A few weeks ago I conducted a live video event via Ustream where I spoke briefly about my travels on the Katy Trail and shared some of the good books I’ve been reading lately. At the end of my talk, I took questions from those in attendance and did my best to answer them live during the event.
One of the questions I received had to do with the safety of your belongings when entering a building or sleeping in your tent at night. The person who asked the question wanted to know what he or she was supposed to do with their bags when they were sleeping in their tent at night or when they needed to go inside a supermarket or other such building.
I responded to the question by saying that I always sleep with my belongings inside my tent. In most cases, I find a picnic table, tree or fence to lock my bike to while I sleep… and then I bring all of my personal belongings inside the tent with me overnight.
When going into a supermarket, however, I explained that most of the time I usually just bring my valuable items into the supermarket with me and leave my bike and the rest of my gear locked up outside – hoping that no one will try and steal it. I went on to say that in some circumstances I have carried all of my belongings into the supermarket with me. In these instances, I have removed the panniers from my bike and carried them in with me while I shop. This, of course, is not easy, but it can be done if necessary.
After I shared this information, I went on to talk about how I have never had any problem with theft on my travels. I’ve been traveling with my bicycle for ten years and never have I had anything stolen from me while out on the road.
I then shared how I was able to leave my bike out on the street, unlocked, for a month-and-a-half during my recent visit to the country of Montenegro… and how I felt perfectly safe leaving my laptop computer and other belongings in my room at a shady sex hotel in Shkoder, Albania while I went out to explore the city.
The point I was trying to make by sharing these stories was that theft is not something you always need to be afraid of. There are plenty of instances where you can leave your bike unlocked, roam around the city and return to find that no one has touched any of your things.
What I failed to mention during the live broadcast, however, is that knowing when to be concerned for your safety and the safety of your belongings is something that you learn as you get more experience on the road.
Let me say that again, but in a slightly different way: As you travel and gain more experience on the road, you will begin to learn when you need to take extra care of yourself and your belongings… and you will become better at distinguishing safe areas and individuals who can be trusted.
Your safety on the road is something that you learn and get better at as you gain more and more travel experience!
The reason I bring this up is because I don’t want those who watched my live web event and saw me answer this particular question to get confused about personal safety and the safety of their belongings. Just because I’ve never had anything stolen from me does not mean that it’s never going to happen. The last thing I want you to do is go out into the world and not lock up your bike or your belongings and then have everything ripped away from you. I don’t want that to happen!
You see, the reason I’ve never had anything stolen from me while on my travels is partly due to luck, but mostly due to the fact that in most circumstances I go above and beyond to ensure that the things I am traveling with are within my reach and can not be stolen away from me. The reason I’ve had such good luck in regards to theft on the road is because I’ve taken the steps necessary to ensure that my belongings have not landed themselves in the hands of thieves.
My recommendation to you is this: If you are planning to travel the world with your bicycle, do what you can in every single instance to lock up your bike and secure your belongings to the best of your ability. Even if you think you are in a safe area, lock up your gear! As you travel and get more experience, you will encounter circumstances where it is simply impossible to lock up your bike or secure your belongings. And in these instances, you will have to decide whether or not you can risk leaving your gear unsecured or whether or not you need to leave the area and go to another campground, supermarket, restaurant, etc.
The key here is to 1) get some experience. 2) Lock up your bike and all of your belongings each and every time – if possible. And then, 3) after you’ve spent a significant amount of time on the road, then you can begin to decide whether you want to take some risk and leave your belongings unlocked, unsecured and outside of your protective clutch.
Good luck… and be safe!
Photo by Saxon Moseley