Boxing Day in London (December 26) I got back to the hostel after a day outside London, put my purse in my locker, grabbed my laptop and was about to sit on my bed when I changed my mind. I’d be somewhat sociable and go upstairs to the common room to check out the internet. I was up there for an hour or so dinking around on the computer and then decided it was time to go back down stairs. When I went into the dorm room I saw someone unfamiliar, because it was Boxing Day not many people were staying at the hostel. I said “Hi” with a bit of curiosity, but he acknowledged me, passed me and left.
I heard a bit of whistling as he went down the stairs. Strange … I always wondered about a Russian belief: whistling = a loss of money. Now I get it.
About two seconds later, when I passed the bunks, I noticed my locker was open. What? And my purse was open … shit! Horrible thoughts raced through my head. Not thinking what I would do if I saw him, I bolted back out the door, down the stairs, and stuck my head out on the street. My heart was pounding. Of course the guy was nowhere in sight, and if he had been, what would I have done anyway? He was a tall guy and probably worked out. I went back inside, locked the door, went back up to the room to check the damage.
First: passport? Still have it.
Second: credit cards and debit cards? Still have them.
Third: cash? Gone. Luckily I only had twenty pounds in my possession.
Then I thought, how coincidental – had I not gotten lost and needed a taxi to get back, I wouldn’t have had cash and who knows what he would have taken to get the money he thought he needed. This well-dressed, good-looking thief took all the cash I had but left all the things I place value on: my camera, my New Years dress, my passport, my cards, my recent purchases. The main thing he shattered was my trust in my safety and security. Because of this, I went back upstairs to let the other guys at the hostel know that they should check their stuff. After that, the doors to the dorm room stayed locked, the host let me put my things in his office, and I didn’t let my purse out of my sight (yes, I slept with it).
Later, I reflected and thought back through all my missteps. Firstly, when I picked out my locker I knew it wasn’t that secure – you could easily pull at the door because the lock was a bit bent. Secondly, not keeping my purse with me. How hard is it to just carry it around the hostel? Thirdly, not listening to my intuition the whole way through from the locker to the use of internet. Finally, I decided that everything happened the way it did for a reason – theoretically if I had been downstairs the guy would have turned around and left, but something worse could have happened. Also, I came down after he had rummaged through all of my things and gotten what he wanted – if I had come in the middle, he may have just stuffed my purse into his backpack. Obviously he felt like he needed the money and really, if you are that desperate, you can just have it …
Traveling has a learning curve and thank goodness I just lost cash.