Why I Don’t Panic When My Backpack Goes Missing

Why I Don’t Panic When My Backpack Goes Missing

By |2020-03-07T12:31:33-05:00November 18th, 2011|Perspectives, Turkey|99 Comments

REI Backpack
Having traveled the world for the past twelve years or so, there are a handful of conclusions that I have made about myself, about life in general and about the people I’ve met on this planet of ours. One of those conclusions that I strongly believe to be true is that, despite the messed up state of the world, despite the wars and the fighting and all of the crime we hear about out there, human beings are inherently good.

This is exactly why, about an hour after waking up this morning here in Istanbul, when I suddenly discovered that my small black day pack was not in my guesthouse room, my day pack where I keep my camera, my passport and a few other important documents, I honestly found no reason to panic at all.

After another quick search around the room, I knew it was definitely missing and so I just leaned up against a wall, scratched my head and tried to remember where I might have left it. There were really only two options. I could have left it in the indoor rooftop terrace of the guesthouse after having a few drinks with some friends the night before or I might have left it at the shisha cafe a few blocks away, right next door to the Blue Mosque, where a few of us spent a couple of hours puffing on shisha and sipping tea.

It only took a quick check with the manager of the guesthouse to discover that I had not left my backpack on the rooftop terrace and so, knowing exactly where I must have left my backpack, camera, passport and documents, I took a slow stroll around the corner, up a few streets and back to the shisha cafe.

At no time whatsoever was I nervous that my possessions might be gone for good. I had not even a second’s worth of horror or a second’s worth of anger.

After all, this was not the first time I had left this very same backpack behind during this European trip of mine. I had also left my backpack behind at a restaurant in the Old City of Bucharest, at a bar in another corner of Bucharest, at a cafe in Brasov, at a bakery in Sarajevo and at a restaurant in the countryside of Slovenia. Yes, it certainly has become a habit.

Yet despite my somewhat disturbing, and admittedly remarkable, ability to somehow walk away from a table without remembering to grab my backpack, every time I realized that it was gone, I simply returned to where I had left it and asked the staff if they had seen my pack. And sure enough, on every single occasion, my bag was there, being held for me, whether 15 minutes had passed or an hour had passed or even five hours had passed.

Shisha Cafe, Istanbul

So this morning, when I finally arrived back at the shisha bar next to the Blue Mosque, some 16 hours after I had left last night, I calmly asked the first staff member I ran into if they happened to have seen my backpack. This man immediately yelled over to another staff member who then waved at me to follow him. A door to a closet was opened and there sat my backpack on the bottom shelf, with everything still inside. After showering the staff member with several rounds of thank you’s and tessekur ederim’s, off I wandered, back to my guesthouse.

People are good my friends. People are damn good.

I’m sure there are many of you who can provide stories that might show the opposite side of humanity, but I’m sticking with my conclusion. The world is not that nasty, evil place that we sometimes think it is, or that our parents warn us about when we tell them we’re going off to do some traveling. The world is instead full of people who are not interested in taking our stuff, who are not interested in pulling a scam, who are not interested in cheating travelers in every way they can.

Sure, these things happen, but the more we believe that this is the true nature of our fellow human beings, the more distant we become and the more stressful life becomes while traveling under that umbrella of negativity.

Over the past decade, I’ve learned that applying general common sense is more than sufficient to help me avoid the ‘bad people’ out there without tainting my view of the world. As a result, I am able to maintain my faith in people overall and to appreciate every positive interaction and situation that comes my way.

I’m also able to avoid freaking out when I discover that my backpack and camera are suddenly missing, as I know full well that the overwhelming majority of people, people working at coffee bars, restaurants, bakeries, shisha cafes and every other place I might leave my backpack, have no desire at all to steal my stuff.

And as far as this current trip is concerned, I’m five for five. Backpack lost five times, backpack retrieved five times.

Hooray for people!

Do you have any similar stories? Or maybe you feel differently about people in general? Please do share!

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  1. Mitch Glass September 6, 2019 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Been there done that, my friend! (although not 5 times…you need to chain that thing to you leg or something, man!)

    I can’t say I’ve never been ripped off or scammed, but the bad experiences are NOTHING compared to the amount of times I’ve been shown goodness and grace. I think the problem is, we tend to focus and remember those few times when things went wrong, and we quickly forget the hundreds of times things went right.

    Next time I lose something on the road, this article is going to be the first thing that pops in my mind. Thanks for the great reminder!

