Last weekend, on a late-night cab ride home from Brooklyn, I got an email from my aunt suggesting that I buy something called the “Pick-Pocket Proof™ Women’s Travel Pants.”
Coincidentally, they also look like something I would never wear.
But even if I were willing to set that detail aside, I have another issue: I plan to travel for the better part of a year, which means that I’d have to buy several pairs to cover my entire trip. At $99 each, it seems the pants’ best deterrent may be to have people overspend on elaborate outerwear, which would leave very little money for pickpockets to take.
I kid. But my aunt may be relieved to know that the real reason why I’m not interested in the pants is because I have something even better: A fanny pack.
I don’t care what anyone says about my dorky travel pouch, it was $26 well-spent. When I was hiking to Machu Picchu two years ago, I never had to spend a second checking for my wallet or worrying that I might have dropped it somewhere on the trail – which actually happened to one of member of our group who chose to carry his passport in the side pocket of a loose-fitting pair of sweatpants.
But being pickpocketed is hardly the worst thing that can happen on the road. And I know that my aunt agrees. She sent me the link not because a stolen cell phone is the biggest challenge I’ll face while away, but because it’s a risk that I can minimize.
“You have to understand,” she explained a few weeks ago when I told her about my upcoming trip. “We worry about you because the world is fucked up.”
And that’s a fair point too. Turn on the news and you can find a hundred examples to prove her right.
But I’ve taken my little fanny pack on a dozen trips in the past two years, including a few to places that some people warned me not to go. What I found every time is that there is nothing to be afraid of.
The 20-something carpet salesman in Istanbul didn’t take me to a roof to rob me. He just wanted to show me his shop’s spectacular view. (And try to sell me some pillowcases.)
The school bus driver who picked me up on a corner in Quito and drove me to the historic district free of charge wasn’t trying to kidnap me. He was just giving me a ride.
The tour guide in Cusco who insisted that I crawl into a cave, wasn’t going to kill me. He just wanted to show me a hidden temple. (Though even I will admit, I had my concerns about that one).
There are bad people in the world – of that I’m sure. But I haven’t met too many on my travels so far. And I highly doubt that I’m going to next year.
But even if I do, they won’t be getting my passport.