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Robbed In Panama City!

Robbed in Panama City

This is How I Feel Right Now…

Panama City, Panama

Two nights ago I was robbed by women here in Panama. It was pretty damn embarrassing. The effects have been far more devastating than I ever thought they could be.

A year ago when I was planning this trip, before I sold everything I owned to start traveling long-term, my good friend Ferenc posed a question to me:

“Before you leave, ask yourself, are you prepared to lose everything? Because there is a good possibility it could happen”.

I told him I was prepared. Now I´m starting to think I answered a little to quickly…

A Chain-Reaction of Mistakes

Last week I spent 5 days exploring the remote villages & jungles of Panama´s notorious Darien Gap with my friend Gabriel from Brazil. We both shot a lot of photos & video from our challenging and eye-opening experience there.

On Friday night, we decided to meet again at a Cuban bar in the Casco Viejo area of Panama City to share our footage with each other.

I brought my laptop computer along with me for this purpose. Mistake #1.

As we were finishing up, the bar/restaurant got really busy as a large group of locals & expats started celebrating someone´s birthday.

The festive live Cuban music in combination with a venue packed full of beautiful dancing women enticed us to stay and have a couple drinks before we left. Mistake #2.

Like I always do, I strapped my day-pack to my chair so no one could just grab it and run off. My laptop was inside. Unfortunately, the reusable zip-ties I normally employ to secure the zippers of my pack had been left at the apartment I was Couchsurfing at. Mistake #3.

Eventually a group of local women walked in. We watched them scan the bar, pause and whisper to each other when they saw us, and proceed to take seats next to us.

Based on their overtly strong advances toward us, it was pretty obvious they were prostitutes looking to conduct business with a couple of foreign tourists. We were their targets.

Gabriel and I were slightly amused at the situation, but chose to ignore them, and continued on with our conversation about what we had just experienced in the Darien. Mistake #4.

Maybe an hour or so later I suddenly noticed that the girls were gone. I didn´t see them leave. We assumed they gave up on trying to get our attention and went searching for new targets. I didn´t think to check my bag. Mistake #5.

After we finally left the bar, I noticed that my backpack felt a bit light. Upon closer inspection, my heart sank…

My Life Was On That Computer!

For those of you who don´t know, 100% of my income comes from working with my computer. Sometimes I build websites for other people, sell information products (aka eBooks) and work as a freelance travel writer/photographer.

I use specialized software programs to create graphics, process high-resolution photos/video, and build websites. That´s how I earn a living, and I do it all from my computer.

Luckily I have backups for most of my information. My travel photos and videos have been saved from disaster. But there is a problem.

Lately the company I buy advertising from, Google AdWords, has made some changes which have effected part of my business in a pretty negative way. I have been forced to update my websites, or risk my whole business going under.

Without my own computer, I´m effectively unable to make those updates, and it´s a time-sensitive situation. There were also some important files on my computer that were NOT backed up yet, and it’s going to take a few months to replace all that work. Mistake #6.

Recovery Not Looking Good…

Planning ahead, I installed tracking software called Prey Project on my laptop, just for this type of situation. But to track it, the computer must be turned on and near a WiFi location.

After 2 days, I´ve received zero reports from the tracking software. The thieves may have been smart enough to keep the computer turned off, and they possibly could have just replaced or reformatted the hard-drive.

It´s not looking good that I´ll recover my computer this way. The Panamanian police can´t do much about the situation either. I filed a police report with them, but they didn’t seem very optimistic. Panama City receives over 1,000 stolen property reports a month.

And to top it all off, my travel insurance was not up to date. My policy expired not too long ago, and I was in the proccess of conducting research to locate a new provider when all of this happened. Mistake #7.

Living On $30 A Day

A lot of people who read my website assume I must be independently wealthy to travel constantly like this. That´s definitely not the case.

After almost a year living on the road (next week was going to be my 1 Year Travelversary), my savings are running low. It will take a few months to resurect my business, and it´s going to be pretty difficult (if not impossible) to accomplish this without a computer.

While I´m embarrassed to say it, this perfect storm of disasters will force me to postpone my travels until I can put all the pieces back together.

