Welcome to Bogota: Almost Robbed in Broad Daylight


Almost Robbed is part of the Punxsutawney TPOL Trip Report, where TPOL leaves the basement. It’s finally happening despite inconsistent policies, interruptions, and human stupidity as explained in these posts:

Given the miscues of this trip thus far, it seemed inevitable that I would eventually catch up to me (see TPOL Forgets How to Travel). My friend came to visit me at the JW Marriott. While feasting on the welcome platter of wine and cheese, we had a discussion about stolen phones and what an inconvenience it is when it happens. From there, we went out for more food and drink.

After lunch, I stopped to take a photo of the restaurant sign so I could include it in my Guns & Butter: Bogota Travel Guide. As we were crossing the intersection, I had my phone in my hand when a guy on a motorbike cut made a left turn and cut us off. While idling by, he dropped his left hand and dragged it in the air. I hopped back thinking maybe we had crossed the street at the wrong time. He sped off like nothing happened.

Moments later, my friend stood in disbelief recounting what just happened. In our debrief, we concluded that he must have tracked me with the phone and waited for the opportune time to strike. While I was not carrying my phone like a loaf of bread, I also did not have it tucked away like Thurman Thomas.

When I travel, I am hyper-paranoid of having my phone stolen. I never put it on a table in a restaurant, especially outside. I always hold my phone with two hands when I snap photos in public areas, fearing someone will strip it away like a tenacious cornerback.

I never take photos in a taxi with the window down in a busy street because I envision someone on a motorbike flying by and taking my phone. What I never contemplated was someone slyly attempting this maneuver when I am simply walking with my phone in my hand.

I commend the would-be thief for his ingenuity. I can’t say I blame myself too much because my behavior was not unreasonable. There have been plenty of times when I have had my phone out following Google Maps’ terrible directions not fully engaged with my surroundings. Not once has such a thing happened.

What’s the solution? Go old school and get a chain wallet contraption for my phone? Phones are used so frequently for everything that having it inaccessible is not sustainable.

My plead to thieves is to go ahead and keep trying to steal my phone. It keeps me sharp. But if you are successful, please ask for a bounty and return the phone to me. I will pay. It is too much of a hassle to lose my phone when I travel. Even if I am at home, the inconvenience of downloading all the apps, moving them to the right place on the home screen, and reentering all my passwords is pure torture.

To my bitter readers, go ahead and lie by saying you keep your phone locked away in your hotel safe and that this would never happen to you. To everyone else, the Travel Lesson is summarized best by a popular Colombian saying: “No dar papaya.”

Taking this photo almost cost me my phone.


  1. You had the phone in your hand in the middle of the street? The first rule of strolling in Colombia is do not give papaya. The second rule is Do Not Give Papaya

  2. After my wife and I each having a phone pickpocketed on different trips, we now carry very old iphones of no value and with no private info when we are traveling and out of our apartment. We only need google, google maps, ability to phone each other if separated (we get local sim cards), and Uber. We leave our “good” phones in the apartment with the laptop.

  3. The whole phone thing is ridiculous. Phones don’t need to be an extension of our hands. Put the thing someplace safe. Everyone laughs at ‘fanny packs’. Wear a fanny pack in front, keep your hand on it when you’re out. I’ve travelled the world for 40 years without every losing anything. Put the phone in the fanny pack, zip the zipper. Which is worse? Losing your phone or complete strangers laughing at you? It’s a no-brainer.

  4. What kind of phone do yo have that you wold need to re-download and arrange all your apps and re-enter all your passwords? Get an iPhone next time and you won’t have to worry so much if it gets lost/stolen… besides the $1000 price tag…

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