The Saga of My $10,000 Passport

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In the last week, over $10,000 has passed through my hands, in one way or another. And it has everything to do with my passport. You could say my new passport alone, is a $2,000 document. (Needless to say, I’ll be protecting it even more fiercely than I did the last one).

Thus the saga of the $10,000 Passport – a very tall tale indeed.

See also: How to Carry Your Passport (and What to do if It’s Lost or Stolen)

My Passport Was Stolen under terrible circumstances. Here's what happened, and what to do when something like this happens to you (which hopefully it won't). #passport #traveltheft #theft #travelsafety #travelsecurity #Traveltips #TheProfessionalHobo

This post was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

It all Started with a House Guest

After years and years of accepting the generous hospitality of people around the world who have invited me to stay in their homes, I was only too pleased to offer up my place in Grenada to a friend of a friend who was visiting from Ireland with the intentions of buying a boat. It made perfect sense to have him house-sit while my partner met me in Europe.

When we returned to Grenada, Steve (our house guest – at least that’s what he said his name was) was still there, and we welcomed him to continue to stay with us. He had run into some difficulties in getting the funds for the boat over to Grenada, and was temporarily without money.

“No matter,” I said, still happy to karmically return the hospitality I’ve been given over the years. One extra mouth to feed won’t break the bank.

Steve was a lovely house-guest. Easy-going, helpful, and as charming as the day is long. He had a knack for endearing himself to everybody he met.


When he asked me to lend him money for airfare to get back to Europe to sort out his financial issues, I drew the line. I was happy to give him a place to stay, but the reality is I didn’t know this guy from a hole in the ground, and no promise could guarantee a return of the money I didn’t really have to give in the first place.

It’s still debatable if this was my fatal mistake, because I ended up paying for it either way.

A few weeks later, Steve had acquired just enough money for airfare from a friend who sent the funds to him. My partner and I bid him adieu, with hugs, smiles, and Steve’s promise of returning and treating us to some of his own hospitality as thanks.

Who knew that as we were driving him to the airport and handing him his bags, my passport and thousands of dollars in cash (the proceeds from selling our car – which was to fund our upcoming trip to Panama, and was stashed in a few hiding places) were with him.

Oh, the Violation

The loss was discovered mere hours after his plane took off – and four days before our scheduled flights to Panama for a two-month house-sitting gig. The loss of the money – although substantial – seemed unreal. The loss of the passport – very real.

In a state of bewilderment, we tried to figure out why on earth he would have taken my passport (which was hidden), and not my partner’s, which was in plain sight. Eventually, we arrived at two potential conclusions:

  1. Taking my passport was his way of saying “screw you for not giving me money for airfare in the first place”, or:
  2. Some of the money was stashed with the passport, and if Steve was acting in a moment of haste, he’d have grabbed the whole thing (for the money) and ditched the passport along the way.

I went with the second assumption and prayed that the passport got ditched along the way, and his intentions were not to mess with my identity.

What to do When Your Passport is Gone?

Hopefully you won’t be four days away from international travel, like I was.

I called the Canadian High Commission (the closest one to Grenada being in Barbados), who broke the bad news that I had no chance of making my flight to Panama. Then they outlined a lengthy process of mailing various documentation to Barbados in order to get a replacement passport (20 business days), and if I’m lucky, a temporary passport to get me to Panama (which would take at least a week). Somewhere in there I’d need to make a special trip to Barbados as well, and some other complications that made the whole process fraught with potential for additional delay.

The whole idea of being trapped in Grenada while awaiting a new passport – all the while letting down the homeowners in Panama who had their own travel plans to keep – was intolerable. I knew if I were in Canada, I could rush a new passport in 24 hours.

So, I hassled Grenada Immigration to issue an emergency travel document that would allow me to fly back to Canada at the last minute and get a new passport.

Chastised for Organization

“Why do you have a copy of your passport?” was the first question of the Grenada Immigration officer who was in charge of issuing the emergency travel document.

“In case something like this happens! Aren’t I glad?” was my genuine response.

He furrowed his brow. “This isn’t normal. People don’t travel with copies of their passports. You’re too organized.” The connotation being that I had somehow planned to bereft myself of my passport.

I was flabbergasted. If I didn’t have a copy of my passport handy, I probably wouldn’t have been able to acquire the emergency travel document. And yet, here I was, being chastised for my organization. (If only he knew how pedantically organized I really am).

The officer finally realized I couldn’t be lying when, in a state semi panic, I stood up, turned around, lifted my shirt and lowered my pants, and showed him my tattoo. Before I started traveling full-time in 2007, I got a tattoo of the Canadian maple leaf (with some artistic interpretive thingies) on my lower back. (Fun fact: I didn’t realize at the time that a tattoo with this particular style and placement is known as a “tramp stamp”.)

It was intended to be a tribute to my Canadian heritage on the eve of departing my homeland for an undetermined period of time, but I also joked that if something ever happened on the road and I was robbed of everything I had, I could stumble into the nearest Canadian consulate, show my tattoo, and be offered whatever assistance I needed.