How You Can Help

I hate asking for help.

But for those who would like to, I´ve reluctantly decided to offer a few simple ways you can help me get this blog going again as fast as possible.

Travel Photography

Travel Photography Prints For Sale

Purchase A Travel Photography Print

Many of my travel photos are available to purchase as fine art prints. My image galleries contain unique landscapes, historic buildings, funny animals, and interesting people from around the world.

If you or someone you know could use some new artwork in a home or apartment, or if you are looking for a great gift idea, consider purchasing one of my photography prints.

[button label=”Browse My Travel Photography Here »” url=”” color=”#f05134″]

Any sales will go directly towards the purchase of a new computer so I´ll be able to continue producing this travel blog. In the rare case that I exceed that amount, or if the police miraculously happen to recover my computer a few weeks from now, the money will go directly to some local charity projects.

Not to mention you´ll get something special to hang on your wall!

Share This Post!

Maybe you don´t need any photo prints, maybe you can´t afford them, or maybe you don´t think I deserve any help because I´ve been careless & irresponsible. In all 3 cases, I completely understand.

But if you´re on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, I would be forever in your debt if you would at least share this post with your friends.

If nothing else, it´s a great example of what NOT to do. Hopefully my story will help other people avoid these same mistakes…

Thank You

The whole ordeal has been just another learning experience for me, among the many I´ve had on this journey thus far. I´m a strong believer that all experiences, good and bad, end up being positive in the long run. I´m not going to let this setback stop me from my goals.

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” ~ James Joyce

UPDATE: Computer Recovered!

After 3 months, I was finally able to recover my stolen computer using the Prey Project tracking software that I’d installed earlier! It’s actually quite a ridiculous story… go check it out!

READ NEXT: Tracking My Stolen Laptop


Here are a some travel articles that I recommend you read next:


Tuesday 10th of January 2012

Sorry to hear about this man. I believe your story but are you seriously asking people to just give you money to travel? I think thats pretty low, and its really sad to see. Man up, own up, and don't go around looking for handouts, its a bad look. Good luck in growing up.

Matthew Karsten

Tuesday 10th of January 2012

That's definitely not what I'm doing Firas. I had a bad experience, so I'm simply reminding everyone who reads this blog regularly (entertainment/advice which I provide for free) about my professional photography prints for sale. I'm asking people for their business. Business transaction ≠ handout.

A good number of readers asked directly through comments & via email to provide a PayPal link as well, so I did.

I'm going to continue traveling whether people purchase prints or not. If you don't like it, don't buy a print. No one is forcing you to do anything.


Thursday 15th of December 2011

I think that you are scammer yourself, you want people to give you money so that you can buy a new laptop that you said would do the job anyways because it had to be coming from your original laptop?

Basically you came up with this crap sob story and hurt the image of Panama for your own gain (sounds american). I hope that you not only get robbed, but that you fall off a cliff while walking through the country side, people like yourself are for yourself and I hope no-one gives you one red cent!

Matthew Karsten

Sunday 25th of December 2011

Sounds like some rock-solid logic Manny! You've got me all figured out.

I'll email you a copy of the police report. I hope your Spanish reading skills are better than your grammar.


Wednesday 30th of November 2011

I am sorry to say this..But good thing you gave us an idea about it...Thanks anyway!!

a modern nomad

Thursday 24th of November 2011

Sorry to hear that...I just came across your site and this is the first post I read. I remember last year I lost all my things in Puerto Natales. My fault, I was being stupid. But I lost ALL of them. Clothes, everything - but I did have my passport, thankfully. And in Argentina a few years ago I was physically jumped. That was not fun and was scary.

My point is, you'll get through it! Chin up, man.


Matthew Karsten

Saturday 26th of November 2011

Thanks Patrick. Things are already looking better. Just another learning experience!


Wednesday 16th of November 2011

Matt -- if this could happen to you, it could happen to ANYBODY. Those girls may not have technically ROBBED you, but they must be pretty damn savvy ROBBERS. We sent you a little $$ and hope it helps you get back on the road as soon as possible.

Comments are closed.
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