Yes. I have been robbed. And let me tell you, it doesn’t feel good. Mine was minor in the grand scheme of things — a thief walked away with my shaving kit at the Christian Youth Hostel in Amsterdam. (I know, there is irony in there somewhere.) But it didn’t make it feel any less serious at the time. I had to break my budget to stock up on necessities. And in a major European city, that’s not usually something you can do on the cheap.
Ever since that incident, I’ve always been on the lookout for ways to keep both me and my gear safe from the greedy paws of thieves while traveling. So I’ve compiled a little list to help you along your way…
5 Things that Make You an Easy Target for Criminals
1.Fanny packs — Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “Who still wears these things?” And to you I say, just take a look around. They’re still everywhere. And usually to be found on the socks-with-sandals variety of traveler. It’s like wearing a name tag that says, “Hello, my name is Easy Prey”. So leave the fanny pack at home, and invest in a money belt that goes on the inside of your clothes. Or do what I do — get a neck pouch, put it in your front pocket, and tie it to your belt loop. Yes, you will need baggy pockets, but it has saved me twice so far — once in the walled city of Jerusalem, and once outside the Coliseum in Rome. Pickpockets tried to take it while I wasn’t looking, but were surprised to find out that I was attached to you. You should have seen their faces.
2.Backpacks — Okay, not all backpacks, just the big ones. You know who you are. And you know what they say — the bigger the pack, the smaller the…package? Well, something like that. I’ll leave that last bit up to you to fill in. My point is that huge backpacks (70L or more) make you a target. They give the message that a) I have a lot of stuff, and b) I can’t move very fast. If you must carry a massive backpack, store it at your earliest convenience and day-trip it with a small pack. Your spine will love you for it too.
3.No Locks — Even the smallest, flimsiest lock is better than none at all. Securing your pack is a must. An unlocked bag is inviting crime. The temptation for a thief to slip a hand in at a train station, bus station, or where ever your bag may be out of your site is completely removed. I met a guy from Vegas once who had huge locks on his backpack — the ones that you usually use for your locker at school or the gym. He didn’t realize until he got on the road that there were actually smaller ones designed for travel packs. But at least he did some research.
4.Not Counting Your Change — Seems like an easy one doesn’t it? But a lot of the time we get complacent, and assume the best intentions in everyone. Once in an Egyptian market, a shady stall owner tried to give me piastres instead of pounds. (Google the difference — it can really add it). I had been in the country for a few weeks at that point, so easily noticed the difference. When you first arrive in a country though, lots of the time we’re more concerned about putting our money away than actually counting it, and only notice any shortfall later on.
5.Gizmos — How many of you travel with laptops, smartphones, iPhones, GPS, or other electronic gadgets? We live in a digital age, and we like to stay connected. Sometimes we forget that some of these gizmos cost more than some people make in an entire month. So obviously, they are easy targets. This is definitely one area where the motto “If you got it, flaunt it” does not apply, so try to keep these goodies under wraps whenever possible.