As I am studying abroad in Barcelona this semester, I feel it’s appropriate to write my first “I know, Dad” piece on advice I have gotten from my father about traveling. Barcelona is royalty in the kingdom of pickpocket artists so if you haven’t traveled much there are a few basics you need to know (which I have obviously been reminded of by my Dad countless times). First, keep your wallet in your front pocket and any bag you might have in front of you in your lap. Second, keep your hands on the bag and in your pockets. Just doing those two things will almost definitely drive a pickpocket to select an easier target. But Dad also has a few other tricks up his sleeve to make sure you’re never stuck in a situation where you don’t have any money. For example, break up your money and store it in a few different places: some in your wallet, some in a toiletry bag, some in your suitcase, some in pair of socks, etc.. Even the most oblivious tourist will still be able to hold on to at least one of those items and putting taxi money in your shoe when going out at night can make a world of difference if you do end up missing a wallet. This summer I worked for two months in Guatemala and, following Dad’s advice, hid my money so well I actually forgot where I put it all. Imagine my delight when I rediscovered $50 in the middle of a deck of cards the last week of the trip (you should probably keep track of it better than I did, though).
However, of all his travel tips, Dad’s favorite is “Always have emergency cash.” Ever since I started carrying a wallet I was taught to fold a bill and slide it in a separate pocket for safekeeping – behind a driver’s license is a perfect spot. This emergency money doesn’t get spent on food or the pair of sneakers you saw at the mall, it’s only for when you need to get home safely and have no other options. Dad always likes to point out that debit and credit cards can get declined, but cold hard cash works everywhere. He takes this piece of advice so seriously that every single time I come home from college he asks me for my wallet to check that I still have my emergency cash safely tucked away. I used to do it just so he wouldn’t lecture me, but after my card was compromised one night I was happy I had begrudgingly listened to him. The “I told you so” I received when I eventually admitted to him what had happened was torturous, but deserved.
These tips are particularly relevant for tourists in foreign countries, but can easily apply to locals as well. To see just how easy it is for a talented pickpocket to target unsuspecting pedestrians, below is an entertaining video I found featuring Bob Arno. Arno is a master pickpocket who (fortunately) uses his skills for comedy and to aid law enforcement agencies. Take a look at the clip put together by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.