Opening my eyes slowly, I struggled to focus on the room’s furniture in front of me. As the disorientation faded, so the stabbing pain in my head intensified and a wave of nausea washed over me. Clues as to my activities last night lay scattered around me where actual, clear memories escaped me. A discarded shoe in the walkway, a jacket on the floor…an angry boyfriend…no purse…
Like over 8 million visitors do every year, last year the Kiwi and I headed to Barcelona to soak up the culture of Catalonia’s capital. With its vibrant art scene, and high energy, the heart of the city runs to an explosive pulse – a rhythm kept alive by the thrum of tourist footfall by day, and the unremitting hum of an electric nightlife by night. As soon as we arrived, the Kiwi and I were swept up in its current and carried along in its wake, energised and excited by all there was to offer in the city’s sunkissed, rose-hued streets.
By the evening, in celebration of my recent birthday, the Kiwi and I found ourselves in a rum bar – a back-packer’s favourite located just a couple of streets from our hotel. Surrounded by trendy art and 20’s-somethings travellers, preserving jar after preserving jar lined brightly, backlit shelves, each brimming with a delicious concoction of home-made rum. Now the Kiwi and I would normally be big on recommending such an establishment however here, in the context of this post, I feel that mentioning the bar by name would be an insult to what were great hosts and an incredible place. It’s important for us to maintain that it was my own stupidity and nothing to do with our location, that dictated how the events of the night unfolded. I think you can guess what’s coming.
Forget tequila – it was 1 rum, 2 rum, 3 rum, floor. The Kiwi and I have such an easy friendship within our relationship that he makes a great drinking buddy, whether it’s a quiet glass of wine or two tickets for the SHOTS train. In this case it was rum and what started as a quiet evening ended up with us working our way through the rum menu. By the time we were ready to leave, I probably should have left about 5 rums earlier.
Having spent a good portion of my early-mid twenties as a single female in London, I like to think of myself as quite savvy and street-wise. Sure, I could try and excuse myself by putting some of the blame on the city, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time – but the fact of the matter is – for a brief moment I got too cocky and complacent in a city I didn’t know. So, while walking home that night, a group of men approached the Kiwi and I in the street and pick pocketed us.
When I told my friends back at home, most of them seemed less surprised by the actual pickpocketing, and were more surprised that they’d attempted to mug the Maori. The Kiwi is no Goliath but he’s bigger than some and can handle his way around a rugby pitch. The problem is, the feeling of security in his size had made me complacent and, believing us invincible, I’d stumbled in to the street outside that night. I might as well have had a flashing neon sign above my head reading ‘Drunken idiot – mug me’.
That being said – the purpose of me telling you this is for you to take some practical advice away. Not just to tell you that I cannot handle my rum. (Oooh, try me at gin though). Sometimes we do all like to go away and enjoy the local nightlife, but that is not an invitation to run off with my oyster card and Nando’s stamps (I was one away from a free 1/2 chicken?!). So, with that being said, here are a couple of steps you can take to better prepare yourself from an overgrown version of the Artful Dodger.
Steps to avoid an avoidable pickpocketing
- The most obvious to start with – drink within reason – don’t drink until you lose all control. Relying on your friends to get you home safe is not only dangerous, but totally rubbish for the friend who gets lumped with you. Poor friend form.
- Don’t take valuable belongings out with you. Nothing falls quite so easily, or quite so quietly, as a passport. Just don’t take it out with you. Organise a less precious form of ID to take with you on a night out. The same goes for excessive amounts of cash, cameras and the family jewels. Use your accommodation’s safe facilities.
- Take a sensible bag with you. This goes for the boy as well. Nothing says ‘easy day in the office’ for a pickpocket, quite like an open bag or wallet in the back pocket. One upside to the ‘Mun’ being in fashion (Man Bun), is that man bags are totally in. Guys and girls, pack a small bag with a cross-body strap and a secure zip fastening and keep all valuables in inner pockets if possible.
- Stick to well-lit areas. Sure that dark alley-way shaves 5 minutes off of the walk home but that group of guys at the end might shave a bit off the bank balance as well.
- Don’t take all of your bank cards out with you. Leave at least one of your cards at home should the worst event happen and you’re in need of some emergency cash.
Hopefully, with some of these tips and a little common sense, you should be able to avoid a nasty situation like we had. Luckily, we were able to put our pickpocketing episode behind us for the sake of the remainder of the trip and we had fun! 3 glorious days of sailing, soaking up the culture and scoffing down paella. But no rum.
For those of you planning a trip to a European city, don’t let this put you off. Unfortunately crime and crowds go hand in hand but this is inescapable and not restricted to Barcelona, let alone Europe. Just be safe, be smart but most of all, have fun! Do all this and you’ll be on your way to a fantastic experience with cherishable memories. Oh, and don’t forget, that sweet, free chicken.
Live, laugh and eat fish and chips,