Traveling can be bliss, but it can also be a nightmare. This is the story of our nightmare – getting our passports stolen – and how to fix it. If you find yourself in this situation, and need some help, refer to the step-by-step guide below on how to get a new passport abroad.
Leisurely walking down the street on the way back to the hostel with not a care in the world, our lives were turned upside down within a millisecond.
After a night of fun and drinking on “walking street” Kris and I made our way back to the hostel at around 4am. Laughing and talking on the way back we were unaware of our surroundings. After you’ve been traveling for some time, you lose your sense of danger or fear, and you don’t think anything bad can happen to you. This is astronomically untrue. I’m not saying you need to walk around fearing everything and everyone, but you should always be aware of where you are.
Anyway… this was our first night in District 1 of HCMC, and we met some cool people in the hostel so we all went out. Since we didn’t know the area at all, we actually overshot the hostel on our walk back, and that’s when it happened.
I was walking in the street with my shoulder bag on, and Kris was on my left hand side. There weren’t many people out at this time. It happened so quickly I didn’t even realize my bag was gone until the motorbike was 20 feet ahead of me. They must have been sitting on the corner just waiting for someone to give them an opening. The motorbike came right up next to me, cut my bag off of me with a knife, and sped off. Like I said, I barely felt it happen, they must have done it hundreds, if not thousands of times.
Takeaway: We usually don’t have our passports out with us, especially while drinking. This was our number 1 mistake. If your hostel doesn’t have lockers with locks, find a place to hide them within your stuff. Separate your most important items, don’t have them all in one place. If you can avoid bringing your phone out, also leave it in the hostel. It’s safer there than on your person.
Immediate disbelief and panic set in. I touched my hip and felt the empty space where my bag would sit, I looked up and saw the strap of my bag flailing in the air right before the thief tucked it in between him and the getaway driver. All I could muster was, “he took it! He just took it!” Kris and I started running after the motorbike and quickly realized it was pointless as he was already gone. Not only were our passports in this bag, but my iPhone, about 1 million dong, and all of our debit and credit cards as well. It was a huge blow to say the least. The bright side was we didn’t have our USD cash on us, it was back in the hostel, which is the thing that saved us during the recovery time.
I started to cry as I watched our belongings fade into the distance. I am in shock for a while feeling so many mixed emotions; anger, disbelief, guilt, sadness, embarrassment… What happens now? What about our New Zealand plans? They’re going to use our bank cards, how do we cancel them? Why did this happen to us? How could I be so stupid to let this happen? Why are there such mean people in the world?
An added bonus was that our visa would run out at the end of that week, we only had about 6 days to leave the country. This was not possible anymore.
Kris was much more put together than me, assuring me that everything will be ok, and was just happy that the thieves didn’t hurt me. We were both a bit disoriented and tried to find our way back to the hostel. We got there and immediately got on the computer to cancel our bank cards. Depending on your bank, you might have to call them, but most of ours were as easy as an email or a click on the website.
Then Kris thought… “wait, you have ‘find my iPhone’ don’t you? Let’s try that.” We logged in and my heart raced as it was searching for the location. Yes! It’s been found. We were new to the area so we didn’t know where this was. We pulled up google and found that the phone was right here, exactly where we are now. How is this possible? What we realized was it found the location of the MacBook I was using in that moment, not my iPhone. My heart sank. My phone was offline and there was no way to track it.
Takeaway: Give yourself some time to panic, don’t hold back these emotions you are feeling because it does no good to you to keep them inside. But don’t overdo it, allow yourself some freak out time in order to get back to reality.
Since it was 4am when this happened to us, we didn’t sleep at all that night. I laid down for a few hours, but my adrenaline did not allow me to sleep. We got up and assessed the situation. The first thing we did was accept it. It happened, and there is nothing we can do about it except to recognize it and start to pick up the pieces.
Acceptance didn’t happen right away, even though we had talked about it. When something like this happens you don’t want to accept it. You want to find a way to get your things back. We took a walk that day to see if maybe they just took the cash and chucked the bag. But there was no luck.
It took a while for us to truly accept that this was happening even after we filed the police report and visited the embassies. Your brain doesn’t want to believe it happened. Anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, embarrassment, and so many others were constantly fighting in my head.
Takeaway: In the end you need to give in, accept, and move on, not letting these emotions take over your life.