Posts Tagged ‘pickpockets’

49. Photos with Local Children

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

kids6

Why do backpackers insist on taking photos of children wherever they go?

Sure, foreign kids are cute. I’ll give them that. But they’re also often super dirty and smell funny. I suppose all kids are dirty and smell funny though, not just foreign ones.

kids

But do immigrants come to Canada/U.S./U.K./Australia, wander onto a schoolyard and have someone snap photos of themselves with their arms out, surrounded by white children? Just wondering.

The following is a journey into the mind of a backpacker taking photos of local children, particularly in the developing world:

  • “OMG look at how cute these local children are!” (snap)
  • “Look at these kids. they live in tin shacks, but somehow they’re so happy.” (snap)
  • “Look at their genuine smiles and the joy in their eyes. These kids literally have nothing.” (snap)

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  • “I’m honestly shocked they’re not asking me for money or trying to pickpocket me…” (snap)
  • “…like those damn gypsy kids in… Hey, kid. Take your hand outta my pocket.” (brushes kid’s hand away) (snap)
  • “Look at this one, touching my face and my hair. Never seen skin or hair like mine before. WOW!” (snap)

kids5

  • “I am so enlightened by this experience. More enlightened than my friends back home.” (sigh) (snap)
  • “I am so glad I came to (developing world country). I appreciate (developed world home country) more now.” (snap)
  • “Seriously. Look at these children.” (snap)

kids7

  • “I don’t want to say that I’m like Jesus. But I love little children, just like Jesus, which explains my arms-out messianic pose.” (snap)
  • “I hope their parents don’t come out during our photo shoot. I don’t want them thinking we’re exploiting their kids.” (snap)

kids3

  • “Hurry up, Kevin. Take the picture. I think that might be one of their parents.” (snap) (takes off running)

For those of you interested in “The etiquette of photographing strangers” (of any age), check out this article by Lonely Planet author Richard l’Anson.

“Photographing strangers can be daunting, but it needn’t be,” he writes. “Most people are happy to be photographed. Some photographers ask before shooting, others don’t. It’s a personal decision, often decided on a case-by-case basis.”

But approaching foreign strangers and children in a palms-out messianic stance certainly can’t hurt.

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Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Link to article: Backpackers trek the globe with tech toys

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as applications like Skype, are allowing backpackers to connect with family and friends more easily than ever before, wrote Natalie Armstrong of Reuters (Dec. 7).

Armstrong describes Canadian traveler Dave Arnold, who is on a one-year trip after taking a buyout from his telecom employer (see 44. Quitting your job). Carrying about $9,000 worth of electronic devices, Arnold is a walking Price Is Right Showcase for third-world muggers. He’s also an example of what’s become known as a “flashpacker” (see Backpacker Types, by Nomadic Matt).

It appears the folks over at the L.P. finally heard our call (see 8. The Lonely Planet; and The L.P. on iTunes), making their guidebooks downloadable to iPods and iPhones. Arnold has 100 downloaded guidebooks on his iPod, plus 10 books and his entire music collection.

In fact, Armstrong also writes about a South Korean girl who used her iPhone 4 for everything old fogeys like I used to use the L.P. for: maps, hostels, and information on local sights, food, etc.

All this is fine and dandy, just as long as you don’t slip and fall into a swimming pool or something while carrying all your gear.

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Backpacking in the News

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Link to article: What not to bring backpacking: 10 things to leave at home

Chad Norwood's gear for a 6-month, round-the-world trip.

Chad Norwood's gear for a 6-month, round-the-world trip. (Source: chadn on Flickr.com)

I agree that the unnecessary weight of jeans and hiking boots should be avoided, especially in hot, humid places. (Looks like Chad packed both, in the above photo).

I’ve packed a sleeping bag before but rarely ended up using it (only while camping a couple times). I never backpack with a laptop — I use Internet cafes instead (see 9. Lost e-mails). I do travel with an SLR camera, but I don’t bring any additional lenses or flash units.

The author, Steve James, also concludes that “there is a common consensus that people who travel with guitars are tossers.” Good stuff (see 18. Playing Guitar).

A couple other packing techniques that chap my ass:

backpack-locknet

I think Spiderman shot a load on your bag.

Backpack locknets: What is the point of these? To prevent people from unzipping pockets or cutting into your massive pack while you’re wearing it? And when it’s stowed in a cargo area or closet on a train, bus or in a hostel, I’m pretty sure a would-be thief could cut through it with a standard pair of wire cutters.

