No matter how much I enjoy traveling and seeing new places, every once in a while I find myself reminded of the dangers that occasionally arise; no matter which country I’m in. Just yesterday, in Mongolia, I had a brush with an aspiring criminal that reminded me, yet again, how important it is to not let your guard down… even if you feel comfortable in a place. First off: Mom, I’m fine.
A friend and I had just finished volunteering at the Lotus Center (which I’ll write more about later today) and decided to grab a bite to eat before we went back to the guesthouse. The place we picked was a nice, European style bistro right on the main road through town. Tasty sandwiches, very friendly staff, and a refreshing variety of cuisine. Sounded like a great way to cap off the day.
Being a man of the times, I naturally had my smart phone out and was catching up on the day’s Facebook activity and emails. As we ate, I would set my phone next to my plate. No problem, right? We were in a pretty nice place. I almost paid for that careless attitude, but I got lucky.
A man came up from behind and rather forcefully grabbed my hand and shook it while he blurted a greeting. His clothing was dirty and smelled and his breath reeked of cigarette smoke. I greeted him in Mongolian in an effort to be polite and was saved from future conversation by a watchful waiter, who grabbed the man and started to push him towards the door.
I looked instinctively towards my phone only to notice it was missing. I jumped up and grabbed the strange man’s arm and yanked him back toward me. As he spun around, I noticed my phone clutched in his hand. I fixed him with a glare (teaching has honed that look down to a razor) and held out my hand. I had almost a foot in height on the guy and probably 40 or 50 pounds. Add to that a firm grip on the guy’s arm and a temper straining at the leash to murder something… what the guy did next was definitely the right decision. He held the phone out and I snatched it away. I let him go and the waiter shoved him out of the restaurant… the ordeal was over. It hadn’t lasted more than a few seconds.
I can’t help but think how lucky I was. I could’ve very easily missed the theft and kept eating, only to discover it later. Several days earlier, my friend had a brush with a purse slasher. She got lucky as well; her purse is specially designed to deter such attempts and did just that… saving all her belongings.
It just goes to show, there are bad people everywhere. No matter how enamored you are of a place, no matter how safe you feel (eh, Korea?) there is still a chance that someone nasty will try to take advantage of you. It’s definitely a sucky part of the world we live in. The best thing you can do is be safe. Keep your valuables in a safe, secure location. Don’t take chances. Travel with a buddy. Maintain a healthy degree of alertness. Don’t sleep on the street in France. Smart things! Then you can enjoy your trip.