This story was too much for him to stoically ignore, so he did his best to stifle a guffaw and gave me my travel document. Two days later, off to Canada I went – a 4,000 kilometre detour from my original destination of Panama.

How Does a Passport Cost $10,000?

Following are the various costs incurred as a result of this horrible theft:

  • Acquisition of the emergency travel document in Grenada
  • Cancelling my return flights (with two airlines) from Grenada to Panama
  • Buying last-minute airfare from Grenada to Toronto
  • Buying last-minute airfare from Toronto to Panama
  • Reissuing my Panama to Grenada flights (since I wouldn’t be making the outward journey)
  • New passport in Canada (plus a hefty fee for expediting it in 24 hours)
  • Expenses in Canada
  • Applications for new ID in Canada

….and of course, all the money that was stolen in Grenada.

All’s Well that Ends Well

“It’s only money” is a cavalier thing to say. Money makes the world go round, and this loss was substantial for me, especially given this year with so many degrees of adversity (including a near-fatal crash).

But the homeowner in Panama was (and is) a champion. She laughed (in supportive disbelief) when I described the loss of my passport and money, and took it in stride when I said I couldn’t be there when I said I would.

To put myself in the homeowner’s shoes – after bringing a relative stranger into my own home and being so badly violated – I must be thankful that she remained calm, collected, and incredibly easy going.

In fact, it is her support and ability to take all these bumps in the road in stride, that has helped me to re-affirm the belief that 99% of the people in this world are fundamentally good.

Steve was one of the 1%, and I suspect he got what was coming to him, even if I wasn’t the one to dole out his punishment.

Turns out this wasn’t Steve’s first rodeo; he was a con-man. This would explain his arresting charm and ability to morph into whatever the person in front of him wanted him to be. This would also explain how he sussed out all my clever(?) hiding spots for cash, and managed to sweep them all in whatever seconds he had alone before he departed.

He may or may not have been in Grenada to get a boat. A boat would have been a good thing for him to have, because as it turned out, he was wanted by Interpol. Nothing is a secret on a small island like Grenada, so it didn’t take long for word to reach us that he had been picked up on his way out of the country.

Too bad whoever picked him up didn’t think to give me back my passport. Ah well, at least it makes for a good story, and I got to put my tramp stamp to good use.

Have you ever been robbed or lost your passport on the road? What did you do?
If you enjoyed reading about this challenging experience, then you’ll LOVE this roundup of all the crappy stuff that has happened to me on the road in my 12+ year career of full-time travel!

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111 thoughts on “The Saga of My $10,000 Passport”

    • Hey Jamie – Yes, I’ve always known there’s a good reason to have backups (and backups of backups)…I just hoped I’d never have to use them! 😉

    • Ha ha – some of the best stories are disgusting at their very core!
      I’m thinking this guy was a complete con man. The original friend has fallen off the face of the earth (I don’t know if he was in on it or not – either way he’s not a friend any more!), and as for Steve…..let’s see. Apparently we’re not the only people looking for him….

  1. Oh my god, Nora. I’m so sorry this happened to you!

    I don’t know what else to say except that I’m glad you are okay and were able to get a new passport, I’m so sorry you had to go through that experience, and I hope that you are able to relax and enjoy your time in Panama.

    • Thanks Gigi! It’s life….que sera sera they might say here in Panama. It’s one of those times when counting your blessings is the best – and most difficult – thing to do.

  2. I just found your blog today and I’m sad that this is the first post I’ve read from you. I do plan to do extensive traveling in the future so I’m sure this will be a great resource 🙂

    In situations like this I generally just believe karma will handle it and refuse to let it ruin my entire day, week or life. I’m sending positive vibes your way!!!!!

    • Thank you, Candice! And you’re absolutely right….karma has a power of its own.
      And don’t worry – keep reading – I’m sure you’ll find less depressing posts on my site! 😉

  3. That’s awful. I don’t think I would have been able to handle this like you have. Steve is a douche. I really hope you can recoup the money…that really sucks.

    • Hey Bonnie,
      I don’t expect to recoup the money, but I’m hopeful that the universe will take care of me as needed. I haven’t been left destitute, so for that I’m thankful!

  4. Oh my gosh. This is such a disheartening story. At least in the end you can say it was mostly money (time, stress aside). Thanks for keeping a positive side in remembering most of the other people are good and kind out there and would never do this. I can’t imagine the uneasiness, distrust and sour taste this would leave in my mouth. I hope this next stint in Panama gives you a chance to recoup.

    • Thanks, Tiffany. Here in Panama, my uneasiness was immediately quelled (in a way) with the overwhelming trust put in us by the homeowners. They’ve had nothing but good experiences, and we will keep their trust, gosh darnit! 😉

  5. Oh no, Nora, this must’ve been hard. I know people say “it’s only money” but I’m sure you put in a lot of hard work into accumulating that money. You don’t mention whether you’re trying to track him down, but I hope you manage to recover the money in the end.