    • Derek September 9, 2019 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      Hey Mitch – Thank you for sharing your experiences and no surprise, the good almost always far outweighs the bad when it comes to travel!

  2. Kim October 10, 2015 at 6:05 am - Reply

    This made me laugh “Yet despite my somewhat disturbing, and admittedly remarkable, ability to somehow walk away from a table without remembering to grab my backpack”

    I know the feeling! I always forget my things, too.
    Unfortunately I don’t always get them back :p

  3. Marco Fendrich March 12, 2014 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    I loved this post Earl! It’s one of the few of its kind I was able to find so far and it gives me courage. The fear of my fellow human beings is by far the biggest among the doubts I have in regards to the upcoming journey I plan to make. And hearing the opposite from someone who has far more experience than all the naysayers out there – of whom barely anyone has been to another country – lifts a small weight on my chest.

    Your positive attitude feels motivating and I thank you for that. I lost myself in this blog for quite a while, even though I planned some completely different activities for those last few days; but I can’t say I regret it.

    All the best,

    • Wandering Earl March 13, 2014 at 9:06 am - Reply

      Hey Marco – Believe me, your travels are going to be fine and you’ll come to see that there is nothing to fear with our fellow human beings. Sure, there are people everywhere who will try to scam, try to steal, etc., but the overwhelming majority of people all over the world are good people!

  4. Ankita November 14, 2013 at 5:09 am - Reply

    I feel truly happy after reading such positive posts! In my opinion, not just travelers but every one of us needs to look at things from a positive perspective. There will always be good and bad, everywhere. It is entirely up to us, what we decide to focus on! 🙂
    Whenever I set off to travel, I always look forward to a happy trip. I believe, my anticipation attracts good experiences to me.


  5. Ross October 30, 2013 at 10:16 am - Reply

    You are very calm indeed.I’m not 100% sure that all people are good (people broke through a fence to rob my tent) but I do remember the surprising calmness ,like yourself, I had when everything belonging to me got stolen except my camera and passport. I just went functionally along with $20 for the next 2days with a black bin bag around Kampala until my passport got sorted and money got transferred. I really surprised myself!

  6. Dia August 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Thanks for blogging about your experiences..I just found your blog.. and I spent almost an hour reading post after post where I had intended to only take a quick look..

    Hooray for people indeed! 🙂

  7. Shannon August 1, 2013 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Probably the best thing about this blog post is the comments of people from across the world. Not only have you experienced numerous acts of goodness while traveling, but other people have too. Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced this ‘goodness’ yet upon my travels. One day though… hopefully.

  8. Jennifer Brown June 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I’ve always felt safer and more comfortable travelling than I do in many places here in the US. I wonder if you would have your backpack returned in the same fashion here in the US.

  9. Neil Simpson March 12, 2012 at 11:10 am - Reply

    During a recent trip to Slovenia and Istria, Croatia my wife and I ran into a little trouble attempting to return our rental car. We had just come across the border from Croatia and were trying to locate the rental agency in Koper, Slovenia (just north / west of Piran). The directions we had were fuzzy at best and to top that off it was late May and many of the roads were blocked off or non-existent due to construction. Already running a bit late we through our hands into the air and gave up. We pulled into a small café behind a gas station and went inside and attempted to show the address to anyone to see if they could give us any tips. I’m not sure if it was good or bad, but no one in the café seemed to know where the address was either. (hey at least we weren’t the only ones) We did have the phone number so one of the customers suggested he could call the rental agency and get directions for us. So he quickly pulled out his cell phone and talked to our rental car location to get directions. He then passed the phone on to my wife so the rental car agent could explain what was going on in English. Turns out, this man who was just enjoying a cup of coffee was going to drive to the rental return location, and we were to follow him. So we hopped back into our car and quickly navigated through construction zones, around what seemed to be a deserted warehouse and a right turn and a left turn and all of the sudden we were in a huge business park. We parked our car and followed the man into one of the buildings where he point to room 23. That was our Hertz return location. We smiled and thanked over and over again, and just like that he vanished. Which as it turns out was a huge mistake. Our rental agent came about 10 minutes later (she too was running late due to construction). She was sad that our guide had left because she wanted to thank him for his help. I say sorry for the guide helping us because the rental agent was a beautiful young woman, his loss I suppose.
    After returning the car we asked if the rental agent might call us a cab so we could get back to the bus station and head back to our place in Croatia. She told us she would not do that… because she could just drive us instead. So through rush hour traffic she hauled the both of us to the bus station and sat and talked to us about fun things to do, and gave us some great tidbits about her countries history. She was very glad more and more tourists were coming to Slovenia. She said, “we’re a tiny country, but we have so much beauty within our borders.” Which is a very true statement. Much like you we found that generally people are nice, helpful, and polite. All you need to do is ask. And it doesn’t hurt if you too are nice, helpful, and polite while visiting their country.

