My Bag was stolen in Germany
You have heard stories from countless travellers at hostels, but you never thought it would happen to you.. until it does. My day pack was stolen from me when I was waiting for my friend in Cologne, Germany. My laptop, passport, camera equipment, and worst of all, my external hard drive with 17,000 photos and videos of my 2 years trip abroad disappeared.. just like that.Table of Contents
- How it Happened
- How to deal with it
- What I would do differently
How it Happened
Nothing went according to my plan that day. I was in Erlangen, visiting a friend and I missed my first bus to Cologne due to unexpected railroad construction that delayed all trains in and out of the station (Yay for German punctuality). I had to book a later bus on the spot which arrived late at night at Leverkusen Bf.. or so I thought. I told my friend to pick me up at the Leverkusen Bf but apparently, the bus dropped me off at the Cologne HBF instead. It was 10pm, and as you could imagine, I was dead tired by then and that was when everything falls apart.
As I was eating my Currywurst like a god damn tourist in front of McDonald's, I put my big backpack down and my daypack on the side. I sat on top of my big backpack and started to text my friend letting her know my new pick up spot, completely forgotten that my daypack was not wrapped around my arms. At one point, someone threw a coin near me. I did not look then.. until one guy came up to me and told me it was mine. Naturally, when someone poked you, you turned and looked and so I did and that was when the other guy took my daypack.
I told him it was not mine, and he suddenly told me that my bag was stolen. Obviously, the thief was unable to run or create much fuzz so he could not have been far when I realized but this guy misdirected me and told me that the thief went inside the train station. My heart sank further and further as I was unable to track the thief. By then I realized that all was lost. I came back, and as expected, the other guy was gone.
There is a German phrase that described perfectly what has descended upon me that day:
"Ein Unglück kommt selten allein."
Which loosely means, when shit happens, it happens hard!!
So what did I do next? I followed these steps. Here are a few things you should do right after something like this happen:
How to deal with it
0. Don't lose your shit (physically)
This may be counterproductive but the easiest way out is not to get your shit stolen in the first place. Always wrap your belongings around your arms especially in crowded areas like the train/bus stations in big cities. Don't let your guard down. Not even when you are tired because if you do.. you bet your ass there will be someone waiting to take advantage of that. The world is a cruel cruel place sometimes.
1. Don't lose your shit (mentally)
Don't panic when it happens. Keep calm and start evaluating what you lost and find the most reasonable next step. To keep your mind at ease, don't worry too much about things that are replaceable like a laptop or a passport. That can be managed later.
It is good to run this scenario in your mind before it happened sometime so you can act promptly when it does. Since I'm traveling all the time, I knew this was going to happen someday and so I had my passport copied and saved on my Dropbox while all work-related documents backed-up on Google Drive.
2. File a Police report
This is very important. You will need the police report to get your temporary passport at the embassy when you apply for one later. It may be difficult to attain one at the scene but do try to find the nearest police station and file one.
In the case for the German police, I was unable to get one at the train station because the police said they were overwhelmed with similar cases. There were at least 4 victims in the past 5 minutes and some of the police forces were on duty helping the refugees. Thankfully, the German police system is all connected so I was able to file a report at a village where my friends live. It also helps to have someone who speaks the language (Thank you Nicole and Tobi!) as the process can be long and confusing.
3. Find the embassy and get your passport
With your police report, find the nearest embassy or consulate and get your temporary passport. The nearest Thai embassy was in Berlin so I took a bus directly there the next day and got my stuff sorted in one day. No trouble at all.
The documents I prepared were printed out copies of the police report, my passport and my national ID card, 2 photos I took from the photo machine found in any U Bahn station, and a filled-in lost passport form I got at the embassy. Twenty minutes later, I have my temporary passport.
4. Go on a shopping spree
Some people might not have the luxury to go back home right away so finding a new replacement for your lost items is your next step. It's probably one of the best part of this shitstorm as well.
