12:47 am Justin Mussler

      You can't do anything without faith. How do we know how things will turn out? Without a bit of faith, we sit back scared and do nothing! Great point! Thanks!


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