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Turns Out I WAS Robbed During Those 9 Months Abroad?!

Keyhole peeking
Who has been snooping in my bag??

I was just about to bang out a post on ways to make it through nine months of travel without being robbed, when I decided to take a quick unpacking break.

Ten minutes in, it became clear: my secret stash of Travelers Cheques was gone. After thirty minutes of searching, I called the American Express hotline.

“Hmm,” said the helpful agent, “our computers are showing that all those checks were cashed in early April.”

“ALL of them?!” I gasped.

“All ten of them,” he replied.

Elche, Spain
Theft or no, this photo of Elche, Spain is lovely

“There’s no way it was me who did that,” I exclaimed. “I was busy moving from Ghana to Portugal to Spain, and I remember deciding not to cash any Travelers Cheques in Africa or Iberia because the fees were too high!”

“Then let’s file a claim,” replied the agent. And we did.

The good news is I’m confident the investigation will prove the theft and thus get me reimbursed. Therefore, this robbery is one of the best possible types: non-violent, solvable, and non-emergency-causing.

But the question remains: WHAT THE HECK?! When and where did some mystery person go spelunking into the deepest and smelliest part of my blue backpack without me noticing?

Query: What is YOUR take on the accepted travel advice that you should store money, identification, and Travelers Cheques throughout different parts of your bag? Because now that I think about it, that’s where I went wrong.

Throughout these nine months around the world, I always kept my major valuables (passport, money, credit cards, computer, chargers) in my daypack and money belt, which I wore on the front of my body and locked up every night.

My emergency Travelers Cheques stash, however, was in a secret, hard-to-get-to section of my main backpack, which I did not always lock because I figured my smelly socks would throw robbers off the scent, and because hostel lockers are often too small to fit a whole hiking bag.

Palms in Elche, Spain
The palm forest in Elche, Spain: a World Heritage Site

Perhaps I should have kept all my stashes, back-up and non, in the daypack to lock? But that somehow seems riskier. No chicken likes a single basket holding all her eggs. Maybe I should have put the checks with my bras or tampons instead of in that slightly more obvious compartment? Who knows.

Within four weeks, American Express will send me a letter with the results of their fraud investigation: Which country the checks were cashed in (any bets on Spain versus Ghana versus Portugal?), and what method the person used to cash them.

Wouldn’t the robber have had to show “my” passport to use them? If he or she did indeed show a passport, then perhaps I have a bigger issue on my hands: some strange clone passport roaming the world.

Or it could be that the thief was an employee of one of the hundreds of hostels I stayed in, given that the receptionists often take copies of passports and have keys to each room. But it feels so cynical to suspect that.

Regardless, in moments like this, I always think back to my friend Marleny’s mother’s wise Dominican adage: “Mistakes cost either time, money, or life.”

What happy good fortune that this mistake will likely cost only time.


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coffee in a cup

Friday 12th of July 2013

you san still say you survived 9 months of travelling without being robbed because i believe the definition of 'robbed' is if someone takes your property by force or threat, which is not what happened in your case. the boyfriend and i were physically attacked by three boys/men during broad daylight on the streets of bogotá and that what you would say was a full on robbery. how i wish it was only pick pocketing or a simple theft :(


Friday 12th of July 2013

So sorry to hear that! Thank you for sharing your story.


Wednesday 13th of February 2013

There are other ways to "rob" you. When we returned from Spain, my husband checked the credit card bill at the end of the month, only to realize that we had been charged 320 Euro extra charges. We contacted the travel agency and were told, that these charges were raised for a few issues, which were not raised while returning the car and we had the signed receipt. The credit card bank filed a claim and after a few communications, unwillingly, we got our 320 Euro back. You have to check and double check.

We have had issues of not getting a the rt amount back for a change at the restaurant (Dubai), old and invalid currency given back as change (Turkey), overrated "Taxi" - double the price (Abu Dhabi) , overpriced silver jewellry (Turkey) - it doesn't need to be the cash from your can be many varities and that spoils the day/the trip.


Wednesday 13th of February 2013

So true!

Kevin Armstrong

Wednesday 5th of January 2011

That is scarey to know that someone went through your things without you know for so long. I would have been mad too but did you ever get the money back?

Keiana Cox

Monday 13th of December 2010

That must've been very frusterating,I know I would have been really mad ! But once again like someone already said, you should keep extra money somewhere(maybe you sock/shoe). But remember we always learn from our mistakes and become stronger learning what we did wrong so that we never make the same mistake again...

Daniel Rodriguez

Sunday 12th of December 2010

We all learn our lessons sooner or later but at least now you know to keep Travelers Cheques with you along with your other valuables in your day bag. Surprisingly I haven't lost or had anything stolen in my travels, which worries me a little because I know its coming.

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