"The Pickpocket" marker and colored pencil illustration by Joana Miranda

Having grown up frequently flying back and forth between the USA and my native Portugal, you’d think I would have savvy traveling down to a science.  Not so much. Suffice to say that on our recent trip to Europe…

I was almost robbed!

Pick pocket illustration by freelance illustrator Joana Miranda

(But, no, I wasn’t gabbing on my cell phone.)

Here’s what happened…

I was actually lugging my suitcase up the metro steps.  Fortunately, I felt and heard something.  When I turned to look, I saw two men behind me and realized that they had partially unzipped the outside pocket of my carry-on bag.  Being a 100 lb “heavyweight,” I of course felt no fear (amazing what adrenaline does, isn’t it?) Instead, I looked at the men and yelled “HEY!!!”  This of course filled my would-be-pickpocketers with immense fear (Hah!) and they walked away nonchalantly.  I was furious.  A few minutes later I admit I was also…

shaking with fright.

A close call…

Although I didn’t lose anything in the pick-pocket attempt (there was nothing of value in that outside pocket), things could have been a lot worse. Stashed in a money belt under my clothes were my passport, credit cards, dollars, and Euros!  I’d never worn a money belt before, but fortunately decided to use one on this trip.  If you’re looking for a slim profile, yet strong money belt, I highly recommend this one from Eagle Creek.

(Here I am earlier on the day of the attempted robbery.  As you can see, the money belt is virtually undetectable.)

Tips on what to wear for savvy traveling

In addition to always wearing my money belt when we were travelling about (yes, I even wore it on the overseas plane rides!), I took some additional precautions on this trip.  I’ve compiled my list below:

Joana’s 20 Savvy Traveling Tips

  1. Learn from the pros…check out travel tips from seasoned travelers like Rick Steves, or take a look at this handy checklist of 50 Best Travel Tips.
  2. Take only the essential credit cards you’ll need on your trip.
  3. Alert your credit card companies regarding your travel dates/destinations
  4. Make a color scan copy of your passport and give a copy to a trusted friend/relative at home.  Email a scan of the passport to yourself so that you can access it easily if your passport gets stolen
  5. Email yourself the Collect Call to USA numbers for the credit cards you’ll be carrying so that you can act quickly in the event that the cards are stolen
  6. Redact all identifying information on the paper travel documents you carry (i.e. if you are travelling with printouts of your hotel accommodations, black out your credit card and address information)
  7. Carry your cash, credit cards and passport in a money belt
  8. Leave your valuable jewelry at home
  9. Cover the keypad when you are withdrawing money from ATMs
  10. Have a friend keep on “look out” when you withdraw money
  11. Make as few ATM withdrawals as possible, but try to make most of your purchases in cash
  12. Be wary of being approached by strangers – especially pairs of people
  13. Be alert and vigilant in crowed trams, buses, trains, and subways
  14. Take a cab or an airport shuttle if you are travelling with your luggage.  Be vigilant if you choose to travel with your luggage on public transportation.
  15. For Women: Take a purse with a strap long enough to be carried cross-body in front (interior zippered compartments are essential!)
  16. For Men: Carry your wallet in a front pocket, or use a money belt or hidden money wallet
  17. Take twisties (or even small locks) to “lock” luggage zipper tabs together
  18. Read up-to-date guide books on your destination for safety tips
  19. Once at your destination keep your passport and credit cards locked up in the hotel safe. (Take out only the amount of cash/credit you’ll need for that day)
  20. When you need to make a phone call/check GPS, stand with your back against a wall and be aware of your surroundings (have a friend keep watch)

Remember…an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Now, go forth and enjoy your travels!


    • Joana says:

      Hi Helen,

      I don’t usually like to go over to “the dark side” on my blog, but after my near miss, I felt like it might be helpful to post what I learned.

      In NYC, I see so many people tuned out (on their cellphones) on the subway. Thankfully, pick-pocketing doesn’t seem to be as popular here as it is in Europe, but people should really wake up!

      Looking forward to talking to you on Thursday a.m. 🙂 Joana

      On Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 2:08 PM, JOANA MIRANDA STUDIO wrote:


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