While on the road – alone – it can be challenging. Everyone is a stranger. And if your parents or guardians told you to not talk to stranger when you were a kid growing up and you want to keep following that adage – you’d be inadvertently on a silent retreat.
Sooner or later, you will HAVE to talk to a stranger… for directions, for help, to check into your new accommodation.
Then if you’re on a budget and staying in dorm rooms, there comes another level of interaction with strangers. No you’re not sharing a bed with them but you are paying to share a confined space with them. Your personal space is a little smaller. All your current personal belongings on display.
Personally I have never had the need to share a room with a complete stranger until I started my solo travels. Yes I was fortunate – I did not share a room with my brothers or cousins when we traveled. I tend to trust people by default – some times I trusted too much.
Some hostels, pensions or whatever they are called in your destination provide a locker for all or part of your belongings. Some do not.
Question: What happens when one of your roommate is intentionally waiting for the opportunity to steal from you?
Such was the case for me when I was in Antalya, Turkey.
Typically when traveling, reminders are everywhere. In the Metro stations of Paris, the public announcements for tourists are broadcasted in several languages to remind their passengers.
“Beware of Pickpockets”
“Be Careful with Your Belongings”
People wear their backpacks in front of their body, as do I. Some like myself, wear their purse across their body and make sure the bag is in front. Constant reminders to be vigilant when the space is crowded.
However, it wasn’t the locals I had to worry about. In Antalya, it was a fellow traveler with a Brazilian passport who stole from me in our dorm room.
When I met her, introductions were made, pleasantries exchanged, travel stories shared, added her onto Facebook. She even said she practiced law in Brazil. Everything felt normal except that I noticed she’s traveling with an extremely small backpack for a multi-month, multi-continent journey. She kept it padlocked and the waterproof cover pulled up at all times. Nothing left out, not even her toothbrush. That should’ve raised a red flag. But in my head, I was like oh when will I possibly travel this light?!
Let’s just clarify a few points. I have slept in dorm rooms countless times before this day. Once with over 30 people in the room – Thanks for the memories Jasper, Canada. My preference is 4-bed dorms. 6 and 8-bed dorms starts to push my luck and my buttons. I actually prefer the top bunk. I also prefer mixed dorms – have you seen how some girls claim the whole floor within 5 minutes of their arrival!? Never once have I had to worry about my personal possessions. The biggest worry is how many people will perform their symphony while asleep!
That day I left my purse in the room, on my bed unattended for longer than I intended. When I came back into the room, she was there on her bed reading on her tablet. In my head, I said “Shit.” She asked me to join her to see the sunset, I declined as I went the night before and wanted to stay in. After she left, I opened my wallet to find something – that’s when I noticed some of my money was missing!
How does a person steal from another and then invite them to see the sunset – I have no frigging idea!!
Needless to say, I notified the hostel owner and moved out of that room. Police was notified but they couldn’t do anything.
It was an expensive lesson for me. I was angry and dumbfounded and hurt and ashamed. I was angry at myself. I couldn’t believe her audacity. I couldn’t believe she took the opportunity and stole from me. I couldn’t believe I became a statistic in that exact moment. She was an opportunist.
I will remember her snarky remark after the hostel owner confronted her – “Anyone who leaves their belongings lying around are stupid idiots.” So I deserved the lesson as taught by her – according to her.
How does someone steal from another be so bold and still stays the night. It’s not a common occurrence for me to cross path with such individuals – call me lucky, call me protected, call me naive.
Yes now I have extra appreciation for the accommodations which provide lockers in dorm rooms.
However, it is all dependent on the level of trust I give my new acquaintances. It is sad and unfortunate that I cannot begin with trust. That I have to begin with unease and allow the trust to be built and proven. Apparently this is the world I live in. I do not like this viewpoint, that because of one individual’s actions – I need to stay on the side of caution.
I’ve heard of people stealing from their roommates while they slept, while their electronic devices were charging. Most that I have heard is that they steal as they are leaving town, checking out of the hostel.
Some people travel knowing they will never see or hear from you ever again – so they manufacture fake stories, fake identities, fake backgrounds.