How I hit rock bottom when my purse was stolen in Madrid and what I’m learning from it
My friend Mike and I had looked for a shady place in El Retiro Park to find shelter from Madrid’s extreme summer heat, where we were just reading and dozing off every once in awhile.
When I stretched and reached for my phone to check the time, my purse wasn’t where I had left it, 5 inches from me, right between me and my friend. “Mike, did you grab my purse already?” I asked him because he had stood up. He never did that so I already knew what had happened. “No,” he confirmed my suspicions. “It’s gone!” I screamed. “No, no, no, no!”
I broke down and started crying. “Whyyyy?” My phone was in there! My most important accessory as a travel blogger and someone creating a webinar on iPhone photography. Fortunately, I had backed up most photos until two weeks ago, but the all the ones of the Spain trip were lost. All my notes for new blog entries – gone. Contacts from both Germany and LA – gone.
My new GoPro: gone. German and US drivers licenses: gone. German and US debit cards: gone. Cash: gone. All my information on there out there with some stranger who might do God knows what with it.
I tried canceling my cards first, then finding my iPhone, which had already been turned off as I could see from the Find my iPhone app. I therefore erased everything on it. Next, I called the police who told me to come to their station.
There, I felt as if I was just another careless tourist whose belongings had been stolen in this city of pick pocketers – a daily occurance. A police officer with almost no English skills handled my case. He didn’t even ask me if it had been possible to locate my phone. I had to sign a police report in Spanish which I fortunately was able to read.
In my 20 years of traveling – partially alone and to extremely poor countries – this had never happened to me. I never had my phone stolen, never even lost it, so that was the worst part for me. I thought I was smart enough to always carry my purses and backpacks towards my front and never leave my stuff unattended. However, I also strongly believed in the goodness of people and trusted that I would be fine.
Laying down in the grass of the park, I had a really bad, strong feeling about that something would happen and therefore, I used my purse as a pillow. But because I’m a firm believer in you creating your own destiny, I told myself that I’d be fine. No one would come steal my purse if it was 5 inches from me and 5 inches from Mike, directly in between us. Mike was up and reading anyway, so I just closed my eyes for 10 minutes and didn’t expect anything to go wrong.
But also, way before this day, I had created the thought in my mind that I had to reach rock bottom before I could move to the top of my career as an online entrepreneur and make money online while traveling. Just because that’s how life usually is – you have highs and lows and without the lows you can’t reach your highs because you learn from them. Was this day my rock bottom then?
I think so… Now I will have to pay back my stolen phone to my contractor in the US, which will leave me with no more money in my bank account. I have no more trips planned or flights booked to anywhere, just wishes and plans in my head of where I want to travel next and when.
I’m not making enough money yet from online work to even support myself completely. Until now, that wasn’t necessary because I lived off my savings and was comfortable with it. There was no pressure to hustle, no pressure to make it.
Now, I’m in debt with my friend who put our Iceland tours on his credit card, Mike, who’s helping me out here while I have no access to what’s left of my money on either account, and with my phone provider. I hate being in debt. I never owned a credit card for that very reason.
But because I consider myself a positive person, I asked myself about the positive aspects of what’s been happening and what I’m learning from this situation.
Most importantly, I should ALWAYS listen to my gut. If I have the strange feeling that something bad will happen, I should take precautions. I should have let my purse stay my pillow.
I learned that you can be in a place and situation which are considered safe, but things can still happen. You can travel to very poor, by the media considered dangerous places, and nothing happens.
I was once again reminded that the things that were stolen were just things (with memories, but really just things) that can be replaced even though it being a pain in the a$$. No one was threatened or hurt, I’m ok, and at the end of the day, I still had two other important things: My passport and my laptop.
I’ve been pretty good with backing up my photos, but as this incident showed, I could be even better by saving them onto my computer and my hard drive every single day.
I also know that I have an amazing network of friends and family: My mom who helped me cancel my card in Germany because I couldn’t reach anyone from Spain, my brother from another mother Mike, who’s been there for me, lending me money and his phone, everyone who inquired about my well-being, asked if I needed anything and sent positive vibes. I cannot be grateful enough for that!
With a lot gone now, debts, and almost out of savings, I will work harder than ever before to get rid of my debts, but also to give back to some people who’ve been there for me within the last few months where I haven’t been my positive self because I’ve been missing my home LA and my friends there.
Also, I will work my a$$ off to be location independent. My plan is to buy a one way ticket to Ethiopia to experience their new years celebrations on 9/11, and from there travel to Tanzania or South Africa (possibly to teach English 2-3 hours a day for a few months) and then Sierra Leone.
Last but not least, I’m forgiving the person who stole from me because for him or her to do this, his/her life must be much worse than mine. So hopefully his/her life will become better fast, so that he/she doesn’t have to steal from others anymore! I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to travel the world, so I won’t let this affect me any longer!
Join our newsletter!
Be the first to get the latest updates, right to your inbox.
Africa / Around the World / Morocco / Personal Stories & Opinions / South Africa / Tanzania
Do these things make you a spoiled traveler?By Jennifer Schlueter
North America / Personal Stories & Opinions / Traveling Floater / Uncategorized / USA
Do You Want to Get High Without Using Drugs? Try Floating.By Jennifer Schlueter
Personal Stories & Opinions / Tips & Resources
The 29 Day Giving Challenge will make you happier!By Jennifer Schlueter
Africa / Around the World / Europe / Tanzania / Uncategorized
10 travel bloggers share their worst culture shock experiencesBy Jennifer Schlueter
Personal Stories & Opinions
On loving a MuslimBy Jennifer Schlueter
Faces of Tel Aviv – a photo essayBy Jennifer Schlueter
North America / Personal Stories & Opinions / USA
My L.A. college life summarized in the best Facebook posts (these things actually happened!)By Jennifer Schlueter
Europe / Germany / North America / Personal Stories & Opinions / USA
What it’s like to be a German (international student) in the USBy Jennifer Schlueter
Personal Stories & Opinions / Uncategorized
How traveling makes the world a more peaceful placeBy Jennifer Schlueter
Africa / Personal Stories & Opinions / South Africa
Theft, racial tensions and smelly travelers – Why my South Africa trip was reality TV materialBy Jennifer Schlueter