Someone Stole My Bag in Berlin, Here’s What I Did (and How To Prevent it Happening to You!)

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!

5 Things You’ll be Glad You Packed in your Backpack 

(Photo via Rei.com)

I’m almost a month into my trip, with about two months left to go. I’m getting the hang of living out of my 55 liter Osprey; it doesn’t feel as heavy and it’s becoming easier to pack. I didn’t pack a lot of clothes, but here are 5 things I’m so glad I packed (and you’ll be glad you packed when you head off on your backpacking adventure!)

via wisegeek.com

1. Sleep mask – it took me, 2 hours? into my overnight flight to think, “Thank goodness I packed a sleep mask” (or rather, thank goodness my mom offered to let me use hers). Between festivals and exploring new cities, sleep isn’t always a first priority. So on every bus, in every hostel, and every moment in my Open’er tent after the sun rose, sleep — and therefore, my sleep mask — was crucial.

2. Empty pillowcase – Most hostels and Couchsurfers have pillows available, but it’s always good to have a second pillow/first pillow (if camping). I usually fill mine with old clothes (doesn’t smell like roses, but I’ve survived) and then use it as a laundry bag.

via forever21.com

3. Fanny pack – Besides looking INSANELY attractive in it — alright, I tried. But my fanny pack has been a lifesaver, especially for music festivals. Everything is easily accessible, really close to me, and since mine is pretty small, I can keep things fairly organized. No backpacks to hassle with/have searched, less of a pain, a fantastic fashion statement (I’m really trying here.)  Mine is from Forever 21 (same with the one above), and they’re pretty cheap!

4. Charging phone case – Or rather, I’m just glad I chose a charging phone case. I have the Mophie case for iPhone 6, and having the extra battery handy is a great way to prevent a crappy situation. Six hours on a megabus with a broken outlet? No problem. Festivals? No need to charge for 2-3 days (if you’re on airplane mode).

via ancestral-nutrition.com

5. Dr. Bronner’s – Pour it into an airplane-size bottle or two and you’re set. I’ve used mine as soap, shampoo, shaving soap, and in the future I’ll probably take advantage of it as a toothpaste and laundry detergent. If you have to take one thing, take this. When I make my big move in October, I’ll probably pack what’s left of this huge bottle to use up (if my family hasn’t used it all!)

What items have been lifesavers on your trips? Let me know in the comments below!

Lush Haul – Backpacker’s Edition!

Lush Haul I love Lush, and not just because I worked there for a year and some change. They’re cruelty-free, their products smell good, and I actually know what ingredients I’m putting on my skin and hair. Yesterday was my last day working, so I bought all the birthday gifts I needed for the next year and also stuff for my trip. Luckily, Lush has tons of solid products and stuff that’s super easy to travel with!! Here’s a little list of the stuff I’m bringing with me this summer!

via lushusa.com
via lushusa.com

Jason and The Argan Oil (Shampoo Bar) – That little pink guy, that’s my haircare. Lush makes solid shampoos that lather super well and last 60-80 washes…perfect timing for my trip. It’s insanely moisturizing and I’ve used it in the past without conditioner! Plus…no plastic! Shampoo bars are some of Lush’s “naked products” that don’t need packaging and cut down on waste. The tin I’m storing it in is reusable, so when I move on to my next shampoo bar, I’m all set!

via lushusa.com
via lushusa.com

No Drought (Dry Shampoo) – The description even says No Drought is good for music festivals, bless. It’s a cornflour base with a lovely citrus scent for when I’m too lazy to wash my hair. Instead of packing Lush’s amazing T for Toes foot powder, I’m going to also try throwing this guy in my shoes when I’ve been hiking around and my feet smell, you know, disgusting.

via lushusa.com
via lushusa.com

Parsley Porridge (Hand and Body Soap) – MIRACLE. This soap has tea tree, aloe and other herbs, which make it great for your body but also your FACE! Luckily it’s the soap my face likes the best so it’s all I’ll need when it comes to soap! (It’s taking everything in my power not to pack my So White and Rose Jam Shower Gels or Yog Nog and Snowcake Soaps, but I’ll leave them here as motivation to come back home!)

via lushusa.com
via lushusa.com

Tea Tree Water (Toner Water) – Tea tree for antibacterial, grapefruit for an astringent, juniperberry to balance. Super simple and a great way to refresh throughout the day.

via lushusa.com
via lushusa.com
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via lushusa.com

Confident & Independent (Makeup) – THANK YOU ALEX. My lovely coworker bought me Confident, the most amazing lip color, and I’m forever grateful. Independent is an eyeliner and just became available again after a 2(?) year long hiatus. I don’t wear makeup often, but these two are all I need when I go out on the town (I mean, I’m going to Liverpool after all).

9 to 5 (Cleansing Lotion) – Aaaand for the morning after. 9 to 5 is a great cleansing lotion that’s also a makeup remover! Super easy to apply to for when I’m traveling from one place to the next.

But that’s not all….

My first stop in Europe is going to be Lush’s Oxford Street store in London. Three stories of Lush, friends. I’ll be buying:

-Oral Pleasure Toothy Tabs (oh, Lush.)

-Deo My B.O. Deodorant

-One of Lush’s moisturizers with SPF, haven’t decided yet! (Lush does not have any products with SPF in North America because of complications with how SPF is tested here)

-Cup O’ Coffee Exfoliating Mask

….and then maybe a few more of Lush Oxford Street’s 200 products that are exclusive to just that store. Check back in…oh my gosh…two weeks, and I’ll have another Lush haul posted for you guys!!

“What are you bringing?” The Rough Packing List

Less than six weeks! And I still have no return ticket, but I’m looking at a three-month stay in Europe.

This week, however, I got a lot done. I graduated from Temple University, and I moved out of my apartment.

Everything I know is in boxes, in my parents’ garage or the basement-alcove-room of my parents’ house. It only makes sense to get started on packing, both backpacking-through-Europe packing and moving-down-to-Austin packing. Since Austin is so far away and the things I’m bringing to Europe are things I’ll be using in the next six weeks, the most I could think to do is create a quick, rough packing list. I’m only bringing a backpack, a fanny pack, and a drawstring bag, and I’ll need room for souvenirs. (Mainly Lush souvenirs from the Oxford Street store. Oh.My.Gosh.)

Check out my list and let me know if I’m missing anything, or can do without anything!! Also, let me know if you’d like to see a post of the Lush items I’m bringing to Europe (ok, ok…I’ll probably post one regardless.)

SIX WEEKS.

PackingList