Getting Pickpocketed Was the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me

A Generous Contribution by Jonathan K.

Father & Son Trip

Ten years ago, my father and I went backpacking in Peru as a celebratory trip after I graduated from high school.

We flew into Lima, spent some time in Cuzco, climbed Macchu Pichu, and enjoyed a three-day hike through the beautiful Huascarán National Park.

It was after our hike that we found ourselves in Huaraz, a small mountain city set against the gorgeous snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca.

My father and I had just finished eating breakfast at a local cafe, and were waiting on the bus that would take us back to Lima, where our flight home was set to leave the day after next.

We had some extra time before the bus was scheduled to arrive, so my father decided to run by the local market and pick up some snacks for the ride.

“Keep your hands in your pockets Dad!” I yelled after him as he left, more in jest than anything. As a veteran hiker and world traveler, my father had insisted on carrying all of our money in addition to our passports. I didn’t think much of it at the time; holding onto our bus tickets was more than enough responsibility for me.

When my father returned half an hour later, I could tell something was wrong. He wasn’t carry bags of jerky or nuts like I expected, and his normally cheerful disposition had been replaced with a look of somber resolution.

He sat down in front of me and clasped his hands together.

“Son, I’ve got good news and bad news.”

I gulped.

“Okay Dad, what’s the bad news?”

My father took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. I could feel myself begin to sweat.

“The bad news is… I was robbed at the market just now. It was crowded, and while I was standing in line at one of the shops someone bumped into me, aggressively, and as I struggled to keep my balance a second person ran into me as well. I thought they might have been late for something and didn’t think much of it, but when I got to the front of the line and went to pay I realized my pockets were empty.”

My heart sank

“What about our passports? Please tell me you still have our passports?”

My father closed his eyes and shook his head. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

“Jesus, Dad! You lost all our money AND our passports? I can’t believe this! Our flight doesn’t leave for another two days, how are we supposed to manage without any cash? Will they even let us board without passports? Where are we going to stay, how are we going to eat? Damn it Dad, I TOLD YOU to keep your hands in your pockets!”

He waited a minute for my panic to subside. Once I had finished melting down, he reminded me that I still hadn’t asked about the good news. Incredulous, I felt my panic turn to anger.

“Good news? GOOD NEWS? You can’t be serious. Please, Dad, ENLIGHTEN ME as to what could possibly be considered good news in this situation.”

My father looked me straight in the eyes, and smirked.

“The good news, son, is that now…this is an adventure.”

“You really should eat that, you know. Might be a while before we get a proper meal again.”

Four hours had passed since we boarded our bus for Lima, and the attendants had just delivered lunch. Small trays, wound tight with plastic wrap, containing a few strips of salted beef, potato wedges, and white rice with carrots. While my father had practically inhaled his food, my tray still sat on the seat-back table in front of me, untouched.

“I’m not hungry.”

That was a lie. I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast, and while the meal didn’t look particularly appetizing, I could already hear my stomach growling.

But I was too angry to eat. Angry at my father for getting us into this situation. Angry at myself for having trusted him. Angry at being forced back to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, of having to worry about food and shelter instead of which museum to tour or which river to raft next. Angry that the trip was now, in my mind, ruined.

And my father’s attitude only made it worse. I could tell he was worried about our situation, but it also seemed to have imbued him with a strange sort of nervous excitement. He kept saying what a great story this would make one day, in a way that made me feel like he was glad it happened. As if this was a movie he’d already seen, and his certain knowledge of a happy ending precluded any worrying about whether the protagonists would survive (and of course, having a monumental challenge to overcome in the middle simply made for a better movie).

Part of me knew he was trying to help keep me calm, but another part resented his seemingly irrational optimism. The same awful thing had happened to both of us, yet he was upbeat and excited while I was angry and frustrated. The unfairness of it made me even more upset.

I slumped down in my seat, indignant, indulging in terrible thoughts of the suffering I would surely endure before the trip was over. I imagined us living on the streets, begging, stranded in a foreign land with no hope for rescue.

As luck would have it, though, things started to turn around the minute we arrived in Lima.

After getting off the bus, I discovered just enough pocket change in the bottom of my pack for the two of us to buy dinner.

Western Union Saves The Day

We then found a nearby Western Union and were able to call family back home to wire us some cash.

We remembered the hotel we had stayed at during our first night in Lima had made photocopies of our passports, and sure enough, they still had them. We brought them to the U.S. embassy the next day, and they were able to give us expedited temporary replacements. Incredibly, we made our original flight and left Peru right on time, just as planned.

My father, per usual, had been right all along. Our movie had indeed wrapped up with a happy ending, made all the sweeter by the difficulties we faced along the way. Ten years later, it’s still one of his favorite stories to tell when the family gets together for a holiday or birthday dinner.

As much as that trip means to him, though, it means even more to me. Not just for the great story I’m able to tell now, but for the lessons it taught me about life, travel, and the value of a proper attitude.

It Is All In Your Mindset


As Mike Cernovich likes to remind us, mindset is everything. My father viewed an unexpected difficulty through the lens of adventure, and was not only able to solve the problems it presented, but also found enjoyment in overcoming those new challenges. I viewed the same events as a tragedy to be endured, and suffered two days of needless anguish in a mental prison of my own design. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the way we view the world has more of an impact on our happiness and resolve than anything the world might actually throw at us.

I don’t need to tell you that expatriation will bring with it plenty of challenges, or that life will inevitably lay obstacles across your path. As an expat, you’ve already chosen a steeper path than most, filled with new and unexpected dangers. So when you inevitably get caught in quicksand, or tumble into some poison ivy, or find yourself surrounded by wild beasts, don’t worry. Don’t give up. Don’t turn back.

Just smile, because now…you’re on an adventure.

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