This look should be avoided.

This is not a good look for you.

Double packing: You’re not carrying a baby. You don’t need to hang gear off your chest if you’re already hauling a load of shit on your back. Better to keep it all on your back and not have to bother with two packs. Besides, it looks ridiculous.

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31. Traveler’s Diarrhea

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

This post should really have appeared earlier. Like somewhere in the top five. I guess 2. No Toilet Paper falls under the fecal category, so that about covered it for the top thirty. You can’t be writing a blog that talks about shit every five or six posts without people calling the cops (coprophiles) on you. Besides, to me, the word “fecal” represents a more solid image in my mind. And the topic of this post is decidedly far from solid. Yup, this is something entirely different.

That’s why I realize now it should have cracked the top five. Having this malevolent organism inside me was probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to me while traveling. Worse than getting pickpocketed (that’s number-two). I’m fucking serious. I was scared of it. Not scared, like I thought I was gonna die, but I was scared it would last longer. If you’re laughing and calling me a pussy, you’ve obviously never had it. It is THE WORST.

I  got my first case of real TD (they actually call it this) in Africa, of all places (beenou). Because I’m a visible minority, I like to brag to my white friends that I’m more immune to things than they are. Like sunlight for example (even though I still do get sunburnt, from time to time). I’d traveled to third-world countries before, so I was a little cocky. Our guides told us repeatedly, “Don’t drink the tap water. Only drink bottled water. No iced cubes. Make sure raw fruits and vegetables are washed in…” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought. I can handle it. I’m not white.

I’d been diligent, though. I’d been drinking only bottled water for weeks, even brushing my teeth with it for chrissakes. But I mistakenly thought that I’d gotten some bath water in my mouth once or twice, and was unaffected, so I rolled the dice. We were in a small local straw-hut of a restaurant. No tourists in there (beenou). They didn’t have any bottled drinks, only water. It wasn’t even tap water. They were ladling it into metal cups out of a bright blue garbage-pail-sized plastic bucket. I was conscious of it too, thinking, “Is this gonna make me sick?” right before I drank it to wash down a bite.

It most certainly did. I fell into a haze. Not immediately, but I started feeling off about an hour after eating, a little dizzy. Then I had the bubbly gut, then a stomach ache. I’d had food poisoning before, so I thought it was just that – that I’d puke or shit once and that’d be it.  I was struck by the worst case to diarrhea I’ve ever had. It started running Friday, I practically spent the whole day in the bathroom Saturday, I thought it was over and it came back Sunday, and Monday was just as bad as Friday. My memory of the experience is all foggy. I couldn’t eat. I felt so weak. All I did was sleep and get up to shit. I drank gallons of water. Imodium and antibiotics had no effect the entire time. It just kept pouring out. My butthole was raw from the constant wetness of pooping and water wiping (see 2. No Toilet Paper). By Tuesday, I felt decent enough to get out of bed and try to function. All I could stomach was water, tea, bread (dry, as butter is banned during bouts of TD) and the local equivalent of animal crackers. The runs had become more of a mealy, loose paste. It took five days before I had a solid stool and  I was honestly near tears when it plopped against the surface of the toilet water.

One thing my horrific TD taught me is that you need the support of other people to endure it. My friends took care of me. They brought me water and food, if I could eat it. They checked on me and even bought me a thermometer to make sure I didn’t have a crazy malaria-induced fever. You’d think I’d learned my lesson, but I got it again about a month later. Turns out, I was less immune to it than my white friends. They didn’t get it once.

I didn’t get TD again until about three years later, in Indonesia. Due to the foolish ingestion of fish(chicken?)ball soup, made with fishballs and steamed noodles that were sitting in a lidless container at room temperature, in the sun, likely for hours. Again, I thought about the possible consequences as I took my first slurp, hoping that the steaming broth they dumped the spongy, pre-cooked ingredients into was hot enough to kill the nefarious bacterium. But my friend, a feminist, separatist gal from Quebec, was keen on the soup. She insisted it would be fine. Yeah, she was fine. Yet again, I proved myself less immune to something than a white friend. I should learn my lesson, eventually.

Thanks to Karen, for suggesting I go ahead and write this topic. She must have had it once too. Thanks to Alain and the Diaws for all the animal crackers in Dakar. Thanks also to Isa, Claudio and JP for keeping me alive in the Gilis.

