And here I thought I had learned a “big lesson” after that ridiculous altercation at the Heineken Open’er Festival in Poland…
I don’t really blame myself this time around though. Getting robbed in Barcelona is like getting a suntan in the Caribbean. It’s almost weird if it doesn’t happen unless you literally have all your valuables strapped to your body or drench yourself in SPF 200 and carry a parasol everywhere you go.
Now about my Barcelona Experience: I arrived there last Wednesday afternoon and instead of heading straight to Girona for the TBEX conference, my friend and I decided to stay one night because why not. The night was great, the next morning and afternoon were great. Barcelona is an impressive city, unlike anywhere else in Spain. Its boulevards are grand, its architecture quirky and gorgeous, great beaches, total cosmopolitan feel. It’s a place you can easily fall in love with and want to stay forever…until she sneakily slips her hands into your purse and jacks all your money. Then she can feel like a cold, heartless bitch who you’d love nothing more than to rip the long, straggly black hair out of her head and punch her in the chubby face…
Sorry, I was just getting ahead of myself with the physical description of my assailant. Let me back up to the scene of the crime and explain what happened.
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book: mob of thieves cramming into and already crowded metro car, Tokyo rush hour style, forcing everyone up against each other in the most personal way. Here I am, face-to-face with this thick chick possessing stereotypical dark gypsy features. My purse was slung around me and at my crotch with my suitcase handle in one hand and carry-on bag in the other. Let me reiterate – my purse was up against my crotch. A place where I most certainly would notice grabby hands, right?
So twenty seconds into the ride I get this weird feeling (in my mind) and check to see where this woman’s hands are. I stare at them both and I see them empty but still a little suspicious looking, then I look back up and into her eyes. She stared at me back but with this strange, blank expression that now I realize was indicative of a person without a soul. The train came to an abrupt halt which caused me to fall into her a little. I apologized. Doors swung open, people flooded out, including her. It was at that moment that the funny feeling grew worse so I quickly checked my purse only to find that my cute little Russian doll coin purse with all my credit cards and 70 euros in it was gone.
The good thing is that while all my money was gone, my passport and two iPhones with thousands of VIPs (very important pictures) were not. At that point, money seemed a lot easier to replace than my photos from the past couple of weeks that I hadn’t backed up yet and the one form of ID that I need to keep traveling. I actually like to think I got off lucky.
Here’s where I wish I could turn this into an advice piece and give tips on what one should do if they find themselves in a similar situation but the truth is that I handled it completely wrong. I did learn a few things though which is always good and I will share those with you instead.
First off, take care of a problem like this immediately. Unfortunately all this happened on the way to catch a train to Girona in time to make it to the infamous TBEX castle party. I was with a friend and the last thing I wanted to do was cause both of us to miss it by getting a later train. In retrospect I should have just let her go on ahead and stayed behind to sort everything out. Instead I had the worst 1.5 hour train ride ever thinking that by the time I got to Girona all my cards would be maxed and bank accounts tapped. Thankfully they weren’t and I had them all cancelled within an hour of arriving, but I didn’t make time to figure out how to get a cash advance from my bank. The easier alternative was to just ask for a cash advance from a friend but that ultimately ended up in disaster. It all worked out in the end but the bottom line is that it would have been better/less drama to have gone through a bank, Western Union, etc.
Second, maybe a money belt or one of those pouches you wear around your neck and under your shirt aren’t so lame after all. These thieves, as much as I dislike them, have some pretty incredible skills in terms of extracting valuables from people unknowingly. I always thought that if something like this happened to me it would be kind of obvious, maybe just happen fast and catch me off guard or something. Not the case. I’m not rushing out to buy either of those items but I have been making sure all my valuables are not floating around in my purse but are zipped away in the small pocket I have inside. Have also been carrying my purse like a baby at certain points, that works too.
And finally the most important thing of all is that I realized I have made some pretty damn amazing friends through travel blogging. All of this occurred right before TBEX so naturally it became a frequent topic of conversation (maybe too frequent, sorry dudes and dudettes). So many people who I had only met a few times before and people I had only met that weekend were willing to help me out big time with both financial and moral support. That means a lot when you’re away from home and is something that I’ll never forget that. Big thanks to you guys, you know who you are.
Here’s to hoping this is the last robbery post I ever have to write although “That Morning I Got Robbed…” seems like it could be a pretty interesting story. Sorry things have been slow on the BG and with me returning emails, but this is one of the reasons why…will be up to speed in a couple of days!
Have you ever been pick pocketed or pick pursed? What did you do? I want to hear more stories!