Narrative, Travel

Keep your tent close, keep your passport closer

You’ve all heard the horror stories, fiction or not, of someone travelling and getting robbed blind thousands of miles from home. I’ve heard the stories and I have my own to share. I’m writing this from my cell phone because I have nothing more efficient to write with anymore.

What started as a trip to Poland to find the most affordable tent turned into an adventure to the black sea to see just how far I could hitchhike in nothing but sandals. Needless to say I made it, and needless to say I got robbed. This event had such an ironic impact on me that I decided to bite my issues with the United States and return to New York to patch up my losses over the past two years.

Bad things happen all the time but we will never know it because we humans are terrible predictors of what’s good and what’s bad. It’s been a week since that fateful day in Odessa and I’ve received more condolences and “What were you thinking’s” than I care to count.

With that said, would I take this experience back or even go so far to deem what happened as bad? Hell no.

I’m not glad it occurred but who’s to say what ends up happening one year from now as a result of it doesn’t leave me better off than had it not happened. I don’t believe in karma but besides having a good story for my kids some day, I had a damn interesting adventure.

So what happened?

I knew you’d ask and it wouldn’t be a travel blog without highlighting my moments of genius along side the ones of stupidity.

Camping outside of Odessa


Backtrack one week to August 10th. I woke up some 40km outside of Odessa slightly hung over after a night having drunk a liter of homemade red wine and feasted on smoked fish, all bought for less dollars than I have fingers on my left hand.

Oh yea, there were nuts too!

I had nuts too!

I had gotten there after a week of hitchhiking from Vilnius, Lithuania through Poland then through Kiev where I had been the night before.

The heat was unforgiving as I packed up the tent and made my way to the highway to fish for a ride into town. Like the day before, when I waited for 2½ hours and walked ~6km in all my gear until I found a ride, I had terrible luck that morning. Fast forward several hours and even more walking than the prior day. I got close enough to take a public bus into town from where I had to walk some more until I reach the black sea!

Keep your tent close, keep your passport closer

And by the way my back pack ripped in yet another place, eek!

One ferris wheel and a few kilometers later I reached my goal. Sun still squelching the only thing on my mind was what all my Ukrainian drivers had planted in my mind “иди до моря и разбивай свою палатку” (go to the sea and pitch your tent). I knew nothing about the area besides what I saw from the ferris wheel and what the locals told me.

I finally found the wooded area everyone was talking about and I walked another half hour looking for the perfect secluded place. Once I found it, pitched the tent and acted like any cautious person would and started hiding it under a cover of straw and tree branches. Still paranoid I walked around until I was convinced it was alright.

Incognito tent

All I could think next was, it’s 5pm. I’m as dirty as a hobo, sweaty as a whore and tired as a work horse. I need me some black sea and ice cream.

...and whatever this is.

…and whatever this is.

I swam and boy did it feel righteous having made it there. Like any paranoid person I decided to check back.

If perception serves me correct, it was a half hour by the time I got back to my–

Dude, where’s my tent?!

I came back to see a teen emptying my plastic bottle, my tent disassembled and like a mad man I scramble to check for my big backpack. Gone…

Few things in life can simulate the desperate thoughts that run through your head at such a moment. I’ll never forget.

Besides thinking F@#$&CK, the other dominating question was “what now?” With all my wits I gathered my remaining wits and packed up the left over remnants all while the boy just stood there pestering me for food, because I was obviously in the mood to be like mother Teresa. And thank god the thief spared me my sweat drenched t-shirt and shorts which I hung to dry. At least I would have some clothes for the next four days until I could reach home.

After trespassing onto some people’s property while looking for my bag I managed to enlist their help. They nabbed the kid from the kids and brought him to the police where they then got his dad and we all strolled happily off to the station.

Nothing resulted from bringing the kid in but maybe he’ll learn to keep his ass out of stranger’s things. For the next two hours I struggled in my poor Russian to explain what happened as the reality of my situation sunk in. I gotta get a job now…

And now…

Fast forward one week. I made it back to Kiev where I got my exit visa from the Lithuanian embassy, them flew home the next day where I finally got some clean underwear and money (since my bank cancelled the only card I had on me).

My plans have changed drastically. I’m flying back to New York at the end of the month to start my job as a developer at JackThreads and get my funds stable so that I can get my ass back out here and do this all over again minus the getting robbed part.

That day one week ago I lost a hefty chunk of money, clothes, a computer and my favorite Colombian Nacional jersey but I learned some valuable things.

For one, if you’re going to travel through Ukraine without a Russian or better yet, Ukrainian speaker you are pretty much screwed, otherwise it’s a great place to struggle in it! And secondly…

Keep your tent close, keep your passport closer.



For those of you still wondering…

Why didn’t you have your passport on you?

I considered it but finally decided the bag I carried with me could just as easily get stolen. A hostel mate told me a story of an acquaintance that went skinny dipping in Russia and as soon as he jumped in the water some hoodlums ran up and stole everything he had. Including his clothes…

Why didn’t you bring your bag with you to the sea?

It was tearing and I was trying to avoid completely destroying it until I could find somewhere to patch it.

Why didn’t you stay at a hostel?

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Next time I decide to spend the night in a city I don’t know, I’ll pay the extra few bucks.