This post is hard for me to write. The memory of it all just makes me shudder. It was the first time my kids have ever seen me break down and cry. But you need to read this. You need to know what to do if it happens to you. You need to know what to do to keep thieves from taking what is most precious to you.
“They took it all.” he said, as he peered into the trunk. We knew something was wrong when the alarm didn’t react correctly after unlocking the car. “Everything?” I was stunned and this took a few agonizing minutes to totally sink in. The trunk was a mess, all the remaining things were scattered and rifled through. Violated. Every valuable piece of equipment we had was stolen. My camera, all my Canon lenses, video camera, tablets, laptop and my son’s portable game system was gone. Some of my clothes, all of my makeup and toiletries, and all of my bras and underwear, gone. Disgraceful. I sobbed uncontrollably the moment I knew our cameras were gone. So many should haves, would haves, could haves went through our minds. So many regrets and blame on ourselves. We should have taken our stuff. We could have at least taken our camera. If we would have just stayed in town, instead of trying to do one more thing.
This happened to us at the end of a wonderful family vacation. 10 days of making memories, 10 days of first time experiences with the kids, 10 days of priceless, precious moments. Gone forever. The barrage of feelings coming at me was enough to make me sick. Even today, it brings tears to my eyes, as I think of it. What do you do? You feel helpless and completely vulnerable. Take a big deep breath. Will yourself to push your feelings of anger and hurt aside, and take practical action.
- File a police report. It’s extremely unlikely that the police will find anything, or even have the resources to go after the thieves. Do it anyways. You need to do this for insurance reasons. Most insurance won’t even file a claim for you unless you file a police report. If you are in a foreign country, and your passports were taken, call the embassy. Here’s what the US Bureau of Consumer Affairs has to say about this matter.
- Call the bank and credit reporting agency and put a fraud alert on file. Even though we had our wallets with us, there’s no telling what methods the thieves could use to potentially take more from us. They had our laptops and all of our media. They not only sell things, they sell information to the highest bidder. Here’s the link to the Federal Trade Commission for more information on reporting to the credit bureaus.
- Take stock. Make a list of what was stolen and an estimate of the cost of each item. List everything. Even your bra- there’s nothing like wearing a bikini top to the airport instead of a proper bra. When you get home you will have to make a more detailed report, but it’s good to try and take stock while everything is fresh in your mind.
- If you’ve been robbed of credit cards and cash, call a friend or relative and ask them to wire you money. Keep in mind how many days you will be there, the meals you will need and any other expenses that may pop up.
- Replace what you need in order to go on with the remainder of your trip. We had this happen to us on our last day, so we simply went home. Had this been in the beginning, I would have went out and bought a cheap, but decent camera. Taking photos and recording memories are that important to me.
- If you’ve lost your photos and video, journal. Write down what you did, how you felt, where you were. Try and record the joy you felt and the things you did. Don’t wait too long to do this because you might forget all the little things that make life magical. I wrote as much as I could, on a hotel notepad.
- Be grateful. This is the hardest thing to do. I cried the whole plane ride home and every day for a straight month. I had to check myself a lot. I had to remind myself how blessed we were, to even take a trip together. It could have been worse. No one got physically hurt, and we still had a great time.
Here’s what I wrote on that hotel notepad (after I finished writing about our experiences):
Regardless of what happened at the end of this trip, we enjoyed every precious moment we were able to spend together as a family. Not worrying about work or school or things back home… but truly just being together, and watching our kids experience things for the first time, was priceless to us. Getting to see their big eyes, proud smiles, goofy grins… holding little hands tight… hearing their hearty laughter… watching them fall asleep after a long adventurous day… tucking them into their beds every night… lots and lots of hugs and kisses…they are growing up so fast… too fast that we wish we could just freeze time.
I know they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but we lost them. We lost all of the video too. But our time together can never be taken away from us, and its memory will always be cherished. The love we have for each other can never be stolen or even measured. This was not our first adventure and certainly will not be our last. There will be many more to come… and double the pictures next time!
This was a painful learning experience for us. It still haunts us. Before every trip, Husband and I look at each other and we say, “never again,” because this will not happen to us again. We will be smarter and more vigilant every time. You can’t control what other people do, but you can control how you react and how you prepare for a trip. Here’s how to never let something like this happen to you.
- Back up your photos constantly and consistently. You can’t lose it, if you’ve saved it.
- Be aware of your surroundings. I’m pretty sure we were being scoped out at the parking lot, but we didn’t notice.
- Keep your valuables and camera equipment on you. When this isn’t possible, rent a locker. If this isn’t possible, take turns guarding your stuff. If this isn’t possible, pop out your memory cards and carry them on your person. If you are going into the water, use a waterproof waist pack for your cell phone and memory cards. Even if not using it in the water, you can wear the waist pack under clothes. Your equipment can be replaced. Your memories cannot.
- If you’re going to a location where you won’t be in the water at all, a money belt is will keep your passports, memory cards, IDs, credit cards and money safe. These are fantastic because they have RFID blocking, built in.
- Invest in an anti-theft backpack. These backpacks are so smart and thieves hate them! They have covered zippers, combination locks and/or load from the back. Thieves act on slight of hand and fast motion, if they can’t find a quick opening, they will move on. If you’ve spent a fair amount of money on camera equipment, a good, safe bag is so important. We like this one because it loads from the back, has a waist and chest strap, and a TSA combination lock.
I like to carry a day pack to store all my valuables, accessories, snacks, and water bottles. I like this one because it coverts from a backpack. You can clip on the included strap and turn it into a shoulder bag. Its main compartment loads from the back, keeping your valuables closest to you at all times.
It may seem like overkill, but please learn from our experience. It only takes being robbed once to realize what’s precious to you. There are so many ways to protect yourself, investing in your safety is always worth it. Have you ever been robbed? What did you do? How did you feel? I hope this never happens to you, and you can learn some strategies to prevent it, while traveling. If it did, know that I empathize in the biggest way, and I’m so sorry! Leave me a comment.
Related: How to Look for and Avoid Bedbugs
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