  10. MIke February 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    First off I just wanted to say I love reading your posts, it gives me the chance to feel like Im out on a new adventure. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a few mazing places so far in my life and agree with you that people are good, scratch that, great. While climbing Mt. Kilimajaro, almost exactly a year a go to the day, my group had set up at a base camp for the night and were relaxing with some of the other hikers when three Australian hikers we had meet earlier came running over pleading with us to help them search for their lost bags containing all their money, passports, and everything of value they had with them. Instantly we all sprang into action with head lamps, since the sun had almost set for the day, scouring the camp to see where they might have mistakenly left them.
    The guides of our few groups had assembled and after telling us that local villagers sometimes take small paths up to the camp to try and steal from the hikers took off into the jungle to try and find any traces. The guides yelled ahead to whoever might be listening that they would not harm anyone if they left the bags and did not return to the camp. After about 15 minutes of running down a small foot trail they found the bags abandoned up against a tree, with their passports, and even the small amount of money they had still inside.
    They group was moved to tears that all of their belongings were found and thanked us all for the help we offered, which meant they could continue their trek. To make a story thats probably gone on for too long now quite simple, something had to make who ever had those backpacks leave them, even if it meant going home to a hungry family with nothing to give them hope for a next meal. this is wh I believe there is good in everyone, and a lot of it.

    • Earl February 16, 2012 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      Hey Mike – That is a great story and thanks for sharing it with us! It’s the kind of tale I love to hear. We are all human in the end and we all share a connection that, when felt properly, leaves us with no choice but to be good people. And it happens all over the world, in every single country!

  11. Tara February 14, 2012 at 5:06 am - Reply

    I love that you continue to discover how wonderful people are in your travels. I just found your website today, and I can not tell you how much I am enjoying reading about your adventures. Thank you for the stories!

    • Earl February 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks for that Tara and welcome to the site! The main aspect of travel that keeps me on the road after all these years is by far my mission to prove that people all over the world are overwhelmingly good 🙂

  12. derya January 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Positiveness. I agree with all. I dont want to jinx it, but in all my travels good things happens to me all the time. I am always lucky, meet great people, great people find me, I always get help when I need, and so. I also met travellers with worries so unpleasant things happened to them, unfortunately.
    Let’s keep our mood high and our smile wide. And still ask for good and luck 🙂

    • Earl January 19, 2012 at 4:29 am - Reply

      Hey Derya – Staying positive is vital to having positive experiences, especially when in a foreign culture! It’s good to hear that you’ve had so many good things happen to you!

  13. Ozcan December 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    I also think people are generally good, but governments (especially the most powerful ones) and corporations and the media are causing most (if not all) of these wars and terrible human suffering. Earl, I bet you have found people in the Middle East to be friendlier and more hospitable than people in Europe or in the U.S.? Ok, we are “Islamic terrorists” but we are still friendly and hospitable aren’t we? How strange is that 😛

    • Earl December 23, 2011 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Hey Ozcan – You are right, the people I’ve met in the Middle East, and in almost every corner of the world for that matter, have been overwhelmingly hospitable and overly kind. It’s always been a region I enjoy visiting and plan to do so again soon. Hopefully people’s perception of the region and its people will start changing at a faster pace…

  14. Katelyn December 17, 2011 at 2:33 am - Reply

    Great post! I totally agree with you on this one. Recently while traveling in India my friend left her Kindle in a hotel room and realized it a hour after our departure by car. Our driver called the hotel and the kindle managed to find its way back to us two cities later after four days and three driver exchanges! Pretty incredible.

    Hope you are still enjoying South Africa!

    • Earl December 17, 2011 at 6:26 am - Reply

      Hey Katelyn – That’s the kind of stories I love to hear and I wish were spread around more frequently. It seems we always hear the negative tales, especially in places such as India, when the majority of experiences are almost always positive!

