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A Bag Snatch and Sleepless Nights in Nice

FRANCE | Tuesday, 7 January 2014 | Views [5427]

It was a sweltering August in the south of France and I had nowhere to sleep. I had just taken the train from Paris down to Nice with the intention of soaking up some rays on the coast of the sparkling Mediterranean. When I got off the train, however, I quickly realised I'd made a mistake in my itinerary planning.

I'd planned most of my accommodation for the next few weeks, but I'd left two night gaps in between cities, just in case I felt the desire to stay a little longer in a certain place. In the rush to make my train, I had completely forgotten to book an extra night at my intended hostel so I would have a place to lay my weary head. I wasn't too worried, though, since I figured there had to be at least one available bed in the place.

But, I was wrong.

The hostel was fully booked, so I checked a couple places nearby. I didn't have any luck at those either. I was quickly becoming exhausted, since I had neglected to sleep the night before. Then, I recalled the sad and grungy looking group of backpackers who were passed out in clumps on the sidewalk outside the train station. Like a moth to the flame, I wandered through the filthy streets back to my fellows. I picked a spot along the wall a little away from the crowd, wrapped my arms and legs around my backpack, and fell fast asleep.

I woke up four hours later clutching air. There were a few panicked moments as I flailed my arms around and clutched frantically for my belongings. It was no use. As the fog of sleep lifted, I despaired and knew my belongings were gone. Everything that was in my pack was gone. All I had left were the clothes on my back and the few things I always kept in my pockets: money, credit cards, cell phone, and passport. Someone had managed to pry everything else from my sleep-deadened arms.

I went through the crowd, asking people if they'd seen anything. No one had; they all appeared to be as exhausted and groggy as I was. Next, I ran to the police station and asked to fill out a report. I was greeted politely enough, but it swiftly became apparent my situation was not going to be high on their priority list; I'd be lucky to make the list at all. I filled out the form as completely and quickly as possible, then ran back to the train station and started searching. That is the point where I finally did something right.

I started searching the immediate area and surrounding two blocks for my possessions. I found my belt and some of my clothes in a homeless man's shopping cart. It was pretty obvious he hadn't stolen the items himself. That is, once he recovered from the shock of having me grabbing things out of his shopping cart and realised what had happened. He led me to a nearby dumpster, where I found the book I was currently reading and, miraculously, my travel journal. Not only was the journal filled with the entire account of my trip so far and extremely sentimental, my rail pass was also tucked in between some of the pages. A rail pass is worth hundreds of dollars and is almost as transferable as cash, so I felt a rush of relief when I opened my journal and found it still snug in its place.

I checked some more dumpsters and found a few more odds and ends. When morning finally came, I had to go out and purchase a new backpack, some new clothes, and new toiletries. The only actual valuable I lost? My camera, along with all the pictures on it. While that was a blow, it could've been much worse.

I was alive. I was unharmed. I still had my money, cards, passport, phone, and rail pass. I had clothes and shelter for the coming night. As I sat at a small cafe and let some piping hot espresso warm my soul, I couldn't help but be thankful it hadn't been worse. I learned a lot from that experience.

If you are the victim of theft, be proactive. Ask people if they saw anything. File a police report. Search the surrounding area – many times the thieves will dump the non-valuable things. Keep your valuables spread throughout your luggage and concealed within things that don't look important. Keep the 'essentials' (passport, money, cards, phone) securely on your person at all times. Purchase travel insurance which will cover lost and stolen belongings. Don't be particularly attached to all the stuff you're lugging around; life happens. Maybe even try to prevent this story from happening by always making sure to have accommodation when you arrive in a new city. Oh, and one more thing: never, EVER, sleep on the sidewalk in front of a train station. BE SMART!

Have you had any close calls on the road? Share your story below, and check out some of these terrifying travel tales!

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About the Author

Nathan Anderson was born on a chilly December day in the shadow of the majestic Cascade Mountains in northwest Washington.  Since that fateful day, he has loved the cold and been obsessed with the great outdoors.  After graduating university with a degree in International Business and spending a few years doing responsible things like work hard and save money, he decided exploring the world was a much better use of his time.  

Since then, he has visited 19 countries throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, with more destinations in the pipeline!  There have been some awesome adventures, among them: scuba diving in the Philippines, barely completing a 4 day jungle trek in Borneo, traveling through Burma by rail, and going on a solo motorcycle trip through the steppes of Mongolia.  Hopefully, there will be many more adventures to come!  He’s currently living and working in South Korea, with plans to travel to Japan, China, and Kyrgyzstan in the near future. Follow him on twitter and check out his blog at The Open Road Before Me.

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Tags: france, nice, robbery, staying safe on the road, travel safety

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