What We Lost: Burgled On A Bus

Although we were careful with our belongings, we must have become complacent during our travels.  Bad luck finally caught up with us and we became the victims of theft.

We arrived home to our apartment in Manta in the early evening after a long day of travel.  We had begun at 6:45 with a taxi ride on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos to catch a bus to the ferry that took us across to Baltra Island.  From there we flew back to the Ecuadorian mainland into the large port city of Guayaquil and grabbed a taxi to reach the bus station.  After buying our tickets we scrambled a bit to find our departure point and made the bus with only minutes to spare.  We settled in to our comfortable seats for the three-and-a-half hour ride back to Manta and the last taxi taking us (finally!) home.

photo available from http://www.canstockphoto.com

photo available from http://www.canstockphoto.com

We arrived home tired but very happy with our visit and began unpacking our carry-ons, piling up dirty laundry and putting our things away.  And then we turned our attention to our backpacks.  With a sinking feeling I pulled out the bag with the charging cords (camera, I-pod, Kindle) and didn’t see my camera wrapped in its bright blue woven bag from Guatemala.  I pulled out the charging cord and mouse for my computer and, with a slow, sick feeling growing in my stomach, made sure all the compartments were empty.  I compulsively patted my backpack front and back. I looked around at my belongings strewn across the bed, checked under each item and verified that my computer, wrapped in its green padded bag, was also gone.  I twisted my backpack side to side as if my computer might magically reappear but the bag was still empty – the camera and computer still gone.

We had taken turns taking pictures on our cameras of all our sight-seeing in the Galapagos Islands and had carefully downloaded the photos each night when we returned to our hotel in case one of the cameras was damaged or lost.  Our Wi-Fi was so slow that uploading our photos to Dropbox, our cloud-based storage file, to back them up wasn’t really an option.  However, we thought we’d pretty much covered the bases…

When did the theft occur? Our best guess is that it happened on the bus from Guayaquil to Manta.

The first suspicious incident happened when an official looking man asked us to move from our assigned seats to more inviting seats towards the front of the bus which we complied with.  However, the rightful passengers appeared shortly and requested their assigned seats. At this time an official in the uniform of Riena Del Camino, the bus line, assisted us and back we went to our original seats.  Both times our attention was divided between picking up our backpacks and gathering up the items we had removed and then stumbling along the narrow aisle while curious onlookers watched.

The second suspicious incident happened when I noticed that my pack had fallen on its back by my feet and was slightly pushed under the back seat rather than leaning against the bus side on my left where I’d first placed it.  Thinking that the bus movement had shifted its balance I moved it upright again without checking the contents.

The important questions are: “What have we really lost?”

  • One of two of our fairly new computers with the contents mostly backed up and recoverable. One of two of our small cameras with over half of our photos of the amazing Galapagos.
  • Our “travel virginity.” In return we gained the realization that we were singled out as vulnerable targets.
  • And, maybe, our faith in the travel gods. Our future journeys may always include less trust in the people around us.  We’ll be more watchful, more guarded and possibly more suspicious.

    photo available from http://www.canstockphoto.com

    photo available from http://www.canstockphoto.com

We live a minimalistic lifestyle as long-term travelers with each item carefully selected and chosen.  But the loss of a computer and camera is much more than the loss of a few of our possessions.  It’s about the diminution of our confidence in ourselves and the people around us who we had formerly greeted with open smiles and trust.

Something’s changed.  Call us less naïve and complacent…. and tally up a small win for the dark side.

By Anita and Richard

 

 

 

52 comments

  • Anita, for many reasons, this is a very sad and scary tale. Sad for the physical loss and all it entails, and scary, because if it can happen to highly experienced and vigilant travelers like you, it can happen to anyone. One thing that traveling as a couple has taught us is that having two people paying attention helps so much. But as your experience shows, no one can be on all the time, and clever, experienced thieves can trick anyone. I know that this is an older post, and it probably doesn’t feel great to relive it, but you’ve done a good thing for fellow travelers. It helps to hear another scam and technique that is being used out there. Also, I’m sure that you learned a few things that you changed to prevent it happening again. And the good news: the bastards didn’t get you down. You’re still out there, and good on ya. ~James

