We just got back from a short trip to Costa Rica’s Caribbean side. I think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and Puerto Viejo has some of the best food. While we were out enjoying this food one night, the vacation rental we were staying at got broken into.
The robbers took two Macbook Pros, two iPads, one iPad2, a digital camera, binoculars, an electric razor, three very nice backpacks, and some other small stuff like my daughter’s underwear and crayons. We felt sick when we discovered this, and the kids were really scared that they might come back. I felt stupid for bringing so much with me, but I thought our stuff would be safer near me than back at our house which was unoccupied for a few days. I guess I was wrong.
Fortunately, I left our passports home, or they may have been stolen, too. I was also glad I had my wallet and iPhone with me, and Jen had her purse, so we didn’t lose any important documents, except for our yellow fever vaccination certificates. My mom was also staying with us, but in a different part of the house with better security. Her laptop was actually upstairs with ours, but she had hid it well, so didn’t lose anything. I’m so glad about that.
We filed a police report, and investigators supposedly took fingerprints the day after we left. But it sounds like a lost cause. Neighbors say they’re pretty sure who did it – a group of local troublemakers from Playa Chiquita whom even the police are afraid of. My only hope is that the tracking software I’ve installed will kick in and tell me where they’re at. But perhaps they’ve already reformatted and sold the computers.
Bad things happen sometimes. But life always goes on, and things do get better. Hopefully we can learn from our experiences, and grow.
This experience taught me that even though we try to live light, we still have too much stuff. Seriously, do we each need our own computer and iPad? And do we really need to take them on little trips? These things often just distract from the fun we came to experience anyway. Computers have a way of keeping us in our own little worlds instead of interacting with each other. Maybe we can use this opportunity to practice reducing our time on the computer.
Despite our loss (worth over $5,000), there are a few things that have brought me comfort, and a few things I will do differently from now on. First, the things that brought me comfort:
- All my important files are encrypted and password protected through Mac sparsebundles, so the thieves won’t be able to access any bank accounts or other sensitive information.
- All my important files are backed up on-line through mozy.com, including pictures, and the book I’m writing.
- All my passwords are stored securely using Keepass and backed up through Mozy and dropbox.
- Tracking software called Prey is installed on one of the Macbooks, which takes pictures of the offender and emails them to me along with other information. One of the iPads also has FindMyIPad on it which gives me their exact GPS location. Unfortunately, they need to get on-line for these programs to be of use.
- The burglars didn’t break in while we were home, and I’m so glad that my family is safe.
- We can afford to replace the stolen items if we want to.
- I still have an 11″ Macbook Air which we left at home, so I can work and access the on-line world. We even have a couple old PC’s for Jen and kids to use. (I meant to sell them, but never got around to it.)
- I purchased the iPad2 with my American Express card just one month ago, so it’s still covered by their Purchase Protection program (allows 90 days), so I may get reimbursed for that purchase.
Here is what I’m going to change:
- I will install Prey on all my computers. I will also create Guest accounts without passwords, making it easy for the thief to get on-line so I can track him.
- When traveling, I will hide my valuables when I leave the hotel or house, put them in a safe, or take them with me. My backpack is not a hiding place.
- Keep a record of all the serial numbers of my devices to make them easier to track.
- I’m not going to replace the camera, binoculars, or ipads right away. My iPhone4 will work okay as a camera. It even does HD video. I probably won’t even get a new Macbook yet. I want to see how we do as is for a while.
- I’ll make sure my passport and other documents are always hidden in a safe place.
It’s sad to me that some people feel justified in robbing others. There are so many ways to earn money honestly, even if you have to create them yourself. The book I’m writing teaches a lot about creating your own income source. I wish I knew who the robbers were so I could send them a copy… after I kick ’em in the shins, of course (and take my stuff back).
Anyway, I hope that some of the precautions I’m taking now will help prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.
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I’ve admired the response you and Jen have had to this situation. It’s such an unsettling feeling to find your belongings missing… I know the feeling well from when we were robbed when you were a teenager. Surreal. But it passes, eventually.
I was so grateful to have been bypassed this time – and what I’ve learned from your experience is to not shrug off the feelings of “I think I should hide this.” Also, to make sure I have backups of everything, encryption, etc. Thanks for sharing these resources.
I’m really glad you still have a computer you can use, despite it’s tiny screen size, and that you may get reimbursed for the iPad… and I hope they catch those nasty bastards that hang out at TexMex in Puerto Viejo! (and recover your stuff)
Great post. Bummer it happened, but good on ya for making it a learning moment and sharing.
So glad we are all safe and that the thieves at least left us our clothes.:) It’s a difficult experience to go through, but I’m glad for what we have learned.
when I lived in San Fransico my car got broken into because it had some empty boxes in the back. They broke a side window just to see what were in the boxes. Since I was so poor I couldn’t get the window fixed and people would go through my glove compartment almost nightly. I finally made a little drop down sign that came down as you opened the glove box that said “how can you possibly think you’re the first”. I know how unsettling it is knowing that a total stranger has touched your belongings. Someone did actually tear my console apart to steel a really cheap car stereo I had just bought for the trip back to Utah. It’s sucks and I’m sorry, but it sounds like you’ve got a good attitude about it.
Hey, here in Honduras, a family had the SAFE (yes, the whole safe) taken from their hotel room. In these countries where poverty is higher, it is handy just to keep essentials on your person or hidden at home. I am sorry that happened. What you share about file protection and all that is so incredible! I didn’t know about any of that!! The photo filing online info alone was worth reading your blog today. Thank you for that and for the insights about “stuff”. Take care and keep enjoying your otherwise-paradise. Eme
I am so sorry to hear about this, and happy to hear that you and your family are alright – congratulations on your new baby girl! :D
Cindy (*I did some work for you on Odesk once*)
[…] ?What I Learned from Being Robbed […]
Good advice…will implement some of these ideas myself!
[…] been robbed within the past year, I’m still fairly paranoid about keeping our stuff safe. One way […]
RE:I’m not going to replace the camera, binoculars, or ipads right away. My iPhone4 will work okay as a camera. It even does HD video. I probably won’t even get a new Macbook yet. I want to see how we do as is for a while.
Sorry to hear you were robbed, but that’s what you have to watch for in L. America. They don’t have fences and iron bars on windows for nothing.
As for all the stuff, good riddance. It’s ridiculous what Americans think they need to live with. You’ll be better off without all that junk. It’s sad to see even children glued to their electronic devices in some sort of infernal symbiosis with the cyberworld. It’s as if people don’t see all the craziness in front of their noses, so ruined are their faculties. Admittedly these things are now necessary, to a degree, and also advantageous to a degree, rather like so many other devices we are now slaves to. But the more you can hold them back the better, since their very relative good tends to be overwhelmed by their much less relative bad.