So today, as I sit here in Nice breaking in a new laptop with a weird-ass Spanish keyboard because my old one was stolen along with my backpack and a bunch of other stuff by lowlife scumbags in Barcelona, I thought I might offer up a few travel tips. I’ve had an eventful couple of days and I have learned a few things that I’d like to share.
1) Don’t help out strangers – It’s a brutal truth, but when you are on your own, your first priority has to be yourself. There is simply no one else you can depend on. There are a hundred variations on this scam, but let’s take this not-so-hypothetical situation: you are out enjoying the day and shooting a few photos when someone comes up and asks if you would take a picture of them. In fact, he doesn’t even ask, he pantomimes taking the photo, because he doesn’t speak the language. Your natural reaction might be to say “Sure” and help them out. Perfectly understandable and, unfortunately, dead wrong. Your reaction should be to say “No”, then glare at them till they go away. It may seem harsh, but think about it. If you take their point-and-shoot, then your focus is on them, not your stuff, for at least 15 seconds or so. If they are pros and working with a partner, that’s all it takes for your bag to disappear. I don’t care how innocent they look or how reasonable the request. Maybe the guy is Asian and looks like a typical tourist. Or maybe it’s an adorable French couple. It really doesn’t matter. You want to keep your stuff? The answer is “No”.
2) Back up your photos on-line – A no-brainer and the thing I am truly kicking myself about. Except for what I have posted on Facebook, I’ve lost all of my photos from my trip. That really hurts, but I’m trying not to dwell on it. I’ve still got eleven months left, a lot more photos to take, and I need to make sure this doesn’t happen again, so I’m looking at options. I’ll figure something out soon.
3) Don’t go to Barcelona – I know how to use Google, so I knew Barcelona had a reputation as a thieves’ paradise before I went there. But I figured, I’ve done a lot of traveling in my life, I know how to take care of myself. Those people were just careless. Right. Look, it’s open season on tourists in Barcelona and has been for years. If the city or the police cared, they would have done something about it by now. So if that’s the case, why spend your tourist dollars there? Barcelona does not have the market cornered on pretty scenery and good food. They can be found all over Europe so do yourself a favor and give Barcelona a pass. It’s not worth the risk right now. Unless you want to go through the experience of replacing your stuff in a country where you don’t know the language, don’t know the stores, and end up paying too much for things that aren’t quite what you want, but will just have to do. Like a laptop with a weird-ass Spanish keyboard.
It would be cool if these are the only hard lessons I learn on the road, but suspect there will be more to come. Stay tuned…