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Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Link to article: One in eight young backpackers has been a victim of theft

A British travel insurance company has found that 12 percent of young backpackers have been a victim of theft while traveling. Another 5 percent of British backpackers polled have been mugged in foreign countries.

Other findings:

  • Male backpackers are more likely to be mugged than females.
  • 7% of male backpackers have been mugged, versus 2% of females.
  • Likewise, 12% of male respondents have been victims of theft, versus 11% of females.

“For many young people, going traveling is the best time of their lives, but it’s all too easy to forget that some places are full of unscrupulous people who are waiting to prey on backpackers,” said Perry Wilson, founder of InsureandGo, the company behind the study. “Young people shouldn’t be put off having fun, but they should take care not to put themselves in dangerous situations and they should plan their trip as carefully as possible (i.e. buy expensive insurance from me).”

Personally, I don’t know if we should necessarily take advice from guys named Perry.

Despite the known risks associated with backpacking, a considerable number young adventurers go without travel insurance, as has been previously reported (see 22. Scooter accidents). InsureandGo noted that 37 percent of respondents “do not always have travel insurance while away,” and one in five (20%) “rarely or never have it,” and would therefore not be covered for any stolen possessions or medical bills resulting from being mugged overseas.

As a male backpacker who has never bought travel insurance and who has indeed been a victim of theft (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed and 16. iPod Thieves), I confess that I will continue to forgo travel insurance, not eat my vitamins, put my mean face on in public, and take whatever shit comes my way. Bring it on, gypsies! I’m ready.

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Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Link to article: British backpackers plead guilty to insurance fraud in Brazil

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Two British backpackers, Shanti Andrews and Rebecca Turner, have pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in a Brazilian court after admitting they misled police about being robbed while on a round-the-world trip. (Source: Telegraph.co.uk)

As you can see, just another couple of Female Backpacker Type As doing their thang. Lookin’ pretty wubes, too.

I told you guys my ESP was kickin’ in.

Aug. 21 – Here’s a link to the follow-up article: British backpackers could spend months performing community service in Brazil

Aug. 25 – These bitches won’t quit: British backpackers in false robbery claim appeal conviction

Dec. 19 – In the end, just as it happened for O.J., shoddy police work gets them off: Jailed British backpackers acquitted of fraud conviction

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16. iPod Thieves

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

After being stolen from, no matter what the circumstance may be, a question you will inevitably ask yourself is, “Who would do such a thing?” The answer is: Assholes.

Don’t give me the sob story of Oliver Twist. These poor locals. They must steal from the rich travelers in order to survive! They desperately need to feed themselves and their families! They need the money in your wallets, so they’ll pick your pocket, take out the cash and ditch the rest – sorry for the inconvenience (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed). In reality, most of the iPods getting stolen along the backpacker trail are not taken by Oliver Twists.

Although impoverished locals (assholes) are responsible for the odd stolen iPod, the majority of iPod thieves are douchebag travelers (also assholes). Unlike pickpockets, who are predominantly poor people or gypsies, these iPod thieves are more in it for the device than for instant black market cash. I don’t know what the resale value is for a scratched up, poorly file-categorized and already obsolete iPod, but it’s probably not much.

It’s ironic because you would expect your fellow travelers to be people who look out for each other and turn in forgotten items to the hostel lost-and-found. Optimists would argue that most backpackers are trustworthy, but if this were the case, why all the lockers in the dorm rooms (see 15. Dormitories)? Cynics, however (myself included), would counter that the average backpacker isn’t as trustworthy as one might hope. No offense to all you good samaritans out there.

It’s the same with camera theft. Once you’ve lost a camera, you come to realize the content on the device is worth more than the device itself. An iPod contains a backpacker’s personal soundtrack to his/her trip. It took a long time to create and pirate that music (and sometimes movie) library. Tireless hours of last-minute leeching and seeding before you have to catch that flight. In some cases, your piracy went as far as syncing your library with those of other travelers you met and hung out with along the way.

Older backpackers may better relate to stolen CD wallets, which were much worse because original CDs cost so much. A good buddy of mine went on his first backpacking trip to Australia almost 10 years ago and got his CD wallet stolen. The thing was chock full of original CDs (72 in total) bought with money he worked thankless minimum wage hours to earn. Seventy-two CDs, at an average of 15 bucks per, is $1,080. That’s a lot of cash when you’re between the ages of 16 and 20. But the point is, when you’re on a big trip, your music collection is worth a hell of a lot more than that. It’s fucking priceless.