    • Hi Deia – thanks. With regards to getting the money back, I’m not holding my breath, but then again, you never know….

  6. 1) Traveling with photocopies of passports is not only handy for this situation, but it’s spectacular for handing to a corrupt cop who wants a bribe and won’t hand your passport back until he gets one. It doesn’t work so well with a photocopy.

    2) Um, can’t you plaster his face all over your blog and tell people to find him? Might be an awkward situation, but still…

    • Hey SnarkyNomad,
      1) You got it! I generally keep my passport locked away and go out and about with a photocopy. It usually does the trick if you need to show ID (cross referenced with a driver’s license), and yep….I’m certainly not handing my original passport over to any authority other than a customs officer!

      2) You’d think I’d have gotten a picture of him while he was staying with us….but alas….

  7. OMG Nora – that is the most FANTASTIC story of angst! I was more astounded with each paragraph. Even more astounding is that you seem to be taking it all with such aplomb. But then, what else is there to do?

    Whew! What a year you’ve had! Truly sorry to hear it. Utterly amazing.

    A bit curious though – so much trouble just to get a new passport. Years ago I had my passport (along with credit card and every last cent) stolen in Costa Rica. Like you (w/ that lady in Panama) it was purely heartwarming that total strangers at the remote beach I was at offered me more than $300 CASH so I could get back to San Jose. But once there, it was only a matter of a quick visit to the U.S. Embassy for an emergency passport ($100), and I was on my way to Belize. I don’t recall how long the emergency passport was good for (6 mo. I think).

    • Hi Dyanne,
      The complication in my situation was the total lack of Canadian embassy/consultate/high commission in Grenada. The closest one was in Barbados, which isn’t exactly a short swim! And I just couldn’t fathom mailing documents back and forth to Barbados. Nothing in the Caribbean happens quickly, and if you’re not there to breathe fire down relevant necks….I just didn’t have any confidence in the process happening quickly enough.

  8. Unbelievable. What a terrible person! Nora, I am so sorry this happened to you, but I am so happy that you came out still positive and smiling. I can’t believe they thought you were too organized. I thought everyone had copies of their passports these days. Thank God for your tattoo. I hope someone catches this guy. Do you have any way of letting people know who he is, or the authorities back home? I’m guessing if you met him in your travels or online, there must be some sort of trail as to who he really is? Best of luck to you in Panama and big hugs from here in Canada.

    • Hey Deb,
      This guy was (is?) totally offline. One of the remaining dinosaurs who eschew the internet….then again if he’s the con man that I think he is, I suspect there’s a good reason for it. Authorities in Grenada were notified however. Let’s see what comes of it.

  9. Yes, in May this year. The travel wallet containing a lot of cash and my passport, fell out of my rucksack as I relocated from 1st Class to 2nd Class on a train I was travelling on from Antwerp to Brussels. I saw a man look intently at the floor by where I was sitting as I went trough the door to the next carriage. The thought that he may have been looking at something I’d dropped hit my like a hammer and when I checked my bag I realised the worst. I informed the train manager but by then the train had made a stop at a station.
    My passport didn’t turn up at Lost Property over the coming hours, days, months.
    I reported it to the Police who produced a meaningless proforma. I then tried to report the loss to the British Consulate who were closed due to a Public Holiday, so I had to complete the process the next day. The photocopy of my passport was pretty much essential in order for me to be granted entry to the British Consulate.

    It was simply a matter of staying put. I could have returned to the UK on an emergency travel document but had a hospital appointment coming up. I was forced to stay put until my replacement passport arrived from Paris. The process for a replacing a stolen passport is not as straightforward as that for a simple replacement. It takes longer (no fast track application procedure can be used) and costs more.

    There is zero chance I will see my money again. All I can hope for was that whoever came by it did some good with it even if it was to treat their children.

    • Hi John,
      Sorry for your horrible loss, and the horrible person who didn’t come to your aid when you dropped it.
      And if I didn’t have somewhere I HAD to be in a few days, I might have waited it out in Grenada as well.
      Good attitude with regards to the money. Indeed – I can only hope that anybody who steals like that needed the money more than you and I did.

  10. Wow!

    The worst part of the whole episode has to be the violation and the betrayal. You took this person into your home, treated him nicely, shared with him, etc. and that’s how he repays you? So glad to hear that everything worked out with the Panama homeowner, but sorry that it had to cost you so much money, time and stress.

    During our trip recently in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan, someone stole $1,500 cash from us. We think it was our driver whom we had befriended for over 2 weeks, who we had bought things for, who we had laughed with and shared stories with. Such a betrayal.

    Yes, it’s only money and we have moved on, but it still makes me sick to think about it!

    Knock on wood – we’ve never lost a passport.

