A friend of mine was robbed the other day. The culprits crept into their home while they were asleep. They never woke and no one was injured but a home invasion is frightening no matter what the circumstances.
It hit home for me as we were also the victims of a home invasion that happened while living in Costa Rica. We were on vacation in a little beach town and the vacation rental seemed pretty secure, heck we even had the resident rottweiler in the house with us as the kids just loved her.
|I like to remember this instead of focusing on the robbery!|
But when we woke up the story was quite different. It took a few minutes but we quickly realized there were many missing items. It sucked but the items themselves were nothing compared to the feelings of violation and realization that these thieves were in our home with us, right next to my children as we all slept. And it felt like all my fault, guilt crept in fast.
As the days passed the feelings actually got worse as I imagined one terrible thing after another that could have gone wrong. What if one of the kids woke up, what if I got up to go to the bathroom and surprised them? These were scary thoughts because the real answer is that no matter what happened we were at their mercy. I started to question how adept I really was at protecting my children and when I looked hard at the answer, in many ways, I realized I am not at all.
We have been very fortunate over all these years of travel that this really is the only case of theft we have been victim of and after a couple of weeks I felt a lot better about everything. But it spurred me into action and although I avoided fear I did come up with some ways to be more careful.
There are certainly cases of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and there is little that can be done to prevent that. But admittedly our home invasion was partly our own fault, most of the time it seems to be. Forgetting to lock a door, a false sense of security, getting drunk in a new town, there is a long list of ways we can all think twice and be more careful.
It is important thing to avoid fear, that will only paralyze you and serves no purpose. Dangers are real though so we can all takes steps to be safer, just keep fear at bay so you can keep going after your dreams. Here are some tips that we use:
Tips for staying safe
- Keep an eye on your things. Lots of theft occurs during travel days. It's hectic but having a system for keeping eyes on your stuff can save you in the long run. We each carry bags that have clothes and toiletries as well as smaller packs that carry basically the items we do not want to lose. Those important packs stay on us nearly all the time and if left they are bundled at the bottom of a pile of our luggage.
- Be sure you carry insurance for items lost. Local police are not the best at resolving issues like petty theft. Have a lawyer at home you can call for advice, for help with insurance companies, etc. I have talked to many people that ended up needing a lawyer just to deal with their insurance companies, sad but true!
- Have the number of the local police (in some countries there is no 911 system)
- Know where the hospital is when vacationing. I now ask when we get to a hotel or new town. Its comforting to know I could manage an emergency without the need to research where the hospital or police are in the midst of said emergency
- Especially when traveling lock your doors and double check it. Admittedly, we are almost positive that one of the doors was not locked the night of our home invasion. We had a false sense of security about where we were, the dog in the home, multiple people around, etc.
|A key step!|
- If you can, travel with as few expensive items as possible. I never bother with jewelery or other things I really do not want to lose or have stolen. In my view its simply not worth it.
- If you are concerned about a home invasion or other theft try to hang a bell on the door, something that could trip a culprit up or at least alert you to someone entering the home. This can be hard at a vacation rental or hotel but get creative if you feel worried.
- Never be afraid to just get out! If the hotel or home seems sketchy, leave. Losing the money on the reservation or pissing the staff off is of tertiary importance so if you feel at risk leave.
- Don't leave anything in your car that you want to keep!
- Do not think you are in danger in Mexico and perfectly fine in the US. Crime happens anyplace and when you stand out as tourist anywhere in the world you are a target.
- Spread out cash or other important items so they are not all in one area.
- Keep copies of passports and other essential documents. Even better is to have them stored in a cloud somewhere so if everything is stolen they can still be accessed.
- Most importantly try and relax, crime happens but it doesn't happen all the time. Constantly worrying about it is futile. Follow a system for keeping you and your things safe and leave it at that.
- Common sense is the biggest tool we have! Don't draw attention to yourself, don't get drunk or wasted, and try to not look and act like a tourist, hard sometimes but usually quite doable.