When I went to Barcelona a couple of weekends ago, I planned to spend all of my waking hours on the beach, trying to soak up all the sun England has deprived me of over the last three months.
Instead, I spent hours in a Spanish police station, crying and confused.
I wish I could tell you a funny story about some sort of shenanigans that landed me in the police station, but that’s not how this story goes.
After eating a late dinner, a friend and I decided to check out Barcelona’s famous nightlife, which left much to be desired.
At about 2 a.m., we decided to take the metro back to our hostel.
By 2:30 a.m., we were running through the halls of the Vila Olímpica metro stop screaming for the policia.
As we were walking down into the metro, three men surrounded us, grabbed our wristlets and ran.
My friend chased one of the thieves up and out of the metro, while my thieves ran further into the station. I pushed one of them, we screamed the whole time, and there were at least a dozen witnesses.
Despite our best efforts to stop them, the thieves got away.
There we were. No money, no metro passes, no phone and no knowledge of the Catalan language.
All we could do was yell “policia” and hope for the best.
After a couple of minutes, a Spanish woman and her Norwegian boyfriend stepped in to help us.
They talked to the information desk in the metro, drove us to the police station, translated to the police and wrote out a note for us to give to a cab driver explaining what happened and telling him we would pay with money at the hostel.
I’ve replayed the situation over and over in my head in the days since the mugging.
What could I have done to stop it or to change the course of events? The only conclusion I can reach is that it was beyond my control.
I consider myself a fairly experienced traveler, having been to more than 30 states and nearly 20 countries in my 20 years. I know to pay attention to my surroundings, and I did just that.
The night of the incident, we were in a well-lit and busy metro with dozens of people around.
The guys who mugged us didn’t look like typical thugs. They were well-dressed in nice jeans and leather jackets, like they were ready for a night out.
And on top of that, my friend and I were completely sober.
It was a situation I thought would never happen to me, but then it happened to me.
Some people have said I needed to be more alert, while others insist I could have “kicked the guy there” and “punched the guy here.”
They don’t understand that it just doesn’t work like that.
Luckily, my friend and I still had our passports, more money and credit cards at the hostel.
The thieves who took my wristlet took my camera, metro pass and cash, throwing my driver’s license and credit card on the ground.
My friend lost her debit card, metro pass, cash and iPhone 4 and will probably never get them back.
We don’t know yet if our travelers insurance can replace anything we lost.
When the mugging happened, it felt like the worst thing in the world, but as the days have passed, it’s gotten better.
We were scared to go into the metro for the rest of our trip, but we slowly realized how much worse things could have been.
We could have been hurt, we could have been stranded, and we could have lost so much more.