So here’s a modest request from good travelers to would-be douchebag travelers out there. Don’t be an asshole. Buy your own iPod. They’re cheap now anyway.

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6. Getting Pickpocketed

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

If you’ve never been pickpocketed before, you just wait. Perhaps you’ve heard stories, but it’s like they say on MTV: You think you know, but you have no idea. This is the story of getting pickpocketed.

Moneybelts suck, but more on that later. Your wallet is in the back pocket of your jeans. Your cellphone is secure in that trusty backpack strap pocket. You are now a target. It’s that simple. Pickpockets are watching you. You’ve been marked before you realize it; you likely won’t realize it until it’s too late.

They wait in train stations and crowded tourist areas, near signs reading “Beware of pickpockets.” As an innate response, people immediately touch their wallet locale upon reading such signs or hearing such announcements over the intercom. Pickpockets watch for this and therefore know where you’re hiding the goods.

But you’re a seasoned vet. You’ve traveled everywhere and heard all the horror stories. In Europe, you watch out for gypsies. In poor countries, you watch out for everybody. Consider the following scenario: A common pickpocket’s ploy is to approach somebody left watching a number of bags. As a backpacker, you’re often stuck with more than one bag to protect: either you’ve got two (Note: Double packers – huge one in the back, small one out front like a pregnant lady – are retarded.), or you’re watching somebody else’s while they take a shit, wait for train tickets, book a hostel room, etc.

Since pickpockets rarely work alone, a decoy will come up and ask you a benign question (e.g. Excuse me, what time is it? Do you know where the nearest ATM is? Where did you get that t-shirt?). In the millisecond it takes you to look at your watch/the ATM/your shirt, an associate has already snuck in from behind and snatched a bag. The decoy attempts to make small talk and holds your attention until the job is done, then graciously thanks you and continues on his way. You’ve been had.

No matter how prepared you think you are, you will not be ready: These people are professionals.

Nevertheless, I’ve attempted to break down the elements of a pickpocket heist, from personal experience (beenou), as a sort of cautionary tale:

  1. Crowds – The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Khao San Road in Bangkok and Las Ramblas in Barcelona are typical pickpocket havens. Naturally, if people are bumping into each other, it makes the job easier. And unless you grew up in downtown NYC or Tokyo, you’re pretty uncomfortable in a sea of bodies ebbing and flowing through the street. Pickpockets are like hyenas – they quickly single out the weaker prey. For example, if you’re wearing baggy pants, you could be in trouble (I was).
  2. Diversion – The main purpose of the diversion is to get into your field of view. Often, they catch you off guard with old women selling bouquets, children selling maps, or blind beggars stumbling into you. It may be as insignificant as a light shove in a packed subway car when the train sways unexpectedly. In my case, it was a gypsy/beggar dropping a handful of change in a mosh-pit-like crowd.
  3. Teamwork – As mentioned before, pickpockets rarely work alone. As the change – we’re talking pennies here – hit the ground, I was both baffled and surprised. I thought, “Why pennies?” Then, “This dude is dirty and scary looking, with piercing yellow-green gypsy eyes like the Afghan broad on the cover of National Geographic. I should get out of his way.” As I tried to step aside, he grabbed the base of my pant leg, insisting my foot was on some of his change. He started yelling in a foreign tongue. I shook my head and struggled to free my foot, but he twisted the material tighter and yelled louder. He refused to let go, so I reacted violently, punching him in the shoulder a few times.
  4. Forcing You to Make a Choice – I braced myself for a counter attack, expecting him to hit back. Instead, he let go of my leg and sprinted off. Again, I was confused. Then it hit me. I reached back to feel my vacant back pocket. They got me. I wasn’t forced to make a choice, but in cases where only one of your many bags is stolen, you may be. Chase after the thief, and you risk leaving your bags unguarded. Stay with your bags, and the stolen one is gone.
  5. The Aftermath – I went to the police station to file a report on my stolen wallet. A few days later, it turned up. Most pickpockets just take the cash out and ditch the ID, bank cards and credit cards with the wallet. Just another example of criminal ethics, like how rapists and child molesters get their asses kicked in prison. At the police station, there were so many similar pickpocketing cases, it felt like a support group. People were crying, consoling each other, and comparing elaborate pickpocketing scenarios. Cops shrugged and told us there was nothing they could do. I spoke with people who not only lost wallets, but bags containing cameras, laptops, passports – everything. Those people were going home. Their trip was over. So remember: Even when you think you’re in dire straits, there’s always somebody worse off than you.
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