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks James for your comment! It’s kind of fun to revisit an older post from time to time. It’s been well over a year since we were “victims” but we’ve never forgotten the feeling of vulnerability and the lessons learned after being a target of theft. For a while I felt like our biggest loss was trust but we’ve slowly regained that (with a dash of healthy skepticism!) along with our faith in the travel gods. Even though this post is an older one I’m hoping that its message is still relevant: be aware of what’s going on around you, listen to your internal warning system when something is a bit off and be diligent about backing up everything. We’re so lucky that, except for the photos, what we lost could be replaced. I think however, that travelers need to mix in stories about things that go wrong – sometimes the tales are even entertaining and can be educational, too. There’s a lot of fun, awesome photos and beautiful sights but there’s also the less likable people that you meet along the way or the heartbreaking stories (I’m thinking of the Syrian refugees that you wrote about several months ago) and the in-your-face filth and poverty that we’ve seen too. Lots of things to learn, people to meet and places to see – and luckily, the bastards are few and far between! 🙂 Anita

      Liked by 1 person

  • It’s sad when we lose some of our innocence about thieves’ behavior. When I was in Slovakia, one day I had to literally beat off two gypsies with my umbrella who were trying to open my friend’s backpack and steal the contents. Fortunately, they ran off without getting anything. We just have to be more vigilant.

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  • I am so sorry to read this, I am however grateful that you shared it with us. I really do need to be very careful wherever we go.

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  • I love you Anita…Please be safe 🙂

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    • Oh, how terrific to hear from you! Hope you’re happy and well and enjoying life as much as we’re enjoying our travels. Luckily, we’ve only had one occasion where we’ve felt unsafe and we’ve learned to listen to our “Spidey Sense” as well as the person who feels that a situation is “off”. So here’s to wiser travel and more awareness, too!

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  • Sorry to hear of your loss on all counts. It’s hard to imagine how the thieves could have been so swift as you didn’t seem to have been inattentive for much time at all. A computer is a large item to lift away easily. Godo thing you;re so organized to have backed up most of your photos. Kudos to you for keeping a positive attitude.

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    • The attitude is everything, isn’t it? After a couple of days and a “grieving period” at the loss we’ve decided not to make this theft more important than it really is in the scheme of things. For sure we’ll be more aware of the people around us but we still feel safe and don’t want to lose any of the joy we take in traveling to new places.

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  • Sounds like you came out “lucky” if you have most or all of your photos! Still, of course, this is so unfortunate.

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    • One of the reasons we each had a camera and computer was exactly because we were trying to anticipate an event like this occurring and take steps to keep the damage to a minimum. Luckily, we did have some of the photos left and our files were almost all backed up. We’re safe and healthy and we’ll just pay better attention in the future!

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  • Hate to hear about the theft. The few times we have been victims it really bugged us for a while, both the loss of trust and feeling stupid for not taking better care. Buses are notoriously bad so a little paranoia is not misplaced when traveling on them.

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  • I feel you there… I got burgled many times too, the last one was my phone! And it’s incredible how people have the cold blood to take what’s not theirs, they never try to return it!

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    • So sorry that this experience has happened to you, not once but several times as it’s a terrible feeling to be taken advantage of or ripped off. When you’re traveling your possessions are already whittled down to the essentials so losing anything is difficult. Hopefully this doesn’t occur to you nor us again in the future…

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  • Thank you so much for sharing this unfortunate event. Kudos to you for not letting it spoil your journey, even though it did take away the trust we work so hard to find. We always think “it can’t happen” or “people are good” but it’s a hard lesson for us travelers to learn. Maybe we’ll all be a little more aware thanks to you! 🙂 Safe travels!

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  • I read this the other evening and saved it until I had time to respond. I understand how difficult it is to lose your “travel virginity”. We’ve been there, done that, too. After mourning for the loss of our things, I awoke one morning determined to change my attitude. I felt bitter and angry. That was no way to live. I was damned if I was going to let a few material possessions determine my place in the world. I can’t live with anger and paranoia. For a while, I “pretended” that I was better, but it took a long time to lose the “bad tude” and learn to trust again. It is a fine line we walk, wanting to show compassion and understanding, while living and traveling among the most poverty stricken people in developing countries. I will never know or completely understand their acts of desperation. But, I will be more aware of my surroundings from now on.

    I am truly sorry this happened to you. It was bound to happen eventually, but gosh!!! Just when you bought new computers and cameras! Isn’t that always the way it happens? Keep the joy within your travels. I for one, absolutely love your adventures…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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    • Your comment was absolutely beautiful and so appreciated. Here we’ve been rather smug about not being so attached to our material possessions but we’ve found out that yes, we do love the convenience and functionality of our electronics. We have, however, decided that this event won’t affect our feelings about Ecuador nor its friendly and lovely people.

