When you’re traveling, how actively should you be thinking about your safety? On your adventure, your sense of self-preservation will simultaneously be heightened and stunted. Stumbling dazed off an eight-hour bus and into the hands of eager tuk-tuk drivers; sleeping in the same room with different strangers every night; choosing food off a strange menu and hoping that it won’t upset your stomach… all of these experiences and more will dazzle and daze.
While you obviously want to be vigilant while traveling, maybe you feel like a paranoid bore for checking your money stash 15 times a day, or wonder if you’re developing OCD tendencies for checking that your lock is truly locked not once, not twice, but three times. After all, the other backpackers are so effortless in their dress and casual-cool mannerisms; surely it would be uncool of you to worry about things like theft.
It only takes one instance, though, for something bad to happen.
I had a sobering reminder of this on my very first day in Bangkok. A girl in my dorm room had all of her cash stolen from her money belt, which she had placed along with some other things in her locked locker. I spent the day having a passenger seat to a backpacker’s worst nightmare. Accompanying her to the police station to fill out a police report that will do nothing. Dealing with the manager, who declared that he would help us as much as he could but then muttered (in Thai) about how she was stupid. Speaking to the owner, who became increasingly sketchy, secretive, and unsympathetic, and refused to speculate on how a well-hidden stash of money in a padlocked locker could have been taken without hostel worker involvement.
It got worse. The girl fortunately had a friend in Bangkok whose father was a retired lawyer. He showed up when the talk with the owner wasn’t going well and got into a shouting match. The girl ended up having to leave the hostel in a hurry. It sounded like the situation had touched upon something illegal. The whole ordeal was exhausting, but you can bet that after that revelation, I wasn’t able to fall asleep anytime soon.
It can be easy to forget to be vigilant when you’re backpacking for a long time. But you should never forget that you are traveling, that no matter how long you stay at one hostel, it is not your home. And just as you should not treat a public space as your own private living room, clipping your toenails or arguing with your boyfriend/girlfriend over the phone, so you should remember that you can’t just strew your valuables around.
So, have a bit of self-preservation. As a PSA, don’t stay at The Blocks Hostel in Bangkok, which is where the above nightmare went down. It’s a new-ish hostel, and the owner’s reaction to this incident suggests that legal issues might be a bit… circumspect. Exactly what you want to hear about your legal rights as well as the safety of your belongings, right?
Traveling is an amazing experience, but help avoid it turning into a nightmare by keeping a good head on your shoulders and practicing vigilance. In my next post, I’m going to compile a list of safety tips to help you while you’re traveling. How do you keep your belongings safe while traveling? Write your tips below and I can add them to my list.