This isn’t going to be easy for me; in fact, if I’m not careful this may descend into a barrage of cursing and swearing before it’s over.
This is the story of my darkest ever travel experience, the story of a stupid backpacker who let his attention slip for just one second and ended up paying for it with his passport.
I was robbed in Spain.
It happened a few years ago and I’m still sore as hell about it.
On our last night in Valencia we hit it pretty hard, eating and drinking, dancing and laughing, posing for dorky photographs and saying good bye to all the brilliant friends we made on the trip.
So it was fair to say we’d both seen better days when we went to Valencia’s train station the next morning, backpacks and day-packs in tow, ready to climb aboard a train to Madrid.
We had time to kill so we stopped in a little cafe inside the station. Nic went up to order a couple of orange juices and when she returned my day pack was gone.
“Where’s your bag?”
Just like that; it was gone.
Both our passports, my netbook computer, a half-read novel, a half-finished bottle of vodka, a Nandos loyalty card with a whole chicken owing on it – all gone.
I sprinted out of the cafe, heart pumping, head spinning, gut wrenching, searching for any sign of my backpack and the asshole who stole it.
Oh, the things I would do to that piece of shit Please, please, please find them, please find them. I want to break their nose, kick their head in, smash their face in and…
…tear my own eyes out for being so incredibly stupid!
And this is the real kicker: I was sitting not three feet from a policeman when my bag was stolen.
I was in the corner of the room, on a stool, with a wall immediately to my right and a supposedly locked door behind me, two policemen drinking coffee to my left.
Assuming that door behind me really was locked and I wasn’t the victim of an elaborate crime ring set up by the cafe itself, the scumbag must have walked past me and the cops to pick up my bag from down by my feet and then walk past us again and out the front door.
The police, of course, were useless. I guess they see a lot of this sort of crime in Spain because they barely batted an eyelid.
In fact, we were told to report the crime when we got to Madrid.
I’m still angry, hurt and disgusted – but mostly at myself for letting it happen.
It’s sullied my memories of a country that I loved until then. I hated Madrid after that – and who could blame me?
We felt sorry for ourselves; we couldn’t sleep; we couldn’t relax; we missed our flight back to the United Kingdom while we waited for replacement passports.
And the experience has changed my whole outlook on travel.
Nowadays I’m too scared to let go of my backpack – and when I walk around airports and train stations all I see are opportunities for thieves to steal other travellers’ bags.
Our travel insurance didn’t save the day, either. Those dirt bags made us fight for every penny we did eventually get back – some of it six months after the event.
So be careful out there, everyone. Don’t let a moment of stupidity ruin a holiday for you. Get good travel insurance – just in case – and watch out for scumbags looking for a quick pay day.
Just like the Spanish inquisition, nobody ever expects it.