I once had a job teaching at an internationally travelling high school. Unlike most travel abroad programs, we spent the entire school year on the road. The amount of valuables that we travelled with was mind boggling. Among us were six teachers and thirteen teenagers, and we all had our own computers, Ipods, cameras and passports. Once more, we travelled with a trailer full of bright, colorful, expensive kayaks. We could not have been a more obvious target for thievery if we had painted a red bulls-eye on our van.
The owner of the school is a man named David. Dave has been travelling for his entire working life, running trips with the high school, summer programs and scouting missions with staff all over the world. He travels with an expensive camera, a computer that holds all of the school’s information, and usually a good sum of money. In all of his travels, from Ecuador to Nepal and back, he has never had a single piece of gear stolen. That is not to say that he had never been burglarized, because he has! However, Dave has developed a system to outsmart the thieves that has proved effective on many, many occasions.
Dave views robbery as an inevitable part of travelling. For the most part, he stays in camp sites, cheap hotels or hostels. He knows that he cannot depend on his lodging to provide proper security for his possessions. At the same time, he doesn’t want to carry his heavy computer case, camera equipment and money around with him whenever he goes out to dinner. So he devised a way of ‘rigging’ his room so that, in the event of a break in, the odds are stacked in his favor.
The first thing Dave does when he lands in a new country is buy cables, heavy padlocks and smaller zipper locks. These can either be found at any hardware, home store, or supermarket or laptop safe’s, like the infosafe, can be bought from pacsafe. He keeps his computer in a durable case, keeps the case locked shut, and then cables the case to the bed or another heavy piece of furniture in the hotel room. To the right is a laptop lock and key system by pacsafe
He locks the zippers of his tent whenever he leaves the camp site, just as you would lock the door to your house behind you. It becomes a reflex. Of course, a thief can always slash open a tent if they really want, but I saw Dave’s tent get spared when the perpetrator obviously thought it was too much trouble. The rest of us didn’t have such luck.
Another thing Dave does to ensure his safety is something I never would have thought of. He leaves “bait money” in an obvious place. If he has to leave money in his hotel room, and often it is safer for him to leave it behind rather than keep it on his person, he will leave out twenty dollars or so on the desk, or in the top drawer of the dresser. The thief would obviously find it, assume it was the entirety of the money, and leave without looking farther. (I’m not sure if I should write this, but Dave would hide the rest of the bills taped to the underside of the bed.)
Sure, all this locking and rigging may seem like overkill. However, I saw the aftermath of our lodging and campsite after it was looted. It was devastating for the rest of us, but nothing of Dave’s was missing. To this day, Dave has maintained a perfect record. If you’re hitting the road, especially if you’re looking to create a whole life on the road, I recommend investing in some locks and utilizing these clever stay-safe strategies. Remember, locking your tent may take a few extra moments, but having your gear stolen could ruin your entire trip. Good luck and bon voyage!