    • Chica – you are never far from my mind as a total hero in all this. I was lamenting to my Mum recently that I’m finding it hard to trust anybody these days….but I realized there’s a few people out there I implicitly trust – and you’re one of them! You’re stuck with me for life, chickie.

  11. Wow, horrible news, and especially at such an unideal time. Great job making good with the home owner in Panama. Unfortunately, I have to think this type of stuff happens quite often, and it’s too bad the issuing Passport companies don’t have a more reasonable way of dealing with the circumstances.

    • I really think my challenge was my location, on an island country with no embassy/consulate. It could have been more quickly resolved on-site if I were elsewhere – at least I think so. I’d rather not test that theory! 😉

  12. Wow, Nora, I have no words. What I can say is that, as a frequent global traveller, I have never bothered to make a passport photocopy but NOW I WILL. Holy crap.

  13. I lost my passport in Phuket Thailand on my first vacation by myself. I was beginning my journey back to the US and lost my credit cards, cash and passport,phone and camera (oops) I swore it was stolen but at this point I’ve let go and admitted it must have been my fault.
    I won’t go into all the details but I will tell you that the entire extravaganza restored my faith in humanity. I went from feeling alone, broke, and clueless to handing it over to a higher power. I took what happened to me one step at a time (after the initial frantic freak-out when I went to pay for my room and didn’t have money) Nora, all of the people who helped me get home actually changed my life. The acts of kindness they showed by taking me to the police station, having their friends take me to the airport, letting me borrow laptops and cell phones and of course money all helped me get home safely.

    Thanks to a day trip to Bangkok, well informed hotel attendants, and two friendly Americans I made it home on time. What a story though! Really, we can’t make this stuff up and although it’s really hard to go through I think it’s these experiences that make us who we are. Wishing you better luck with future house guests and of course in all of your adventures.

    • Hi Taylor – I’m so glad you found the best of the situation and allowed yourself to receive assistance with grace. Indeed it’s tormenting to be in the thick of crisis – but there’s a lot to be gained in the end. For me, if nothing else, this saga is a great story!

    • Michael – Ha ha! Now that you’ve launched the idea into the karmic universe, you never know! LOL

    • Bethaney – I think you pinned it on the head. After the fact, we learned that while we were away he had been telling people completely different things about himself than he told us – even more fantastical stories like being in the SAS. And no story seemed to match up.
      And everybody who spent time with him resounded that something just “wasn’t quite right”.
      It just boggles my mind, how good a con man he was (if he was). I mean, he was good!

  14. Far out – what a beast of a man! Everything crossed he is not planning to use your passport for any kind of evil, it is bad enough that he has the money. How do people like that sleep at night?? Unfathomable. Hope you have a wonderful time in Panama though. xx

    • Thanks, Amanda! Yes, I’m keeping an eye on my credit card statements and I will order a credit report and ensure no additional cards have been taken out in my name. I think that’s all I can do at the moment. (That, and pray)!

  15. This is an incredible story, I can’t believe this happened after everything you offered him. Some people really just don’t have a soul. I’m sorry you had to run into one of them.

    But you’re handling it extremely well, I’m really impressed. Also, note to self, find a base with a US Embassy in-country…

  16. Ugh. I’m so sorry to hear this happened. I thought everyone traveled with copies of their passport! i’m terrible disorganized and I still do that as well! Glad you were at least able to get back on track a bit after all this mess. I really hope “Steve” gets what’s coming to him… So was he actually your friend’s friend?

    • Hi A – The initial friend has dropped off the face of the earth, so it’s possible it was a setup. (Or he was taken down the garden path himself). The initial friend was closer to my partner, so I don’t know.

      • perhaps maybe your then partner was in on it… I am so very sorry all you had to phantom. You are a true genuine person that truly did not deserve this. Thank you for being so positive.

        • Hi Rose,
          Gosh – you know what? I’d never considered that. But perhaps….it does kind of make sense, although the payoff wasn’t THAT great for that kind of deception….wow! Food for thought.
          Thanks for your kind support.

  17. I am so sorry this happened. But you’re right, he’s the one percent and will get what he deserves one day, while doors will continue to open for you.

  18. Girl – you are due for a massive, humongous, larger-than-life upswing in fortune. You are so OVERdue. I’m so sorry all this happened to you. Steve – what a doosh.

    Keep smilin’ love, it’s coming. xo

  19. Nora, I am soooo sorry this happened to you! I can’t imagine dealing with all of that, I’d just be in tears and/or screaming the whole time. And I can’t believe they thought it was odd that you had a copy of your passport. Aren’t we all advised to have a copy in case it gets stolen? I have an electronic copy and quite a few physical copies floating around. Didn’t you say this Steve guy was a friend of a friend? Have you gotten in touch with the friend who introduced you? I’m still shocked when I hear stories like this, that there are such horrible people in the world. Luckily, as you said, 99% of humanity is good.

    • Hi Ali,
      Oh yes. There was much screaming and more than a few tears in the process – trust me!
      As for the friend – we’re working on it. Seems he’s done a runner himself…..