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  • That’s very unfortunate and you’re right, they are replaceable things. As for the photos, I understand your loss, I’ve lost photos before and have since started saving them to the Cloud and an external hard drive.

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    • Before the theft we would back up our photos after editing and sorting. However, one of the changes we’ve made since is uploading the unedited photos to the cloud. Your idea of the external hard drive is great, though, and I’ll have to use the one we have for unedited photos. Definitely faster than loading them to DropBox on a slow WI-Fi connection!

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  • So sorry to hear this. I’d be very upset if my camera and laptop were stolen, but I also understand the loss of trust feeling like the greatest loss. I hope it doesn’t taint your future travels. Although you may be more wary, I hope you can still greet people with smiles. Most are not out to rob you (although it isn’t always easy to identify those who are).

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  • It’s always a nasty shock when you’re robbed while travelling. And such a pity that you lost the photos. But the thieves can’t take your memories of where you’ve been.

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  • Sorry to hear about the theft. But all things considered, you have traveled a lot and afar with not many incidents. Thank God you are both still healthy and safe. The memories may not be saved by will be remembered in any case. Be safe my friends.

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  • I am so sorry to hear about what happened!! I am so glad that you two are ok though. Things can be bought but I agree with you, you have lost your traveling trust! Best of luck in the following months!

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  • So sorry. Just set your mind to think they may have needed it more…. when people take the floral decorations off of mom and chuck crypt, that is the only thing I can say to comfort myself.

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    • Jan, if there is some techno wizzard out there who is using Windows 8, have at it, fellow. And the camera w/out the charger is of little value in any lasting sense. But it was an opportunistic crime which yields variable results. The tightening of the “security valve” is the most onerous result for us. But it, like all minor traumas, will fade with time and normalcy,or what supplants itself for the same during long term travel, will again assert itself. As to the low life who lifted the arrangement from your mother’s grave, well “May the Bird of Paradise fly up your nose….” Regards, Dick and Nita

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  • So sad! Unfortunately there are so many other areas of our world where trust is broken. It can be a struggle to remain positive, but being grateful every day and every night for our blessings can keep a smile on our face and in our hearts.

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  • So sorry for you two, my stomach was in a knot reading your story. Its a shame that real-life incidents like yours happen, reminding us to be cautious on the road, clearly not an easy task. – Ginette

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    • Thanks, Ginette. There are so many ways and things to divert one’s attention besides the ordinary distractions and confusion of the journey itself. We’ve been shown many kindnesses and given much helpful advice by locals and we need to keep this at the center of our thoughts rather than an unfortunate incident.

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  • Dick and Nita, how very sad. This is a good reminder to all travelers that it is so very important to be vigilant at all times keeping track of everything. It is very easy to relax after so many safe and trouble free trips. I’m glad you are both safe and it was not worse but I do empathize with the loss of trust. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  • I’m sorry for your loss but understand completely how the most valued possession you’ve had was really lost: your trust. Cameras and computers can be replaced like all material things, but one’s faith in people can never be totally restored after an event like that. Thankfully, though, as someone also has said, it wasn’t a robbery and neither one of you were physically harmed.

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  • I’m so sorry you guys. I know how upset we were when Ken’s phone was stolen (with all our contacts). Now you’re down to sharing a computer like we did. Thankfully is was a theft and not a robbery, so glad you’re both OK.

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  • Thank you for sharing your story. Other than keeping everything on your lap during the entire trip there was obviously nothing you could do against what seems a very orchestrated and targeted theft. How disappointing but they don’t win unless you let them win.

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  • So sorry … I had my laptop & seagate external drive stolen a month ago. I totally agree that it isn’t the physical stuff that was stolen that bothers me the most … it’s the loss of trust. Am totally jealous of your tip to the Galapagos though … can’t wait to get there ourselves.

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    • Now it’s my turn to say I’m sorry that had to happen to you, Marty! Such an ugly feeling to feel so vulnerable and lose a bit of the confidence in others that we had… As for the Galapagos – we’ll be writing about it of course (including our costs) but let me know if you have any questions when you get ready to go as we have a ton of research all compiled that will save you some time.

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  • My heart goes out to you for your loss of trust and valuable equipment. A very hard lesson to learn. But you have learned it too well. Keep the joy in your journey!

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