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I was robbed while walking on the sidewalk of Ho Chi Minh City during the day. Two guys drove by on their motorcycle and swiped my laptop bag from my hand. I lost my laptop, mobile phone and keys to my Airbnb apartment. Luckily, I did not lose any money, credit cards or passport. And most of all, I was lucky that I was not physically harmed.
The moment that it happened
It happened so quickly and yet everything felt like it was in slow motion. I felt a hand grabbing my laptop bag and saw a motorcycle with two men on it slowly driving off with my bag.
In that split second, I can only remember the advice given to me in the past. I was told that if I was ever in this situation, where someone drives by with their motorcycle and grabs your purse, just let go. If you don’t, they might drag you on the road while the bike speeds off, or worst, they will cut your arm so you will have to let go.
I didn’t chase after them. And I can only scream which did absolutely nothing. I stood there for a while just trying to comprehend what had just happened.
That night, I played all the different scenarios that could happen in my head over and over again. Letting go of the bag was the only option I had.
What the f**k happened?
Was I off my game that day? Was I too trusting of a city I have grown to love? There were so many questions in my head after the incident and somehow the whole experience has made me doubt about travelling, and myself as a solo traveller.
I hated that I doubted myself in my ability to travel as a solo traveller. Not only did these two thieves took away all the expensive things I have with me, but they took away my ability to trust a new place and trust in the system. Perhaps its more complicated being in a city in a developing country, and that I should be even more alert at all times. But something happened that day that made me doubt my solo travel.
And I hated the fact that I was targeted and appeared to be weak in someone else’s eyes. The whole act was an invasion of privacy.
But sh*t happens
I went through all the emotions of being scared, angry, and sad. I’ve asked many times, “why me?” And worst of all, what did I do to attract this type of situation?
But then I realized, sh*t happens. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to any seasoned traveller, like myself.
Since my first solo trip 15 years ago, I never had any real incident until now. I lost a lot of expensive equipment that I couldn’t live without on the road. But I have to remember that I was not physically harmed and I didn’t lose any money or my passport. Phew!
When sh*t hits the fan, be strong and stay focus
From the time I lost my laptop and mobile phone to replacing them, I felt lost and disconnected because I wasn’t able to reach anyone. Those were the most difficult hours I’ve had as a woman solo traveller. Never have I felt so vulnerable and alone.
At the time, I didn’t know what to do except I needed myself more than anything else. I am travelling solo in a country that I am not familiar with. But I needed to be strong and stay focused so I can get myself back on track.
So I immediately made lists of things I needed to do. Replacing both laptop and mobile phone was a top priority. I also made lists of applications and apps I needed to replace on both devices. And I made sure to list all the websites that would require a password change. I don’t want any further loss beyond this point.
I was lucky to have a helpful Airbnb host. With his help, I replaced my mobile phone. And just for overall emotional support as well.
I managed to stay strong all day because I knew I had to. That same night, I was able to get in touch with some friends online. As soon as I was able to reach someone I know, I immediately broke down in tears. I felt that I just had to give myself a moment and just cry. I knew I just had to give myself the time and space to let out all my emotions. After all, I’m only human.
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What did I learn from this incident?
I’ve been trying to figure out all the lessons I am supposed to learn from this. There are so many lessons to be learned! I can’t even wrap my brain around everything!
And I wasn’t going to blog about this initially. But after thinking about it a bit more and had some time to calm down, I would want to share my story so nobody will experience the same thing.
From the practical side of things, losing all your valuable possession is not the end of the world. You can always replace material things. But the most valuable things are your photos, your files and other archived documents. Here’s what I learned:
- Always back up all your computer files
- Always back up files from your phone
- Backup in a remote server like iCloud or google drive
- Set your backup to be completed automatically, so your backup files are always updated
- Create a system where all your files and contacts are centralized so that you can quickly restore all your information
- Compile a list of accounts and passwords for different websites you use
- Change all the passwords to all your relevant accounts to prevent further loss when you lose your devices
- Log in to your account (either iCloud for Mac devices or other storage clouds for android devices), erase your data and lock your phone. By selecting the option to erase, data will be erased when either the laptop or mobile phone connect to wifi
Actual useful travel tips
Women solo travellers have to be more careful while on the road. It seems like we attract unwanted attention and especially more so while we are travelling solo. But this is all part of the culture of travelling solo.
I’ll list some of the things I usually do when I’m in a foreign country:
- Always be aware of your surroundings whether it is day or night
- Do not walk alone late at night
- Try not to walk alone in quiet areas during the day
- Try to blend in with local culture and surroundings. Perhaps by dressing more modestly
- Carry your belongings in a backpack. Handheld purses and shoulder bags are bigger targets for theft
- If you do have to carry something in your hand, hold it with the hand facing the inside of the sidewalk. And walk close to the inside of the sidewalk
- Try not to carry too many valuables with you when you’re going out. Lock all your valuables in your accommodation
- If possible, research the areas you are visiting and check to see if those areas are “bad, ” i.e. high crime
- When something happens to you, be strong and stay focused
- other tips for solo travellers that might be useful to you
Feeling grateful and refusing to give up
It’s been five days since it happened. I’ve replaced my laptop and mobile phone. I’ve restored a majority of my files (thanks to my obsessive-compulsive need for backing up files in multiple locations).
Despite it all, I am still incredibly grateful for everything that happened, even the bad stuff. Even though it was a harsh lesson, but I feel like I can walk away from this and learned a lot from it. I am still super happy to be travelling solo in Vietnam because this country is so beautiful and has so much to offer. Moreover, I am so glad that I was not physically harm.
I am still a bit shaken up by the whole incident. But I refuse to let it affect my life as a woman solo traveller. In the past six weeks, I met so many friendly and generous locals from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and everywhere in between. They were so kind to offering advice and giving suggestions. I refuse to let these two thieves take anything else away from me.
This incident is just a bump in the road. My solo travelling life will continue.
Remember that sh*t will happen. But the important thing is always to stay strong, stay focused and get back up. Don’t let fear stop you from travelling solo.
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