  20. DUUUUUUUUDE, this is epic assholery. Is it possible to pursue any kind of legal action against him? Ugh…see, this is why I dont trust strangers. Or people. I hope karma makes it up to you and you find a diamond or something, in the sand 🙂

    • Anna – Ha ha: “epic assholery”….I think I’ll need to use that in a sentence at some point today. Epic term! 😉

  21. Nora, I’m sure this isn’t the end of the story! He will get his comeuppance! I rented out my guest room on Airbnb for years until… it just got to be to much with poor guest behavior. We trust because we are trusting and trustworthy.

    Also, you don’t know if that peach of a guy (by ‘peach’ I mean asshole, and by ‘guy’ I mean scumbag,) wouldn’t have robbed you even if you had paid for his return ticket, or kicked him out.

    All the best and be safe.

    • Thanks, Elizabeth – Indeed there may be more to the story as time ticks on…..let’s see what happens!

  22. Scary story! Glad you can keep your attitude and realize that “Steve” is by far the exception and not the rule. Karma will bring him justice. Hell, just him having to be himself is justice enough.

    • Jonathan – I must admit, even when staying with us I got the sense that he didn’t slept well at night, literally or figuratively. Possibly a few too many demons in the closet…

  23. Found you through Triberr. So sorry this had happened to you! I also recommend saving a copy of your important travel documents, passport and ID in the cloud, either in Dropbox or Microsoft’s SkyDrive that way if you lose or have your printed copies stolen, you always have that as a backup.

    Here in the US, homeowners or travelers insurance can help (sometimes) to reimburse you for losses such as this. Also, here in the US I believe you can write off such a loss on your taxes. You may want to talk to your insurance and tax people, too.

    • Great advice, Anne-Marie – thank you! Most of my travel expenses are tax-write-offs anyway, and I’ll certainly be adding these to the list. I’ve not wanted to bother with insurance claims for the time being, but I probably should. I’m just a little overloaded to consider it at the current moment.
      Breathe….. 🙂

  24. Nora,
    Number 13 — as in 2013 — put some kind of nasty spell over your life. I’m so sorry to hear about yet another crappy happening for you this year. ( I recall some really cool events also, and thanks goodness for those!)

    Here’s hoping 2014 rings in with a bang and stays good for you all the way through — you certainly deserve it.

    I believe that people can maintain a healthy level of trust for others even after being screwed by a crook. I’m sure you’ve already made some new rules for yourself, like keeping valuables locked away. Those new rules need not interfere with living a good life and sharing those super awesome times with strangers from around the world.

    I think you Nora, and your readers would agree that the incredible awesomeness of people everywhere keeps us world adventurers willing and open to sharing our lives.

    In short, the assholes of the world have no power over us!

    Your positive attitude is an inspiration.

    Stay safe, my friend.

    • Hi Josie,
      Thank you so much. Yes – it has been a year of various tragedies, all starting last New Year’s Eve, and rarely slowing since then.
      But you’re also right that there have been some wonderful experiences in there as well, and together (good and bad) it has all helped me learn and grow in innumerable ways.
      And I agree: 2014 sounds like a much nicer number. Bring it on! 😉

  25. Wow! That sounds horrible. Were you able to report his fake name, email, fight number or anything to authorities?

    I am glad you were able to get to Panama.

    • Hi Janet – Yes, we’re working on it. Apparently he’s already known by some authorities…

  26. Hi Nora,

    What a horrendous experience! That is just SO creepy that this person was staying in your home! I don’t know how some people live with themselves!

    Best of luck on your time in Panama – I will be reading your blog with great interest! I am a professor online, and I have been thinking about moving my husband and daughter and I to someplace like Panama!

    Warm regards!

    • Hi Rhonda,
      Excellent! What do you teach – and can you do it completely location independently?
      Panama seems to be a haven for retirees and expats as a warm place where money goes a little further. Panama offers all sorts of concessions to people relocating there and buying property….I’m not sure it’s a place I’d want to live, but it’s early yet in my visit – the jury is still out for me.

  27. Hi Nora,

    I am so sorry to hear that this happened to you. You are totally right… Karma is real and what goes around comes around. I cannot believe there are people like this in the world. 🙁

    Wishing you a restful and relaxing time in Panama,

    • Thank you, Kristi! Life happens while we’re busy making plans….so I’ll just stop making plans for the time being! 😉

  28. Hi Nora,

    I teach courses on autism, disability studies and behavior analysis courses online. Panama is on our short list, and is one place we’re hoping to visit during spring break (I’m not 100% online yet). I would also likely consult locally wherever I live.

    I will be paying close attention to your writings and would love to hear more about the concessions!!!


    • Hi Rhonda,
      I just realized the information I recently read was almost four years old, so I’m sure Panama’s policies have changed a bit – but probably not by much.
      What I read was if you’re able to come to Panama and buy a property (around $300,000), or invest in a CD in the same amount, you can qualify for some sort of residency/citizenship. Also, seniors (I don’t know what the cutoff is) get a nifty little card that affords them 25% off just about everything.

