Travel and trust – Part 2

by Steve Brock on May 21, 2014

Delft MusiciansWhen I was a kid, my brother offered me an intriguing experiment. He claimed he could pull a hair from my head without me feeling it. Being the gullible younger brother, I said, “No way,” but let him proceed. He grasped a single strand, tugged gently saying, “That’s the one. Feel it?” “Yep,” I replied. “OK. Here I go. On the count of three you won’t feel me pull it out. One. Two. Three!”

On “Three,” he slammed his other hand down hard on my head. Despite the near concussion and my anger at his deception, I had to admit it was a pretty clever ruse. Painful. But clever.

Pickpocketing works on the same principle: Distract your target and mask a smaller movement and pressure (the removal of the wallet…or phone) with a larger one (e.g. bumping into the target or say, saddling up right next to him in a friendly photo pose. Just as an example, of course).

So there I am in Delft. I’ve listened to the Serbian musicians play, chatted and laughed with them, taken their photo as they took mine – side-by-side with their leader (third from the left in the photo above). Then, as I walk away, I realize my smart phone is missing.

What would you think at that moment? Maybe your thoughts might run something like this (if you would ever actually admit these to anyone):

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. When did I last use my phone?
  3. Double check all my pockets, etc.
  4. Could it be? Did they really steal my phone?
  5. No way.
  6. Way. Or at least a possibility.
  7. They’re from Serbia. Serbia is in that region where the Roma (gypsies) live, right? Aren’t they known for stealing things and doing scams?
  8. Don’t think like that. That’s profiling, stereotyping and all sorts of other bad things. But…
  9. When did I last use my phone? In the car for navigation. Could I have left it there? Please, oh please, God let it be there…

And off I walk as fast as I can back to the car.

On the way I think about going back to where the group was performing. But what will I say to them if I do?

“Hi there, fellas. Say, you didn’t by chance steal my phone did you? And if so, could I have it back? No hard feelings. Love your music.”

I’m saved from that by finding they’ve all dispersed…which only furthers my suspicion. All except one. He’s sitting not far from where the group had been playing. He’s casually talking to his wife or girlfriend. He sees me and waves in an ever-so-friendly manner.

Either he’s really milking this scam or he’s as innocent as he seems. I wave back in a half-hearted manner trying to look like either I know what’s going on or I’m just in a rush to meet up with my family. I hurry on, feeling even more awkward about the whole thing.

It takes me almost 20 anxious minutes to get back to my car. All the way there, I’m praying to find the phone, praying for forgiveness for my judgmental thinking, praying not to be so stupid in the future.

I get to the car.

Not only is the phone there, it’s sitting on the console between the front seats where I left it when using it for navigation. Right there where, ironically, anyone could have seen it, busted the window and stolen it.

I want to run back. Find my Serbian friends (they’re friends again, of course, not suspects now) and apologize for something I could never really explain to them without insult and embarrassment.

So I don’t. I simply wander back to where I’m to meet my wife and son. As I go, I think about several lessons from this experience.

First, always be vigilant when you travel. Keep track of your valuables like your phone. Always.

Second, be careful but extend grace. I won’t make some Pollyannaish pronouncement to just trust everyone everywhere. There are people out there that do prey on us tourists. You do have to be careful. But wariness is a tricky thing. The more protective we become, the more it shapes how we respond to people in general, even if they haven’t earned our distrust. We close ourselves off to the very people we’d often like to meet.

Interestingly, the more we do the first point – be vigilant – the easier it is to do the second point – extend grace. When we know where our stuff is, we have less to worry about. Even better, the less we’re lugging around with us, the less we need to protect.

Each situation will be different. Sometimes wariness is the right response. But for me, I will try to err on the side of trust. What I found is that you lose more than your phone when you stop trusting people. You lose a little bit of your own humanity.

I can’t afford to lose that.


Read Part 1 if you haven’t yet.

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?


MT (Meaningful Traveler): Phone home

by Steve Brock on August 30, 2010

Do you really want to take that call?

I try to maintain a holistic perspective on life. Theologically, I see my work as ministry and all part of my calling. So hopefully I’m the same person with clients in the boardroom that I am with my family in the living room with slight variations in topics discussed and wardrobe. Thus, when it comes to the whole life/work balance issue, I’m pretty Weeble-like in my balancing of the two (“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down” for those of you who have never seen the old TV ad for the egg-like pre-school figures). I integrate work with life quite well except for in one area: vacation.  

When I read this informative article on easy ways to call home when overseas on a vacation trip, I think, “Great! This is helpful (and the article really is). I definitely want to have my phone with me on a trip.”

Just don’t call me.

Cell phones are wonderful for dialing the next town’s B&B for availability or to check the opening times of a museum or park. And with a smart phone, you can read instant reviews by other travelers of a place you have just stumbled on. But work calls? Getting in touch with the office to make sure everything is OK? Reviewing work documents on my trip? Checking my email? Uh-uh. Not if I can help it. And sometimes, I can’t. (Like the time I had to do a conference call overlooking the Mark Twain steamboat at Disney World.)

With business travel, leaving home without my Blackberry would be akin to removing my right arm. With vacation travel, however, I am hard pressed to live in the moment when my mind is back in the office. I undermine the entire point of relaxing on a trip when my ear feels vulcanized to my cell phone for a work call as I desperately try to get a good connection out on the street while my family enjoys the local festivities inside. That instant cellular tether to the office that makes work trips so seamless becomes a ball and chain on vacation. And prison paraphernalia is not on my packing list for vacation trips.

Going on a vacation and disconnecting from work takes effort (and an understanding boss). I have to strive extra hard before I leave to take care of everything that might possibly occur in my absence. I have to rely on my colleagues more. I have to communicate with my clients and let them know I have a life apart from them. And yes, I have to trust God to take care of what I cannot control. But when you think about it, “what I cannot control” covers just about everything in life. Turning off my phone or not checking on work while on a vacation trip is just a tiny reminder that God – not me – is ultimately in charge of the situation, here on my trip or back at the office.

So read this helpful article about the options for calling home when you go overseas. Just keep it in perspective and remember that the point of your vacation is not to “check just one more email” but to be on vacation. You’ll find a lot more meaning in the scene around you than on the screen in your hand.

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?