How to handle theft while travelling: my experience

Have you ever had something stolen while travelling? Do you want to know some tips on how to handle theft while travelling and even alone? Recently, I went through this experience while visiting Cairns and it both shocked me but it also helped me to learn how to handle it. That’s why I decided to share both this experience and some tips that I found very useful when going through it.

Behind everything that happens in life, there’s always a lesson.
Sometimes it’s a small one while others can be a very impactful one.
Either way, it can change who you are or the road you are currently taking.

Life is unpredictable and we all know that and I keep realising this more and more daily. Sometimes this unpredictability is good while other times can feel more challenging.

A couple of weeks ago an experience really threw me off balance for a bit.

I had just arrived in Cairns excited to visit and explore the Great Barrier Reef. I was feeling sooo excited, grateful and happy to see this marvellous creation by Mother Nature.

The closure of Australia to the rest of the world meant that tour prices got cheaper and fewer people were going to be there. It seemed like the perfect time to do so and I went for it. Plus, Jetstar was doing their free return sale which was so appealing to me! This is the same sale I used to fly to Perth and back for only $150!

How my backpack was stolen from my hostel

11th of May 2021

I wake up at 3 am to get to the airport in time for my flight. Although I looked like a zombie, the feelings of joy and gratitude were fuelling me and I was so ready for some warm weather. The flight went pretty smoothly and in a few hours, my body and soul were in far North Queensland.

I get to the hostel early and leave my backpack in their storage room while waiting for my room to be ready. Normally, I don’t leave my valuables unattended and I always carry them with me. Except for this time.

It might have been the tiredness, the heat or the fact that the hostel was very calm, but I left almost everything there. It was only going to be a couple of hours and nothing would go wrong, I said to myself.

The only things I decided to carry with me were my phone, documents, wallet and camera.

I leave the hostel, explore Cairns, get something to eat and relax while also realising that I was there. Not even two hours later I get back to the hostel and discover the tough truth. My backpack containing my computer, clothes, external hard drive, GoPro and other sentimental items got stolen. Poof, gone.

At that exact moment, my mind didn’t want to accept what just happened. It was trying to convince me it was there but I wasn’t seeing it. Even though it wasn’t there.

Handling theft while travelling is one of those things that you know can happen but never think it does and you wonder why it happened to you. In so many years of travelling and staying at hostels, I had never experienced it and I always felt lucky for this.

How I reacted and acted on this situation

As soon as I realised it, I went from feeling happy about my adventure to feeling lost and hopeless. Countless what-if questions and should statements started to surround my mind.

  • I should have not left it there!
  • I knew this would happen!
  • If only I had got here an hour later my backpack would still be with me.
  • And so on.

I didn’t know what to do, think or feel. Plus, I was tired, alone and my English started to become more broken and the only thing I wanted to do was to cry a lot, but it didn’t happen.

This is something that happens often to me. I get the desire and need to cry and empty myself but there’s a sort of blockage that prevents this. Crying is so therapeutic and necessary, especially when you are feeling full of emotions. However, I tend to try and keep it together which stops this process.

But, then, I slowly started working and recognising the feelings and thoughts that were running through my mind.
They were trying to take control over me and convince me to cut the trip short.
At first, they were succeeding.

However, I reminded myself that I could do it, that everything was going to be okay and that following them wasn’t going to add anything positive to my life. Plus, I absorbed all the love, help and positivity from my friends and family which helped me a lot!

Because it was the first time I experienced such an event, I didn’t know how to properly act on it. That’s why I decided to write some key points that I think can be beneficial if you, or I, ever experience something similar.

Tips on how to handle theft while travelling

1. Try to stay calm


This might sound so cliche and impossible to accept or put into practice but it can be extremely beneficial. As soon as you realise that your property has been stolen, your mind can easily start going into panic mode and making you go crazy.

That’s normal and to be expected but remember that you are in charge of these emotions and thoughts. The more you feed them or let them control you, the more challenging dealing with this situation can become.

Take a big breath and try to get more clarity into your mind and soul. Allowing questions like what if or who did this, why and where they are now won’t help the situation.

The more clear you are and feel, the better you can explain the situation, think about what was stolen and ask more specific questions. This is why I think that trying to stay calm is very important when you need to handle a theft while travelling.

2. Ask for help


Having had to deal with it alone wasn’t an easy walk. I didn’t know what to do, what to say or what questions to ask and a cyclone was going through my mind. Between tiredness, anger, sadness and uncertainty, I felt clueless about my actions.

So, if you can, ask someone to help you. Whether it’s a friend or not, being with someone with a clearer mindset can make a big difference. Especially if you are in a foreign country and don’t know what actions to take.

If you are alone and can’t find anyone, it’s totally okay. Remember that you can do this and life never plays against you.

3. Get travel insurance that covers theft


Travel insurance is an essential thing to have when you are overseas. When I started travelling, I never really cared about it. However, I now make sure to have it with me before leaving my home country.

Before this event happened, my main focus with travel insurance was mostly medical cover. Probably because it was something I did actually experience.

Now, though, I’m looking into getting travel insurance that would cover my things as well as my health.

In the post I wrote about the best travel insurances for nomads, I said that I’m currently with SafetyWing. This is a great company if you mostly need medical cover.

It’s affordable, with low excess and it renews automatically giving you more peace of mind. Besides medical coverage though, they don’t cover much else. This is why I’m now looking at Heymondo which also covers electronics and baggage theft.

4. Practice gratitude for what you have


Another tip that might seem impossible to do, but practising gratitude is great medicine for your soul. Despite what happened, there are always things to be grateful for.

Whether it’s for your family, friends, a stranger that helped you, how you handled the situation or your health. Focusing on even one positive thing can outweigh many negative ones and help you feel better.

5. Trust your gut

In my opinion, your gut is rarely wrong. It’s one of those unexplainable senses that show up very quickly and when you least expect it. At times, we (at least I did it) might confuse it with overthinking or anxiety and don’t listen to it. This happens and it’s okay, otherwise we won’t learn and grow. However, if your gut is telling you something, try to listen to it.

When I left my backpack in the storage room, I kinda felt that it was odd and probably not very safe. But I still went with it, this happened and I added a new lesson to my life book. It’s okay and it’s now in the past. But, maybe, by listening to it I might have avoided having to handle this theft while travelling.

Final thoughts

As of now, the police managed to find the person who stole my backpack and retrieved my laptop which I’m very thankful for. Although they are being a bit slack with keeping me updated on how to get it back. But I’m focusing on feeling grateful that they found it and I know it will come back to me.

Have you ever had anything stolen while travelling? How do you handle theft while travelling? I’d love to know more about it in the comment!

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