The Case of the Stolen Phone: The Importance of Being Alert While Traveling

AM Tunnel of Art in Luxembourg
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Sara Nakash, Brooklyn bred, world tread. She has braved prison ghost cats in New Zealand, was involved in a bush taxi car chase in Togo, and accidentally biked from Luxembourg to Germany. Her love of travel was matched by her frustration in finding a service to cater to her particular travel goals. From this frustration Off the Map Travel was born. Here anyone can escape those cookie cutter travel packages and truly embrace the nature of your destination.

One of the most important things to remember when you are traveling is that it is crucial to remain alert and aware of your surroundings. Admittedly, this is most difficult when you are traveling. Most often, you’re in a new, unfamiliar place and may be jet-lagged or disoriented. However, the consequences of not being aware of where you are, what you’re doing, and who is around you may be dangerous, or at the very least, inconvenient. It was certainly inconvenient for me on my trip to Luxembourg.

The trip to Echternach (a city in Luxembourg) was a long one. It started with a four-hour, early morning train ride from Antwerp, Belgium to Luxembourg City. Once in Luxembourg City, I had time to explore a bit before taking the bus to Echternach that evening.

I was already tired when I arrived in Luxembourg City. I immediately decided that lugging my backpack around with me all day would be a pain and so I decided to keep it at a storage facility at the train station. Because I was going to be returning for my backpack after their normal business hours, I was offered a locker. The lockers only accepted cash, and as luck would have it, I didn’t have enough cash with me. Frustrated and worn out, but determined to rent a locker, I plodded off in search of cash.

Across the street from the station, I spotted an ING bank. Momentarily hopeful, I raced across the street to the bank. No luck there—for some reason, they couldn’t access my online account. They told me that there was an ATM back at the train station that I could use. More exhausted and annoyed than before, I crossed the street again, returning to the train station. Evidently, my luck was completely gone now and as I neared the ATM, I slipped and fell (on an unknown substance of which I would prefer not to know the origin). When I looked up, I noticed a fifty-something man, watching me and laughing. Could this day get any worse?!

Once I used the ATM, I was just ready to be done with this whole debacle. I tossed my backpack into my locker, grabbed the slip of paper with my locker code, and headed out into the city to see if I could find better adventures.

By the end of the day, I had enjoyed a walk through the Am Tunnel art gallery, learned the history of banking and finance at the Bank Museum, and since it had begun to rain I had decided to take a ride on the Pertrusse Express through the old city. It had been fantastic and I headed back to the station to collect my backpack.

AM Tunnel of Art in Luxembourg
AM Tunnel of Art in Luxembourg

As soon as I arrived at the locker room, my bad luck returned in spades. When I entered my locker code, I found the locker empty. I frantically searched the open lockers around mine and finally found my backpack tucked into one. The pack was opened and my belongings were scattered about the inside of the locker. And my US cell phone, which I had left in the pack, was gone! I was distraught! I didn’t know what had happened! But as I waited for my bus, I noticed I was being watched again—by the same fifty-something man who I had noticed watching me earlier in the day.

To this day, I don’t know exactly what happened in Luxembourg City. How did my backpack change lockers? Where had my phone gone? (Thankfully, I had phone insurance!) Did the man who was watching me have something to do with it all? But the experience most certainly taught me a lesson—no matter where you travel, always be aware of your surroundings!

5 thoughts on “The Case of the Stolen Phone: The Importance of Being Alert While Traveling

  1. I witnessed an experience in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, that could have been VERY scary and had extreme consequences. We had a very gorgeous young girl of about 18 who was with our group. She was the type of girl who drew a LOT of attention. And though we had cautioned her not to wander away from the group, she got distracted by a vendor and wandered away from the group. When I turned around and saw her separated from us, there were at least four men gathered around her. They were talking to her and moving closer. And she, speaking no Spanish, looked confused and terrified. Speaking Spanish, I marched over and loudly asked if they needed something. They didn’t and scattered. And as I led the girl back to the group, my heart was pounding and I realized that she could have been the next “Natalee Hollaway” statistic.

  2. This is good advice, and it’s unnerving to think that this could happen to something locked away at a public place like a train station. I’ve heard many times to be careful in Europe because there is less violent crime but more economic, pick-pocket crime, but the advice usually involves telling people to be careful of thieves at tourist sites, e.g. in line at the Vatican Museum. I just wonder what you could have done differently in this scenario though, because you did the right thing by securing your belongings in a locker.

    1. While I did make sure my locker was locked, I wonder if I grabbed the the wrong slip of paper with my code. this is where alertness was important. I was ready to just get on with my day,so as anyone would do, I made sure the door was locked. But, what I failed to do was actually check that the slip of paper was actually associated with my locker. I think it may have been a planned job (possibly THE man), rather than a random lock picker.

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