  15. Michael December 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Do you have a link to your daypack – thinking about buying one…

    • Earl December 11, 2011 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Hey Michael – Here’s the link to my daypack…https://www.rei.com/product/778466/rei-flash-18-pack

      I love this thing, it’s strong, easy to open and it folds up into a relatively tiny ball when you’re not using it.

      • Michael December 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm - Reply

        Thank you Earl – I just ordered it! (p.s. REI has a sale right now until 12/24 for 30% any REI brand item + free shipping)

        What do you normally carry in your daypack?

        • Earl December 19, 2011 at 3:54 pm - Reply

          Awesome Michael! Thanks for letting me know about sale as I need a couple of things myself 🙂

          I normally just carry around my camera and a notebook when I’m wandering around during the day. But when I am traveling, on bus, train or plane, I generally stick my laptop, hard drive and any other items that I don’t want to lose, inside my day pack as well.

  16. […] Why I Don’t Panic When My Backpack Goes Missing A more positive experience is had by Wandering Earl, who regularly mislays his belongings without mishap. […]

  17. […] Earl wrote a post the other week, “Why I don’t panic when my backpack goes missing,” which really highlights, that he too, has discovered the world is not scary after 11 years […]

  18. Micamyx|Senyorita November 29, 2011 at 9:15 am - Reply

    I agree with you with this one 😀 I met a lot of good samaritans along the way and most misfortunes happen when you are not alert with your surroundings. I also believe in good karma so i try to be as human as possible in whatever i do 😀

  19. Cheryl November 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Glad that you got your stuff back! Phew. Disaster avoided. 🙂

    I personally believe that people are capable of both good and bad as in all my years of travel, I’ve experienced unbelievable kindness but also really scary moments!

    Last year in Rio de Janeiro, I got ripped off by cab drivers a couple of times but then had another who didn’t know English but who stopped the meter and called his English speaking friend to help figure out where I needed to go. He rocked and got me to correct airport on time.

    Getting robbed in Barcelona was my low point … I found a quote that says its become cliched to get robbed there! But then a man who worked at my hostel helped me find some Western Union locations and even lent me bus fare to get there.

    Being positive helps, as does using common sense but I also think sometimes it’s just luck or fate too! 🙂

    • Earl November 24, 2011 at 8:09 am - Reply

      Hey Cheryl – I definitely can see how easy it is to feel that people can also be bad, but I doo believe the number of good people greatly overshadows the number of bad. After all, if getting ripped off a couple of times by cab drivers is a bad experience, then it really isn’t so terrible in the end 🙂

      Getting robbed is of course much worse, but usually we might have one example of that kind of situation and endless examples of positive ones!

  20. […] I read over an article on Wandering Earl, I remembered a time from my childhood when I discovered a wallet on the ground. I couldn’t […]

  21. Shiela Acenas November 21, 2011 at 11:03 am - Reply

    Edsa, Manila: I left an envelope with cheques and invoices inside the bus on my way to work. I thought no one would dare to return that, but the one who found it called to our head office to inform he found it. So I went to his office to get it and found out he was a manager.
    Makati City: The second one, I left my wallet with some credit cards and IDs in McDonalds. I was 15 minutes away from the store when I realized I left my wallet in McDonalds. When I go back, I asked the store manager or supervisor if they have found a wallet. Good thing one of their crew found it and kept it in a drawer. Lucky me! 😀

    • Earl November 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm - Reply

      Hey Shiela – Lucky you indeed! Or else, maybe you keep a positive mindset and as a result, positive things happen to you 🙂 I’m glad to hear that both of those situations worked out for you and thank you for sharing your tales.

  22. Katie November 20, 2011 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    I read this with mixed reactions. I also like to believe that most people are inherently good – and I also had a backpack returned to me once in Budapest with everything inside still intact. On the other hand, I have also been swarmed by gypsies in Rome trying to rob me and I had my watch stolen out of my jeans pocket while I was in the shower for a whole 5 minutes in a hostel in Finland.

    Because of the latter two incidents, I will continue to err on the side of caution – and will likely always panic if and when my backpack or anything else ever goes missing while traveling.

    • Earl November 21, 2011 at 4:03 am - Reply

      Hey Katie – I can see how one would have mixed reactions but I tend to believe that even two negative incidents in the grand scheme of things is quite small compared to how many people we actually come into contact with every day while traveling. There are so many opportunities for people to steal and cheat but in the end, they really don’t happen as often as they could. With that said, it’s always good to be a little cautious of course!