Buying an interantional Macbook Pro in Germany is a pain in the ass
Since I have to constantly work when I travel, my MacBook was a priority and boy was it difficult to get one in Germany. The problem with buying a MacBook in Germany was that they only have a German keyboard in stock. There were some online stores that sell MacBooks with the US keyboard but you need to have a German credit card to order one so that plan went out the window. To make matter worst, it takes at least a week to order from the Apple online store and I was unable to wait that long.
I eventually found a perfect solution to my Macbook problem. It was Amazon UK and its ridiculously fast delivery. I ordered a Macbook Pro with a US keyboard from Amazon UK with one day delivery. I shipped the package to my hostel and got the package the next day. Yay for first world infrastructure!
5. Suck it and move on
It was my fault.. there is no denying that. I completely accept it the moment I realized my bag was gone forever. You can not blame anyone and you can not expect anyone to be responsible for your belongings. It took me a while to let go of the fact that I lost 17,000 travel photos and videos but I had to and I did. Don't be too hard on yourself. Shit happens. Give yourself some time to recover. I had my friends to comfort me when I was in Cologne and that helped a lot.
6. Have fun with it
"How the fuck would I have fun with the situation?", you may ask. Well, I don't know about you but since my MacBook Air was stolen and with iCloud, I can lock, and send a personalized message to the thief, I had been sending some very insulting personal messages to the thief. Something along this line...
"The Interpol will fuck you up when you least expected.. while you are taking a shit. Prepare your anus."
What I would do differently
Do you remember the feeling after you woke up and realized that it was just a bad dream? Well, I felt the opposite when I woke up because my shit was still stolen. Many times, I amused myself by imagining what I would do differently if I could turn back time.
1. Backup my photos and videos
I knew I should have done this.. but I was always procrastinating and ended up believing that I would never have my hard drive stolen. Boy how I was wrong. Backup your photos and videos somewhere safe and do it regularly.
Due to my negligence, I lost all my photos and videos of my time in Lyon and Mont Blanc (!) without any kind of back up. Oh, the 12 hours like I did in Chamonix and all the great photos of the French Alps..
2. Keep all my valuables with me at all time
The keyword here is "with me". Because I had my wallet, camera, and phone with me in my jacket, I was able to prevent the situation from being "bad" to "fuck my life".
3. Spread my valuables in different places
Do not put all your eggs in one basket. I did spread my valuables out but it was not enough. I should have put my hard drive in my big backpack. Here is what I would do, I would keep the most important stuff in the inside pockets of my jacket, the second important stuff in my backpack, and the least in my daypack. The likeliness of people stealing your daypack is much higher than your 15 kgs backpack.
4. Attached all my belongings to me at all time
I usually wrapped my bags around my arms at all time but due to my tiredness and not wanting to spill Currywurst on my precious daypack, I let my guard down and put my daypack on the side. That was the decision I will regret for many weeks to come.
5. Stand somewhere less crowded
Nothing screams that you are a vulnerable tourist than an Asian looking person with his backpacks on the floor standing in front of McDonald's eating Currywurst at 10 pm. That was a dead giveaway.
6. Don't get distracted by anything
Do not get distracted by anything in crowded areas if you did not expect to be distracted by one.
7. Get all my expensive items insured
Last but not least, I wish I had all the expensive items like laptops insured so at least I can buy a new one if things like this happen again. I did have a travel insurance but it only covers health and stolen items in case of break-in robbery only, so I did not get compensated for this situation.
If you are looking for a travel insurance that will covers this kind of situation, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use now to look for a travel insurance that fits my travel. They are geared towards digital nomads and savvy travelers so all your expensive items like laptop and cameras will be covered by their insurance. Give them a go.
If you are reading this, you are either a victim already or just curious how these thieves operate. No matter what situation you are in, just remember to keep calm and move on. Don't let bad people ruin your trip. Anything can be replaced.. even memories. I now have a reason to go back to all those places I'd been in the past 2 years. Go out there and show the world how strong you are.
Have you ever had your bags stolen when you are traveling? If so, where and how did it happen? Let's share your experience in the comments below so people can learn from our mistakes.
Looking for more inspirational articles? Check out The Solo Traveler’s Inspiration section where we will discuss topics related to the nomadic and traveling lifestyle and shower-thoughts that will invoke wanderlust in all of us.
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