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, mentor, and experienced traveler Ferenc Ecseki 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 actions 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 didn´t think much of it, 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 day pack 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.
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.
Purchase A Fine Art 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.
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…
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…