  23. Kelsey November 20, 2011 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    Though I’ve had my stuff *stolen*, I’ve found that if I accidentally leave something behind, it is almost always still there when I go back to retrieve it.

    • Earl November 21, 2011 at 4:04 am - Reply

      Hey Kelsey – That’s a good point. It does seem that if we are the one’s to blame for our own stuff going missing, it usually turns up without any problems.

  24. Mica November 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Wow, you must travel with some good energy around you. 5 for 5?? Lucky lucky you. Whatever you are doing is working because you keep making out just fine. Hi-fives for people. They are good. Especially in places where you think they’re going to be the worst you’re always surprised.
    Glad you keep getting your stuff back!

    • Earl November 21, 2011 at 4:11 am - Reply

      Hey Mica – It’s true, there are places where we automatically think the worst and then when we discover the opposite is true, it changes everything. Every time we encounter a moment of goodness, it helps solidify the belief that good people outnumber bad people all over the world!

  25. Priyank November 20, 2011 at 9:25 am - Reply

    What? Where did my comment disappear? Oh well, it was nothing important, just blah blah.

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      Hey Priyank – I can’t find another comment from you, sorry about that. It must have vanished into the comment void!

  26. Anil November 20, 2011 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Awesome! Was this at Meşale Cafe?

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Hey Anil – That is correct, it was at Mesale Cafe! I’ve become quite a regular there by this point 🙂

  27. Rica November 20, 2011 at 8:42 am - Reply

    Hi Earl! great post 🙂 I do believe that people are inherently good, but I consider you more as a ‘lucky guy’ 🙂 I guess the best lesson to learn from this experience is just to ‘pay it forward’ as you’ve said. *I still believe though that we all have to be careful 🙂

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      Hey Rica – Being careful is always wise. We just should avoid turning ‘being careful’ into ‘believing everyone is out to get us’. As long as we can stop ourselves from going that far, I think most of us will end up quite ‘lucky’ in the end!

  28. Bama November 20, 2011 at 8:21 am - Reply

    I love this particular post of yours, Derek! But I do not wish, under any circumstance, to experience it 🙂

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      Hey Bama – That seems fair and trust me, I don’t wish that anyone else has to deal with losing their stuff while traveling either!

  29. Jarmo November 20, 2011 at 5:19 am - Reply

    While I do agree with you that mostly people are good. This year of traveling, has seen my bag getting stolen from a restaurant, and losing my camera, passport, credit cards and money from a night bus … Especially after that last incident I was pretty paranoid about my new camera and passport for quite a while! But yes, mostly people are good.

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 5:42 am - Reply

      Hey Jarmo – Those things absolutely do happen, and it does pay to be aware of one’s surroundings as much as possible. Hopefully that will be the end of your problems and the rest of your travels will be trouble-free!

  30. Christine November 20, 2011 at 3:23 am - Reply

    Agreed agreed agreed! I’ve been pretty lucky in my life to not have had too many “bad people” situations–but my belief has always been that as long as you’re minding your own business and being a good person yourself, most people won’t bother you. I’ve never been scared of going into “bad neighborhoods” because of that line of thought–and no one has ever bothered me. Be a good person, and good things will come to you–same to everyone else!

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 3:54 am - Reply

      Hey Christine – That’s exactly how I try to live as well. Positive thoughts breeds positive experiences. It might not work every single time, but it does seem to place the odds in our favor that bad situations will be few and far between. Just make sure you pay a little attention when wandering into those ‘bad neighborhoods’ 🙂

  31. zapalloPete November 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl, this is wonderful, my sentiments on humanity exactly. Reminds me of a trip to Japan with a work colleague who found his daypack missing when we left the N’EX train in Tokyo, along with with his DSLR and thousands of memorable photos of his travels through the region. After fumbling with broken Japanese with the station agent, the next morning the missing items were returned with a note of apology and… chocolates! A simple mishap, someone inadvertently grabbed the wrong bag and the locals worked quickly to resolve the matter.

    Yes, there are some bad apples out there, but generally the peck is sweet and unblemished in this beautiful world of ours. Great story, thanks for sharing!

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 3:52 am - Reply

      Hey Pete – That’s quite a story! Although, I hope I don’t start expecting chocolates every time I lose my backpack from now on 🙂

      You are right though, there are bad people out there, even at home of course, but most people would rather help out and be kind. And it’s great to keep hearing more and more stories to support this belief!

