Hello! So as some of you may have noticed while reading my blog, my updates go up to Week 7 and then stop. Let me explain. Week 8 was spent in Berlin: Couchsurfing meetups, full days of waltzing into art galleries and free museums, street art tours, amazing bars. Unfortunately, my last night in Berlin wasn’t so wonderful.
Here’s the Story: At about 2 in the morning, I was sitting with a friend outside drinking a beer. There weren’t many people around and the area was well lit (it was a seating area outside a bunch of bars in a more or less decent neighborhood.) My day bag was sitting beneath my feet. One moment it was there, the next…gone. I looked down at my feet in disbelief. I thought it was a joke, and it took me a few minutes to grasp the situation. This was the bag I used to bring with me all day while I was wandering. It had my license, my credit cards, hairbrush and sunscreen (not the most stressful things to lose, but just so you have an idea of how much was in there), and my phone. My iPhone 6 with a Mophie charging case. I was distraught, mainly because I was so disappointed. The theft could have been so easily prevented, and I wanted to complete my trip proving that theft didn’t happen to every tourist who went abroad. Sigh.
What I Did: Oddly enough, my last night in Berlin was the most convenient night for all of my stuff to get stolen. I was leaving for a Workaway program in Warsaw the next day…my accommodation for the week and my transportation there had been planned months ahead of time. I was lucky enough to have Internet in my hostel. In my backpack, I had my train ticket to Warsaw, my passport, copies of all of my important documents, about 50 Euro, and 200 Zloty (Polish currency) from my previous trip to Poland. I immediately walked back to my hostel with my friend (ok, I cried and went to every bar I could find searching for my bag, and then walked back to my hostel with my friend), got on the Internet to tell my parents what had happened, and sent them my information so they could send me a new credit card that week. (Also, shout out and thank you to the **very cute** guys who worked at Sunflower Hostel that gave me free Internet/coffee after I told them what had happened.) The next morning, I filed a police report and sent a copy to my parents to replace my phone.
I was extremely lucky. When I had my bag stolen, I was with a friend, I wasn’t hurt or confronted for my bag, and I still was in possession of my passport. The following week, my dear friend Paul lent me his iPad for the week and an old iPhone 3 for the remainder of my trip so I could connect to Wi-Fi and use maps/take pictures/communicate with my parents. My friends and family helped me out enormously during the situation (even the friends that just reassured me that a lot of people have their phones stolen in Berlin too.) Theft is never fun, so I decided to make a list of tips to prevent it and tips on what to do if it happens to you!
Top Tips for Preventing/Dealing with Theft Abroad:
1. Keep Your Items Separate
I was at a bar with friends the night before someone stole my bag. I made a joke about being ID’d and my host said, “What? No one ID’s here, leave your passport at home.” I had been carrying my passport around with me every day before the day my bag was stolen. That morning, I left my passport and half of my cash buried in my backpack. That night, I came back to them immensely relieved.(You’re the real MVP, Verena!) On a trip to Beijing, our chaperones told us to hide a few Yuan in our bras (sorry, boys). You can keep a key or IDs around your neck, different currency or credit cards in different pockets, etc. This way, if your stuff gets stolen, not all of it gets stolen.
2. Store Your Items on Your Person
When I think about my bag getting stolen, I bop myself on the head. I could have kept my bag on my back. I could have stashed my bag in my hostel before going out and kept my phone/credit cards/license in my fanny pack. (I know they’re dorky, but they’re one of the 5 Things You’ll Be Glad You Packed….) Similar to carrying items separately, carrying items on your person just makes theft that much harder. Stealing my stuff was easy, and I’d like to think if I had a fanny pack covered up by my shirt I’d still have my original iPhone 6 (and my photos of Berlin!) with me.
3. Make Copies Of Your Important Documents
I refused to take my passport anywhere with me on day trips, but I still had to identify myself somehow. Luckily, before my trip, my parents had told me to make copies of my license, passport, credit card, and school ID. I used the copies of my documents to verify my age, that I was in fact a passenger of most of the trains I had booked ahead of time, and that I was (ok, I had been, but in the case of free museums for students in Madrid, I still was) a student.
4. Bring an Extra Device to Connect to the Internet
This was a piece of advice I had received before my trip from someone who had all of his stuff stolen on a backpacking trip. Even though my accommodations had Internet and I eventually obtained an iPhone (thank you again, Paul), having my Kindle was great for connecting to the Internet on the go. I couldn’t just stay in my hostel all the time, so at the train station/wandering around Warsaw, I could find directions/reassure my parents that I was fine. I always kept my Kindle separate from my phone so I was happy to have it when I got back to my hostel room.
5. Remember that You’re Not Alone
I was disappointed to have my stuff stolen, but eventually I had to accept that it happens to a lot of travelers. My friends and family sympathized with my situation and were able to help me out, and the stuff that was stolen was just that…stuff. Overall, the incident didn’t define my trip; it was just one of the many learning experiences that made up my time in Europe. If it happens to you, just remember that the next few days of phone detox-ing and possibly even navigating a paper map (gasp) may not be fun, but it’s not the end of the world.
Have you ever had your stuff stolen abroad? Tell me your story in the comments! I promise next week’s post will be a little less serious and a little more fun!