Surviving theft. Shoulda worn that fanny pack.

I had my bag stolen earlier this week in Copenhagen. It was a huge distraction for about 24 hrs, but the upside is that I learned the truth about a few of those things people always warn us about. Hopefully this is helpful to you, but I’m also writing this to remind my future self:

  • Keep your passport not in your bag — like on your “person” or in a safe place in your room. Fortunately I had the prescience to pull my passport and other non-essentials out of my bag before heading out that morning, otherwise I may still be in the land of the Vikings. Although less important and easier to replace, same would be true for keeping your phone charger separate if you’re in a faraway place where you can’t get a replacement charger.
  • Long live the cloud. I was travelling with a small and relatively inexpensive netbook laptop. Because I use it as a secondary computer for travel, it doesn’t contain anything special — it’s essentially a piece of plastic that let’s me access email, calendar, files, and the web, all of which are hosted remotely on google, dropbox, or evernote. I was up and running again within minutes of finding a replacement machine, or using a public terminal. No priceless photos or hard-won music collections lost.
  • You can’t backup your moleskin (or non-hipster equivalent). Pretty obvious, but given how we live in a world of auto-save and redundant backups, it did come as something of a shock to realize that my [analog] notes from the year were unrecoverable. Since I didn’t have any special photos on my camera (see below), this was the most significant loss even though it was the least valuable item in my bag as far as my insurance company is concerned.
  • Download/upload photos frequently when travelling. I didn’t lose more than a few dozen pics, none of which were that special, but it could have been much worse. The lesson for me here was that when travelling and snapping photos, it’s worth downloading from the camera and uploading to web/backup after every batch of photos that you couldn’t bear to lose.
  • Don’t leave your bag even slightly unattended. Ok, right, thanks. Obvious, but my bag was actually attended when it was stolen — on the floor no more than three feet from me/our group. But it was dark and even though it was within my reach, there were plenty of distractions taking my attention away from my bag. So +1 for me for not leaving my bag in the corner or under a pile of coats; -1 for letting the bag out of sight while being obviously American in a foreign city.
  • Identify your privacy threshold.Password protection on my laptop (and phone, which was not stolen) puts my mind at ease that no personal information will get stolen, especially since those dirty thieves are most likely looking to resell the equipment. But if you’re the type of person who takes scandalous pictures with your camera or a high profile individual recording your deepest secrets in a journal, it’s worth thinking about what you’d do if that camera or notebook were taken. I don’t think that means you need to limit your creative expression, but it does make me think twice about what I’ll comfortably keep in my bag when heading out vs securing in my apartment. It used to be that a high schooler’s stolen diary couldn’t make it much farther than a copy machine and the school hallways, but with the permanence of information posted to the internet, a few scans and uploads could be devastating depending on who someone is and what they write.
  • Keep records of major purchases. Once you get a spreadsheet or system going, it shouldn’t be that hard to update every time you get a new ipod or camera, but if you’re filing an insurance claim, it’ll save you a lot of time and hassle digging up model/serial numbers and receipts.

I also learned that the Danes are the nicest people on earth. Everyone in the bar was helpful and sympathetic when I asked them all to move so I could search, the staff were helpful that night and the next day, and filing a police report couldn’t have been a more pleasant experience. My thoughts go out to ocean explorer Roz Savage, an inspired woman who i recently met at the computer terminals at the Fresh Air Center because she too was without her laptop. Almost all of her worldly possessions were taken while in CPH. Check out her post [here] to see if you can help, or just to learn about all of her crazy adventures.

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One thought on “Surviving theft. Shoulda worn that fanny pack.

  1. I can beat that: Pickpockets in Buenos Aires stole my wallet out of my FRONT pocket, took out cash+travelers checks, returned the wallet, and I didn’t even know until 15 minutes later or so. So to your list I would add: if a stranger so much as touches you on the street, check your pockets!

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