  32. Michael November 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Yes more good stuff happens then bad. Though for real you need to use common sense. Especially learn the areas you travel. For example in Costa Rica if you leave your belongings on the rack of a bus and don’t pay attention to them, they will be stolen and taken off the bus before you know it.

    As for being mugged. I was always warned about that in Costa Rica never to walk around past dark but I did continually walk around till 2am sometimes and I never could find a mugger.

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 3:41 am - Reply

      Hey Michael – I definitely agree, which is why I mentioned in the post the need to use some common sense. But I think some travelers turn common sense into a constant state of worry and fear, which is when it gets to be too much and can really affect, negatively, one’s travels. We should always learn about what we need to avoid in each country and to pay attention, but still find a way to do so without treating everyone around us as an instant criminal!

  33. Peggy McPartland November 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    I love that you’re sharing that the world really is filled with amazing, kind people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lost, unable to find somewhere to stay or sick while traveling and had complete strangers come to my rescue. I find that people really are good and genuinely want the best for each other.

    Hooray for people!

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 3:39 am - Reply

      Hey Peggy – That’s definitely going to be my new mantra, Hooray for People! Strangers do often come to the rescue, time and time and time again. The key is giving them a chance to show their goodness instead of assuming that every stranger around us wants to cheat or scam us!

  34. Kevin November 19, 2011 at 10:49 am - Reply

    Great story, but I think maybe you need one of those little chains that hooks to the belt loop. 😉 It’s true, there are good people everywhere ready to do the right thing or even the above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty thing. In general, I’ve found it everywhere. Specifically, I had a LOT of experiences of great kindness and honesty in Turkey (hotel touts excluded) and even with taxi drivers (95% of the time). Once, around Christmas in Ankara, I realized I was going to come up way short on a taxi fare. I told the driver that he should just drop me off and I’d walk the rest of the way. No big deal, I walked a lot around there. He smiled, shut off the meter, and drove me to my door. As I got out, showering him with all the niceties in Turkish, he told me Merry Christmas (a holiday that in a 99.9% Muslim country is not celebrated of course). He wouldn’t even take the coins in change from the amount he had stopped the meter at. Something to always remember about these things: Pay it forward! We should all be so lucky to end up in a stranger’s story at the end of the day. “The nicest thing happened to me today…”

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 3:57 am - Reply

      Hey Kevin – I loved reading that taxi driver story of yours, especially since I’m currently in Istanbul. And for the past week I’ve been wondering who are these travelers that claim to always get ripped off by the taxi drivers in this city. I’ve had nothing but easy, hassle-free, honest taxi experiences so far and even local friends are shocked by the low prices I’ve been paying. I really do believe it has to do with our attitude. Assuming the taxi drivers will rip you off from the beginning leads to such an outcome.

      Pay it forward indeed!

  35. Box Canyon November 19, 2011 at 9:44 am - Reply

    You are only in trouble if your backpack goes missing while you are wearing it…

  36. Grrrl Traveler |Christine November 19, 2011 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Yay, I love happy endings. I agree people surprise you, although I still freak out about those things. I was a bad tourist a couple of months ago in Goa when I was shopping and couldn’t find my DSLR. Was on the verge of tears, running through the stores I’d visited and tried things on in… thinking some shop keeper was a thief. In the end, it was tucked at the very bottom of my backpack. Don’t know how I missed it.

    Lesson learned- give people a chance & point the finger at myself first.

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:20 am - Reply

      Hey Christine – I think many of those kind of stories end up that way. It’s always so easy to quickly blame others when we are all perfectly capable of making such mistakes 🙂 I’ve done the same thing many times over the years and only recently have I finally been able to always give those around me the benefit of the doubt and assume I’m at fault!

  37. Roy Marvelous November 19, 2011 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Wow, I’m impressed at how calm and trusting you are. I don’t know if I can say the same about myself. I think after I got mugged earlier this year in Peru, I’m much less trusting of strangers. I mean I still hitch-hike and couchsurf but I try to use common sense as well.

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hey Roy – I can understand how one incident can affect the way we view the world but even after I was kidnapped in Bangladesh several years ago, I tried real hard to not let that change my view of strangers I would encounter. It’s not easy to do but I’m sure that, while you’ve been mugged once in Peru, you’ve most likely had hundreds and hundreds of completely positive experiences around the world as well 🙂

  38. Juno November 19, 2011 at 7:57 am - Reply

    I tend to leave stuff behind……. but yes. Hurray for people. Good stuff! 🙂

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:25 am - Reply

      Hey Juno – Interesting, I wouldn’t have guessed that you were someone who would leave stuff behind 🙂

  39. Caz Makepeace November 19, 2011 at 7:05 am - Reply

    Great post Earl! I love how you are highlighting the goodness of people around the world. This is so true.

