At some point in life, I think everyone gets something stolen from them
Whether it’s someone overcharging for a product or service, scams and cons at your door or online, extortion, bribery, or just plain robbed, it does happen. Considering I’ve traveled almost a total of 3 years and stayed in countless hostels and houses, my track record has been pretty good with only two incidents (mugged in Argentina and payed an aggressive taxi driver all my cash in Serbia.)
I thought I’d mostly seen or heard it all, but humanity sometimes shows a new dark side. On Saturday the 24th I was robbed in my hostel in Florence.
I was at a great, small hostel with only 5 beds in my dorm. I got comfortable, probably too comfortable for my own good. When I came back from an exhausting day at museums in Florence, I put my bag down beside my bed, chatted with a new person in my dorm briefly who is from Milan, and laid down to take a nap.
When I woke up, I had notifications from my credit card that there was a large transaction made. Confused, I reached into my bag and my wallet to find my card and gave the company a call. Turns out, there were multiple charges I didn’t make. I thought it was because I made a purchase earlier in the day, and the details were stolen. I thought it was no big deal, one card gone that was clearly fraud, and I can get a new one sent to me.
Then, my other credit card company (my back up card I keep with my passport) got in contact. I was in disbelief... how did someone get my card information when it was locked inside my locker at the hostel, and I had it with my passport? I trusted so much in the others in my room, including the newcomer from Milan, and my locker was still locked with my keys in my bag. The woman from the incidents department for my card even said the transactions were from Milan. It just didn’t register this guy took my bag when I was asleep, took my locker keys, went through my locker, took photos of my credit cards, sent the card details to his buddies, put the cards back, and left the hostel.
It took me a full 30 minutes at least with talking with my credit card companies to check my locker, then to find that not only had my card details but stolen, but also all of my cash I had withdrawn the day before and some Canadian money I had buried in an envelope in my locker. He didn’t steal my passport, my laptop, headphones, or other very valuable items (to me) which I should have felt grateful for. Losing your passport is a nightmare and losing my laptop would cut off my main source of income. I wasn’t grateful for these items until probably 48 hours after the fact.
I rushed out to the hostel staff and told them what happened and to call the owner. They came in the room and sure enough, the guy from Milan had left his keys under his mattress and all of his stuff was gone. He was so organized and convincing that he was another traveler, I still continued to doubt his involvement. The times of the transaction didn’t line up, I thought, I was here in the room the whole time. Then finally, when I started to think about his behaviour and how I was asleep, the wave of feeling violated rushed over me. All the pieces came together and I felt awful.
The hostel owner took me to the police office to also file a report with me, especially since he had the guy’s name, video footage of him, his cell phone number, credit card number he booked the hostel with in his name, and stupidly enough, his Facebook page. For how organized and stealthy he was, he must be an amateur for doing this all under his own name. At the police station I had a lot of time to think while staring at a cement floor and white walls waiting to speak to an officer. I wasn’t angry but I blamed myself for a while for what happened. I realized the money wasn’t what had me upset but the fact I openly trusted a stranger... but that’s what I do. I believe in people and have found being open and accepting of others has given me such a rich life of experiences I would never have had otherwise. Given this, was I now supposed to be closed and guarded like I was when I was younger? Go against what I have tried to become? Those oddly deep inner conversations with myself came out and they are still questions I am trying to resolve.
After this experience of being robbed, as well as my other two incidents previously involving money, I have found that I need to process what happened and not try to bury it in my mind. I need to speak to others I trust as well as try to understand that not everyone is out to get me, but some people with very desperate lives take very desperate measures which unfortunately I was the victim of.
Will this change how I guard my things while traveling going forward? Absolutely. Will this change how I look at other travelers and people I meet? Yes, most likely. Will this stop me from continuing on my journey? Definitely not.
The morning after, I left Florence. I’m now currently on a vineyard in Tuscany volunteering for the grape harvest. The other students, volunteers, and families participating are wonderful people. I couldn’t ask to be in a more positive environment. The cash is gone, new credit cards will arrive eventually, and over time I will add this to my repertoire of very expensive life lessons.
Meander on one day at a time.