After warning people in my cruise lectures about the problems with pickpockets in Barcelona, I was a victim yesterday, for only the second time in almost two decades of European travel. Despite how careful I am to hold my bag close and keep my hand on it, and bandolier it across my chest much of the time, the zipper style allowed someone to pull it down along the back side and reach in from behind.
Things like this can reveal a lot about ourselves to ourselves. We may think we are one way and then stress reminds us we are not what we tell ourselves we are. Or maybe we discover we actually are. It’s an opportunity to learn, and for me that is the silver lining in everything.
Some things I have observed from this:
—I am a lot more confident than I used to be. I didn’t doubt even momentarily that I could solve this problem
—I never for one minute thought anything about my trip, or even the great day I had had, was ruined.
—It didn’t change my view of Barcelona. I was careless, there was a thief around who took advantage. The end.
—I benefited from all the “what if’s” I had thought through before I left—even some I had forgotten about. I have been carrying around some travelers checks since the pre-ATM era, when that was simply what you did. I had thought about cashing them while there was still anyone alive who remembered what they were, but just always liked the feeling of that back up plan. I also totally forgot about the couple of hundred dollar bills I had slipped in with them. Dollars from heaven!
—I don’t freak out any more about setbacks. I just immediately go into the mode of sizing up the problem and what I need to do to get the solution underway. It helps immensely that credit cards can be sent fairly quickly abroad. They will be overnighted at no expense to the customer, and the only delay can be with getting the mail through international customs.
And finally, the single biggest thing I realized in all this is how many friends I have who would help me out in a heartbeat. Taking care of relationships, and treating people with respect and kindness is its own reward, and I really try to do that consistently. Still, the best part was feeling that small army at my back.
So here is my advice: wherever you travel, have a financial backup plan that will get you, without a debit or credit card, through the amount of time it will take to get replacements. In Europe, that will be a week or so as a safe bet. Prepaying as much as you can for things like hotels and tours might be a plan, if you know for sure where you intend to be, as long as there won’t be penalties you can’t live with if your plans change.
Always get travel insurance. It is amazingly cheap, and policies usually include some way of helping you with cash for emergencies. Plus, under some circumstances, you may be able to file a claim for any prepaid things you were unable to do.
I am thinking I might set up a separate emergency bank account with its own debit card that I would keep in the hotel safe with my passport and never carry in my wallet. Sounds a lot better than stashing a week’s worth of cash in a handbag or luggage, or even in a hotel safe.
Put that on my list of things to do when I am home, but for now, it’s morning here, and it is time to go out and enjoy this beautiful city.