    For all the years I have been travelling I have rarely had any problems so I absolutely agree.

    Here is a quote I heard from Gary Vaynerchuck this week that I loved

    “We always watch the news and it tells us how bad we are. It is stunning how little bad stuff is going on in our world today when [thanks to social media] everyone knows where you are and what you are doing”

    The world is full of good people

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 3:36 am - Reply

      Hey Caz – That’s such a good quote of course as it really is so easy to believe that people are evil and the world is such a terrible place. So, so easy. But once we can make that realization that the opposite is actually true, we are able to view life from a completely more positive perspective!

  40. […] now, I read this post by Earl, about the inherent goodness of people, and how most of them are not out there to scam you […]

  41. Jaime November 19, 2011 at 2:50 am - Reply

    I’ll be honest I know I would have freaked out…lol. I’m just a tad bit dramatic, however I do agree that people are good. I love that the more I travel the more I am seeing the world is filled with amazing people. Sometimes I just don’t understand it, but it makes me love the world so much more and hate the news so much more. One day the news will be about reporting the good not the bad.

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Hey Jaime – Imagine how different this planet would be if the news did concentrate on all of the goodness out there! It would be far less dramatic of course but must might inspire viewers to be good themselves. I’m the same as you and I rarely watch the news these days because, now that I’ve traveled for so long, I know the world is such a better place than it is made out to be.

      I hope you’re still doing well on your travels by the way!

  42. Dean November 19, 2011 at 2:34 am - Reply

    Hey Earl, I have to agree with you, most people are good! I left my backpack at a street side restaurant in Bangkok, which had my laptop and camera gear in it. Surely enough when I got back there in a panic, they were holding onto it for me. The gear in that bag would have been worth enough money to keep someone going in Bangkok for a long time, but instead they held on to it until I returned. People are good 🙂

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Hey Dean – Thanks for sharing your story as I tend to believe that there are far more stories such as mine and yours than there are negative stories about people’s stuff actually being stolen in the end. Glad you got your items back and reconfirmed your believe that people are good in the process 🙂

  43. nateniale November 19, 2011 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Great to see that you got your backpack back and have such positive thoughts on humanity! Hooray for people!

  44. Ana November 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    I completely agree with this post. My first time traveling alone I was 17 years old. I was lost and afraid on the metro in Madrid; it was 11pm, I had just arrived in Spain, and I was unable to find my hostel. When a man approached me my first reaction was nervousness. He asked me if I was lost, and we conversed in spanglish as he took time out of his day to walk me all the way to my hostel. I never would have survived that trip without the kindness of the people I met along the way. Instead I had the best experience of my life. The more I travel the more I come to appreciate how truly good most people are.

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Hey Ana – That’s such a good story and I’m sure most people who have felt the exact same nervousness at first. It’s natural, especially when we are in a strange place, to assume that people are out to get us in some way. But as you obviously discovered, usually, the opposite is true and they just want to help us in the end!

  45. El November 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    Three cheers for humanity’s goodness, but Earl… watch your belongings!

    Safe travels.

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:52 am - Reply

      Hey El – I know, I know, I know…I really should concentrate a little more on not leaving my stuff behind. I never used to be this forgetful 🙂

  46. Linda, I'd rather be traveling November 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    When I am positive, I carry the attitude and it shows completely, and I can feel it from strangers. I attract the same. My expectations of people is what I receive in return, even in raising children, I expect and trust them, and I receive. When I doubt there is a sense of uneasy in the air, and the kids feel it, and give me the same in return. I’m still working on keeping positive and keeping an attitude of trust. Life’s great lessons are learned not by what is easy for us, but how we handle the uneasy things.

    • Earl November 19, 2011 at 10:53 am - Reply

      Hey Linda – Very well said. And the key really is to keep on working to stay positive as it can be quite easy to lose faith and hold a negative attitude towards strangers. It’s actually more difficult to stay positive!

  47. Steve C November 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Earl, My first thought was; why would anyone carry their passport in their day pack? Then I remembered how many times I, personally have carried my money belt containing my passport, money and ATM / credit cards in my day pack. It’s just a dumb thing to do, but I still do it.