  29. Ugh, what a horrible ordeal! Great to hear that you’re looking at it all as positively as possible, though – most people wouldn’t. It’s just bad luck that you had to invite that rotten 1% to stay in your home!!

  30. Hey Nora, Sorry to hear about your adventure! Since you asked about lost Passports… the closest story I have is… I was at a bank in London once and they forgot to give me my passport back and I didn’t realize it until the next day. For a moment I panicked and hunted for my copy of my passport and tried to locate the nearest embassy and calculate the replacement cost and whether I would have a replacement in time for my scheduled trip home. Then I remembered the bank.
    Fortunately, I was working nearby… so at lunchtime I walked back to the bank and asked for my passport. The lady behind the bulletproof glass said oh yes we have it right here. Turned around and pulled it out of the drawer.
    Then she asked me the stupidest question I’ve ever heard, “Do you have any ID?”
    She was holding my ID, It had my picture in it, how many U.S. passports did they have back there?
    But I calmly pulled out my wallet and showed her my driver’s license, she carefully compared the names and gave me my passport back, smiled and said “Have a nice day”. Getting my passport back certainly assured that it was!

    • Hey Tim,
      Whew – close call! Don’t know if I’ve ever walked away from my passport like that, but I’ve tried once or twice with credit cards at grocery stores!

  31. Whoa what a jacked up experience especially after all of the hospitality you showed him. But don’t worry, karma has a way of coming back and kicking people right square in the ass. He’ll get what’s coming to him! 😉

    • Hey Ron,
      You know what? I’m really not even that concerned about karmic revenge for Steve. I’d just like a karmic break myself! Ha ha. I figure 2014 has my name on it.

  32. i am extremely sorry to hear your story…i am just beginning to think and plan for full time travel…
    and reading your story makes me mad at that guy who took such advantage of your genuine good will, sincerity, and hospitality.
    I pray that you recover much more than what you have lost, and not lose your genuine good human hospitality.

    • Thank you very much, Praveen. And don’t let this tale of woe scare you from your own travels. I’ve been on the road for a very long time without anything like this happening. I guess my number was up!

  33. Wow, what a story! That really sucks, but at least no violence or other terrible things happened. I cringe at renting out my place when I travel and have only done so for people I personally know….it’s such a tough decision though as it impacts your ability to travel so much.

    • Hi Red,
      Indeed – this guy was a little bit crazy (I chose to view it as eccentric – which I generally appreciate), and he wasn’t a little lad. Had he been violent, it could have been much worse.

  34. Steve, Steve, Steve. I have no doubt he’ll be caught and no doubt he’ll go to jail. Why do people still think they can get away with this kind of thing, especially so sloppily? I think the blessing in disguise is to remember that you’re the kind of resourceful individual whose life goes on, no matter how the Steves of the world try to f$#! with you. Steve, on the other hand, is now running scared and has to live his life watching his back. I’d rather be you than him any day of the week.

  35. Hey Nora!
    I’ve had my identity stolen before, so if you have any questions on what to do about that potential worry, I’m happy to share my hard earned knowledge.

    • Hey Tanya,
      That sucks! I’ve been subject to credit card fraud, but to my knowledge never an all-out identity theft. (I’m about to check my credit report to ensure there aren’t any cards taken out under my name that I didn’t apply for). Fingers crossed…..
      Any hot tips? 😉

      • Hi Nora!

        Definitely crossing fingers for no new, unexpected credit cards in your name! The best suggestion I can give you is to ensure that all major credit rating companies have it on your file that no new credit applications in your name can be accepted without them actually speaking with you first. This is a challenge if you’re a person who churns cards for points, but if you don’t have that situation, it’s a helpful way to protect yourself.

        • Hi Tanya,
          Great tip – thank you! My credit report is clean (whew!), but that’s a great next step. I don’t tend to churn cards so not an issue.

  36. Panama has added a couple of new residency options in the last year and streamlined the process. I think one of the new options is for people who want to work there, so it’s no longer just for retirees.

  37. The new Panama residency program is called “Specific Countries” program because it offers a special expedited residency to people who hold passports from 47 specific countries. Primarily they are looking for workers. “Panama’s Specific Countries residency program offers residency through an employment offer, starting a corporation, or investing in real estate.”

    Unlike other residency visa programs, the Specific Countries program is a one-application process that results in immediate permanent residency. Other options require several applications over several years and grant at first temporary, not permanent residency. The clock for citizenship doesn’t start until you’ve received permanent residency. After five years of permanent residency you can apply for naturalization as a Panamanian citizen and thereby obtain a Panamanian passport.

    How do you qualify? First, you show that you have at least US$5,000 on deposit in a local bank account. Second, you do one of these three things:
    •You show offer of employment…
    •You start a corporation (and then actually run a business)…
    •Or you invest in a piece of real estate (in your own name).

