Earlier this year I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona, Spain for the first time.
Being in my early 30′s I am somewhat embarrassed to say that this was my first voyage outside of the United States – well, other than a trip to Canada when I bought my Harley and a trip to Mexico that I don’t remember. On top of this being my first true excursion on international soil, I was also traveling alone.
Of the people I talked to prior to my trip that had visited Barcelona, one theme was common – beware of pick pockets!
One of my colleagues had just recently visited Barcelona with his wife and he shared a story about being at an outdoor market when he felt something. He looked down to see a woman with her hand stuffed into his shorts pocket as she was trying to swipe whatever she could find.
Bah, I’m Not Worried
Even though there were multiple people that shared stories of being the victim, or target, of pick pockets, I really wasn’t all that worried about it happening to me.
For some reason, I am often told that people find me intimidating (even though I honestly don’t understand it as I’m not much different than every other guy). Some find the shaved head intimidating. Some find the earrings and tattoos intimidating. Some find the goatee intimidating.
Whatever the reason, I let the perception that others have of me as a big, burly (isn’t that the nice way of saying overweight?) guy give me a false sense of confidence that nothing would happen.
The Last Night
After the conference had ended – yes, I was there for work – I extended my stay another day and a half to enjoy the history and tourist attractions. Throughout my stay, nothing had happened that would have given me reason to be concerned about being out late at night.
So as my last night was winding down, I decided to walk over to Port Olimpic for a late dinner. It was approximately 11:00pm as I strolled along the marina heading for the restaurant. There were two guys walking toward me; as they approached one of them extended a card to me for a local club.
I declined the offer and continued walking. Hearing my American accent, he figured he had a ripe target and turned to walk with me. As he talked to me, he put his arm on my shoulder and then he began to sing a song about Barcelona as he was kicking my leg, indicating it was some kind of dance or something.
This guy had crossed the line and I pushed him away from me. Instinctively I touched my back pocket just to check my wallet…and it was gone!
The guy lifted my wallet without me even feeling a thing. At this point I turned and yelled at him as I began to chase after him, which brings me to the best travel tip for your next trip to Barcelona.
The Dummy Wallet
With the multiple warnings about pick pockets in Barcelona, I decided to carry all of my cash, identification, and credit card in my front pocket. I didn’t stop there though, I emptied out an old wallet and carried it in my back pocket.
The empty, dummy wallet turned out to be a brilliant move.
The pick pocket that targeted me thought he lifted my wallet and was off with all of my cash, yet all he had was a wallet with a little pocket lint and nothing else – except me chasing after him. The funny thing is that when he realized it was empty, he stopped and threw it back at me thus ending my pursuit.
Why I was chasing after him for taking an empty wallet is beyond me – but the rush of adrenaline had me wanting that empty wallet back and I was ready to fight for it.
So, I can personally attest to the fact that pick pockets will target anyone and I can tell you that they are damn good at their craft – I didn’t feel a thing as this guy lifted my wallet.
But with a little bit of pre-planning, you will be strolling confidently through the streets of Barcelona with your belongings tucked safely in a front pocket or a zippered case hanging around your neck and the dummy wallet in your back pocket.
When a pick pocket tries to rip you off, you can laugh quietly as he darts away with your empty wallet (or you can chase after him for taking something that belongs to you, but I recommend the quiet laughter).
Hopefully this never happens to you, but if it does you will get the last laugh.
Photo credit: matiasjajaja