Everyone loves a good story of travel misadventure. Especially when it is something so silly and avoidable. It reminds us that we are all human and we all make mistakes. But more importantly it reminds us that travel insurance is ALWAYS worth the money – just read this story next time you are wondering whether or not to get travel insurance.
I am not an experienced traveller by any means but I have travelled a little. This particular story unfolded on my third time out of Australia, in beautiful Europe, in transit from Paris to Venice..
I like to think of myself as a prepared traveller. One that is not naive and makes sensible decisions. I don’t put myself in positions that I am uncomfortable in and I am always cautious of my surroundings. However hunger, a strong need for coffee and a broken night’s sleep can throw all of that out the window…
There are a few things that Australians are known around the world for. Besides drinking beer and being viewed as a country so small that of course I would have to be friends with Hugh Jackman, we are reliable, we are friendly and we can be unconditionally trusting.
Australians tend to have a bit of a problem blending in. You can always spot the Aussie in a crowd. They are the ones making conversation with anyone who will listen, and wearing rubber thongs with no regards for weather or conditions. If you don’t at first see them, you will surely hear them as wow our accent sticks out! Until I was in a room with a bunch of Californians I never understood that I had an accent. I do, and it is bogan as heck.
Anyway, we all do our best to walk around a new city or country without a giant neon sign on our heads saying that we are a foreigner, quite possibly lost. We try and pretend we are just checking Facebook when we are really checking Google Maps. We do this of course, to avoid unwanted attention from those who may not be so honest.
When initially planning my trip, what really surprised me was how much travelling to Europe from Australia is associated with theft. So many people I spoke to, strangers I met a work as well as people I knew, all had tales of something being stolen or being pickpocketed. I always just brushed off the comments thinking that it was probably just the carelessness of the individual that had lead to the theft and that as long as I was smart, that wouldn’t happen to me.
After reading this story you are only going to agree with that point…
The story begins in Paris, boarding a sleeper train that was taking us all the way through to Venice in Italy. The train route goes through Switzerland as well, so to ensure smooth border crossings you are required to hand over your passport for the night. I was super reluctant to do this. But seeing as we wouldn’t be allowed to continue on our trip without doing it, we handed them over.
It was evening and we had already eaten dinner at the train station, so we settled down in our cabin for the night listening to music from Jarryd’s brand new tablet. Even though our door was locked, during the night I was woken by a torch being shone in my eyes by a Swiss official. Apparently it was the routine stop they had warned us about.
After waking up in the morning and packing everything back into our bags ready for departure, we remembered the tickets they had given us when we boarded the train allowing free breakfast from the dinning carriage. It was the next one down from us and after hanging out the door to our cabin and realising there was no-one around to lock our cabin, our trusting Australian nature said ‘she’ll be right’, closed the door behind us and headed off in search of espresso and a croissant.
We wouldn’t have been gone more than 10 minutes when we returned. I moved Jarryd’s backpack off the seat and sat down. At that stage it didn’t occur to me that he had left his backpack sitting on top of his suitcase.
Now I am not sure what prompted us to look for the tablet. Maybe we wanted to listen to music again, maybe it was just to make sure we had packed it. It doesn’t really matter I guess, all that matters is that when we opened the backpack it wasn’t there. We subsequently turned the cabin upside down, dug through both our big suitcases and came up empty. Could not believe it.
As we were frantically searching for the second time, the conductor came back to hand us back our passports. He didn’t seem to understand what we were saying so we both tried to mime ‘someone stole our tablet’ whilst remaining perfectly calm of course. It ended with the man telling us we needed to go and tell someone else on the train. Before Jarryd left (I was staying behind with our bags this time) he reached in the front pocket of his backpack to get his watch. It was not there. This prompted yet another search to make sure everything else was accounted for.
When Jarryd returned he had an incident report written in Italian (so we really had no idea if it accurately explained the series of events) and instructions to speak with the police when we arrived in Venice.
After hanging around the little police office at the train station trying to find someone to talk to who spoke English to explain our situation we ended up being told we would need to go to the main police station within Venice and file the police report there. As it was a weekend however, we wouldn’t be able to do this until Monday.
We took the Vaporetto into Venice and checked into our accommodation. The first thing we did was call our travel insurance to explain the situation and that we couldn’t get the police report until Monday. They were really understanding and reassured us that with those 2 pieces of paper we would be able to claim both the tablet and the watch and get replacements.
Deciding there was nothing else we could do at that point in time, it was time to explore Venice and of course eat pizza and enjoy a bottle of red wine. It was our first day in Italy after all and we wanted to make sure we were enjoying it despite the theft incident.
When Monday arrived we walked over to the police station which is conveniently located in Piazza San Marco. Before we could walk in, and Italian officer indicated that we stop, speaking Italian I can only assume he asked what we needed. Explaining that we needed to report a theft, he disappeared inside then came back out and seemed to indicate that we wait. Still unsure, we waited around for about half an hour before he pointed in the direction of the door.
We walked in and were greeted by a nice but stern Italian officer. She spoke perfect English which was a relief for us to be able to explain properly what had happened. When we finished our statement, she looked at us and asked, “why did you not lock the door?”. When we mumbled something about thinking it would be ok, she replied with “This is Italy, you cannot leave your sunglasses on the table at a restaurant!”.
Leaving with our statement, this time written in English we headed back to our room to scan the documents with a phone app so we had a copy online incase something happened to our originals. This app was fantastic and I highly recommend having one to scan your documents when travelling. There was now nothing to do but enjoy the rest of our holiday (obviously being a little more careful with our stuff) until we returned home to make the claim.
Claiming was fairly easy. Once I submitted everything they required, they actually contacted JB HIFI for me where we had originally purchased the tablet and they organised to have a new one ready for me to pick up. The watch was harder as it was an item of jewellery. They give very low value to jewellery and you cannot expect to get enough money back to replace it properly with an equivalent. As the watch was a present and a few years old, we didn’t want the insurance company to select a replacement watch as it wasn’t going to be the same. Instead we opted to get the refund in cash. At the time I was actually working for a jeweller so was able to buy a nice watch with the insurance money using my staff discount.
The moral of this story? Sometimes we can be stupid and make mistakes. For those times, travel insurance provides that piece of mind. You really cannot afford to travel without it. Also, protect your stuff! Do not make assumptions that everyone is honest. If they had gone to my backpack in that cabin instead of Jarryd’s, they would have my camera with ALL of our photos from France, my Iphone, my IPad, my credit card…everything except my passport. So really we were very lucky this time.
Please let me know your stories below in the comments!
Have you ever had to make a travel insurance claim? Have you experienced theft while overseas? Are you guilty like me of being overly trusting?