    It is possible when the current President leaves office this program will be discontinued but those already processed will be able to stay.

  38. Oh Nora,

    I feel a pang of loss for your experience. That sense of being violated travels deep into the gut and feels a bit like illness jacked up on adrenaline, at least for me. Living on such a tight budget as you do, $10K must feel huge –I know you keep a nest egg for the future, but knowing a big chunk of it was gone in no time has to hurt a bit.

    I once lost my passport, briefly. Left it in the backseat pocket of a plane while transferring between countries. Although helpful airline employees retrieved it for me (sending another thanks over the wind!), I remember the panic, thinking that I might have just put a huge hault to our trip of a lifetime–one we had saved up for years to make happen. It took a while for that panic to subside, even after the passport was back in my hands. It is still one of my most prized possessions, and I guard it carefully. If I forget where it is, even for 20 seconds, panic re-ensues.

    Been robbed too–not once, but twice, in Costa Rica. First visit was many years ago. We were invited by a preserve manager to tent camp in a place that was typically not open for tent camping, as long as we would be discreet and pack up our belongings and carry them high into the jungle during daylight hours. We gratefully did just this, but returned to collect my journal one evening, to take it into town while we went for dinner. Someone saw my partner going up to our hiding spot, and when we returned from dinner, our backpacks full of tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, clothes, and other gear were gone. I remember being so angry. What had been a great trip suddenly felt awful, and I immediately trusted no one. Trust is such a beautiful thing, and to have it stripped away is almost the biggest theft of all. We did have a few items left in the trunk/boot of our rental vehicle, and our passports were with us as well as some of our cash, but we ended up searching for accommodations far away (the nearest town was booked to the brim). Fortunately, the lodging owners were gracious toward us turning up very late on their doorstep. In hindsight, I feel silly for leaving such valuable travel belongings stashed in the jungle. The mistake was ours, for sure. It was essentially an open invitation to someone who probably was much less well-off than I was, as one of your other respondents aptly pointed out. We figured we had lost a few thousand dollars in equipment, and that it was sold off for a fraction of that cost. I too hope that the proceeds at least went to support someone’s family.

    On another trip in Costa Rica, we got on a bus to take us to the Nicaragua border. It was one of the nicest buses I had been on. Air conditioned, etc. I had put my day pack in the overhead space, not trusting the storage compartments beneath the bus. A well-organized pair or trio had a scam brewing. A woman across the aisle acted as though the pull-cord used to signal the driver to pull over at the next stop was not working on her side of the bus. So she stood up and reached over me to pull the cord on our side, spilling the contents of her wallet at my feet. I bent down to grab these contents to give back to her (and realized they were all cut up pieces of blank paper, which I thought odd, but for some reason didn’t register the scam happening right in front of me–gullible me). While fumbling with my head down, I didn’t notice that another person from the back of the bus had shoved all the overhead bags forward by at least 2 spaces, so someone a few seats ahead could take my bag without anyone thinking anything of it, and walk off the bus. I didn’t realize my bag was gone until we got off the bus 1 hr later for a bathroom and snack break. I ran off the bus scanning the crowd for what wasn’t there. When I got back on the bus, I found out that everyone’s bags had been shifted and mentally replayed the scene with the woman’s dropped wallet contents.

    Sorry for the long description, but hope it will be helpful for you or your blog readers. My advice, stay attentive. If you’re riding a bus and don’t have room for your bag in your lap (which is where I usually keep mine), then put it ACROSS the aisle where you can always see it. I didn’t lose more than a couple hundred dollars worth of items that time, but some of them were priceless treasures to me.

    Will I still offer kindness to other travelers, even after the experiences you’ve and I have both experienced, Nora? Absolutely. Like you, I have also been granted tremendous generosity and kindness while traveling and relocating, and simply living. In gratitude for those kind souls, I will keep putting great karma out there.

    Hoping you’re recovering well from the loss and enjoying Panama!!

    • Hi Wynne,
      Thanks for sharing your experiences! You know, sometimes I think I’m ridiculously pedantic with the degree to which I keep close guard over everything and have specific systems and backups in place. But your experiences are testament to the fact that anything can happen, anywhere – and it’s best to be aware.
      The trick is in being aware of the risks of any situation, while remaining open to opportunities. It’s a tricky balancing act at times…

  39. Dear Nora,
    My deepest sympathies not only for the loss of your passport and the substantial sum of money, but more importantly – the terrible feeling of being violated by this “Steve”. Any chance you took a photo of “Steve” so others can watch out for him? (Unlikely, but I thought I’d just put it out there… :))
    My parents backpacked through Europe when I was five (in the mid-80s), and their well-meant generosity of sharing their train cabin/kiosk with another traveller’s 16 year old “daughter” cost them all their documents: passports, travellers cheques, everything. I was only 5, so I was incapable of stress or worry, but I remember my parents desperately looking for an embassy in a country they didn’t know at all, speaking not a single word of the local language, suffering the pain, the anguish… all because they were kind to someone for a few hours. Even though I was 5, I made some serious decisions about trusting strangers from then on.

