When Things Get Stolen

Theft - Dieter Schütz  / pixelio.de

Ask any seasoned traveler for some essential advice on traveling and you might hear something along the lines of
"Pack as light as possible!" or
"Don't make any fixed plans, stay flexible!".
"Always bring duct tape!"

Personally, one of the most valuable pieces of advice I've received from a fellow traveler was this:
"Never take anything with you that you couldn't part with!". This means, don't bring along things that you can't bear to loose or having stolen. It's true, you could fall victim to robbery at home as well but it is much more likely you'll loose things while traveling. Thus, it is probably a good idea to leave that necklace from your favorite grandmother or a rare first edition of your favorite novel at home. You don't really need them on the road anyway.
For me not taking anything I cannot part with does not only mean I'm not taking valuables but also that I'm ready (and willing) to part with anything I have with me. My cellphone. My laptop. My money. My gear. You get it. And yes, it would be annoying and frustrating to deal with the loss of any of those items but it definitely wouldn't be the end of the world. That's the main issue I had to come to terms with while on the road.

So far, this all has been mainly a nice theoretical attitude. Five months on the road and nothing had been stolen and only one tuque lost (a nice souvenir but definitely replacable). Last week, however, my attitude concerning theft was put to the real test.

I was out hiking the W-Trail in the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile,  with a friend last week. The W-Trail is a moderate 4-5 day hike that offers amazing views of the park and its mountains and lakes.It was our last day in the park and the plan was to hike up to Lago Grey for a view of the glacier and the icebergs floating in the lake. We got up early, had a nice camping breakfast (oatmeal once again) and were just about to head out for our hike when we noticed: our hiking poles were missing. At first, I couldn't believe it. Who would take someone elses gear in the bush?! But then we couldn't find them anywhere. True, we don't know if someone took them by mistake (a version I would much prefer) or if someone stole them to make some money off them (which is more likely I'm afraid), but it sure made the days hike quite a bit harder. Once you're used to those poles it's hard to go without.

Now, it sucks having your stuff stolen but missing the actual thing is just one result of that event. I mean, walking poles can be fairly easily replaced (if you have the cash that is). What bothers me much more about it is the effect such an event has on the way you relate to other people. Instead of assuming everyone else shares your sense of respect for the other persons life and belongings you start suspecting others of secretely wanting to steal your things or harm you in some other way. It wasn't like we bought a giant safe and put all our things in there but we definitely thought twice before leaving some of our gear in our tent that day.

I don't like this attitude in myself at all because I believe that one of the most important things for a traveler is to learn to trust complete strangers. Important because, at times, you'll have no choice but to rely on the honesty and kindness of strangers. Therefore, I had to remind myself that there are still mainly good people around and that those hiking poles are indeed replacable. I definitely don't want this experience to affect the way I treat people around me!

PS: Obviously, I don't advocate for people to just blindly trust any stranger. ALWAYS use your instincts and common sense. If something seems fishy get the **** out of there!

(Due to the temporary absence of my laptop I will add pictures from the Torres del Paine trek at a later point.)


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