    I am so glad your friend in Panama restored your faith in humanity again. A truly wonderful healing after your ordeal. I wish that you meet more wonderful, honest people during your adventures. I wish you safe travels and a happy journey through life.

    • Thank you very much for the kind thoughts, Milada!
      Funny how an experience like what happened with you and your parents stays with you and sets the stage for relationships in the future. I have faith in humanity indeed, but I have to admit I will always think twice before being so trusting in a “Steve”-like situation if it ever came to pass again.
      And no, I didn’t end up getting a picture… 🙂

  40. I treat all my nieces/nephews to trips to Europe once they are at the age to appreciate it in the hope they will catch the travel bug, I took my nephew to Paris on Eurostar and last year my 12 year old niece who wanted to be a horse vet in Rome to Rome.

    Unfortunately on the bus from the airport I asked her to hold for 2 brief moments our passports….our stop then came up quite suddenly where we had to jump off the bus quite quickly grabbing all our stuff. When we got to the hotel and they asked for our passports – yep you guessed it – she had left them on the bus never to be seen again!

    A lesson to be learnt….I shouldn’t have let her hold them no matter how briefly. We didn’t see much of Rome but we saw plenty of police stations and embassies

    • Hi Fiona,
      Oh no! I tend to guard my passport fiercely on the road, for just that reason. If I lose it myself, I have nobody to blame but me. But if somebody else loses it….eek.
      Silver lining for you: I guess you got to see a whole different side of Rome and how things work than the average traveler might have experienced!

  41. Hey Nora,

    I’m catching up on my blog reading and so I’ve read this only now.

    Can’t believe this.
    Can’t believe anyone would do something like that.

    I’m glad it didn’t destroy your faith in good people, though.

    You know, these are the kind of stories you never think will happen to you.
    Well, it was my birthday a couple of days ago and I always take the day off on my birthday. In short: they tried to break in while I was at home.
    Would have never thought someone would try to break into an apartment on the third floor, but they did.
    Luckily they ran away when they heard someone was home.

    • Hi Sofie – WOW! Happy Birthday….what a rude awakening on your day of celebration. I’m glad they ran away and you weren’t challenged in a greater sense by your intruders. I guess you’ll be locking all doors and windows now…..
      BTW where are you hanging your hat these days?

      • Funny that you use the word “awakening”: they woke me up by ringing the door bell (to check if anybody was home, I’m guessing). It took me a while to get out of bed and by the time they heard me, they’d already removed part of the lock of our door.

        I’m happy I didn’t get face-to-face with them either. That day so many “what if’s” ran through my mind: what if I’d already been awake and had opened the door? What if I’d seen them in full action? What if I hadn’t woken up and they entered?

        Actually, it went the best way it could have gone: they try to break in the one week day that someone was at home, they didn’t get in and I didn’t have to face them.
        It was the most crappy birthday ever, but it could have been way worse.

        What’s ‘funny’: our neighbors never locked their front door – until now, of course – and they didn’t even try to break in there.

        Okay, combination of late + third language: my first reaction to your last question was “What? I don’t wear a hat?” 😀

        I’m working my as off at home in Belgium at the moment. Well, actually I’m working my ass on as I’m sitting in front of the computer even more than usual and these late hours make me feel eating all the time.
        I do have a pretty exciting trip coming up. To be announced soon:)

          • LOL – Awesome! Enjoy Belgium (I haven’t been there yet….it’s on my list of course!)….and I’m excited to hear about your big announcement of your next trip!

    • Hi Sofie – Oh yum! I’m a sucker for fries to begin with, and I’ve enjoyed them very much in Holland. (And I know Dutch fries really started in Belgium, so it would be nice to have the “real thing”….ha ha)!

  42. Hi. I just found about your blog. Sorry for your loss, even though it has been more than 2 years ago since it happened.

    I once lost my passport, someone pickpocket it during a train ride when I was in Madrid, Spain. After the “normal” hassle of obtaining a temporary passport to return home, the customs officer gave me a precious tip which she claimed will greatly make life easier if a passport is lost, but is rarely practiced when someone travels abroad: Next time travelling overseas, upon reaching the destination, one must first report to the his/her country’s embassy/consulate and leave a copy of the passport there before travelling to other locations in that country. Hope this small tip helps.

    – From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    • Hi Fadzil,
      Yes – that is a great tip! And you’re right – it’s something most travelers don’t bother to do. Thanks, and happy travels!

  43. Hey Nora,

    This sickens me that someone from my country would do this. I can only hope you don’t judge us all based on this 1 bad egg. Have you got a picture of him? Ireland is a very small place 🙂

    • Ha ha! No worries, Shane. I think no less of Ireland because of this dud. Ireland is still one of my favourite countries! 🙂

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