    I’m always misplacing things while at home but have programed myself that while traveling, every time I get up and move on, I quickly turn around and scan the area where I was just sitting for anything that could be left behind. I’ve embedded this so strongly into my mind that I get a kick out of myself every time I do it and as a reward, nothing has been lost since.

    I know, I know; What a Pompous A..!

    I’m only saying this because I’m amazed that I could brain wash myself so thoroughly, that literally every time I get up while traveling, I smile while my “scan rule” flashes through my mind. Now, to find a way to bundle and sell it to all other travelers! It would be the ticket for me to travel for the rest of my life without working, considering how many travelers who could benefit from this simple principle!

    Now, back to the point you were making. Everyone will probably have stories for both arguments. However, I also take your view that the vast majority of humans want and do “Right”. Some cultures more than others, but generally speaking, people are good. I’ve been ripped-off, scammed and even stabbed in a robbery attempt but I still feel positive when I travel knowing that 99.9% of the time, humans will do the right thing. This belief does not discount vigilance and a modicum of common sense still goes a long way.

    Keep on Truck’n
    Be Safe, & Aware

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 3:33 am - Reply

      Hey Steve – Well, to be honest, I almost never carry my passport around with me ever. I always leave it in my hotel room, something I’ve done for the past 12 years. But for some reason, on this occasion, I had it in my pack 🙂

      And you definitely do need to write a guide, as that would be something very useful for me! I clearly fail every time to do a last second scan of the area to make sure I have all of my stuff. So get to work on that and let me know when your product is ready!

  48. cashflowmantra November 18, 2011 at 11:05 am - Reply

    That’s great that you have had such luck. Guess it makes up for the time I was robbed at gunpoint in Honduras. Although this year was better and I managed not to get held up.

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:00 am - Reply

      @cashflowmantra – Hmmm…I guess that would have been an unfortunate situation for you. But if that only happens once in your life time of travels, I think that’s not so terrible in the end 🙂

  49. Scott November 18, 2011 at 10:22 am - Reply

    While I would agree with you for the most part, I have to say my passport is never not in my front pants pocket when I travel. These days I don’t let it out of my sight.

    And, most times when things happen to people Overseas, it’s their own stupidity. Friends of mine were robbed of all their money, in broad daylight in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest…how, you may ask.
    There they were, wallets open, counting their money…for all to see….pretty dumb! Heck, I would’t do that here in Palm Springs!

    I do believe you have to pay attention to your surroundings and be vigilant, but paranoid…never!

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:05 am - Reply

      Hey Scott – Actually, I never carry my passport with me at all. This was strange that I had it in my backpack as I always have kept it in my hotel room over the past 12 years of traveling, finding that to be the safest option of them all. And so far that method has worked. And I do agree with you that many times we are faced with bad situations, we probably could have avoided those situations with just a little common sense. Somehow it’s easy to leave common sense behind while traveling and the result can indeed be a bad incident from time to time!

  50. Linda November 18, 2011 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I agree. I also believe in something like the law of attraction. I have an acquaintance who always expects to be robbed or cheated, and, yes, it always seems to happen to her! I used to have countless stories like this from my early days here. Honestly, from where we came in England it wasn’t quite so nice, but it was very refreshing coming here. It’s one of the few places you still see loads of hitchhikers.

    • Angelo November 18, 2011 at 11:31 am - Reply

      where’s that you’re writing from, Linda?

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:06 am - Reply

      Hey Linda – It does seem that those who worry all the time and who treat everyone around them as possible criminals are the exact same people that all of the ‘bad stuff’ happens to. I’d much prefer to stay positive and enjoy positive experiences as a result. So far so good 🙂 And it sounds like the same with you as well…

  51. Matthew Karsten November 18, 2011 at 9:00 am - Reply

    I completely agree with you Earl. Even after recently dealing with that opposite side of humanity – my overall experience has shown that those bad elements are still a very, very tiny percentage of the whole pie. 🙂

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:08 am - Reply

      Hey Matthew – It’s easy to take one negative experience and make that seem like the norm when in fact, like you said, they are always far outnumbered by positive experiences, no matter where in the world we happen to be!

  52. Catia November 18, 2011 at 8:32 am - Reply

    This has happened with lots of things. I left my purse in a restaurant in Paris one night when I was exhausted, and didn’t realize it until the next morning. After trotting over to retrieve it, the proprietor was truly relieved that I had returned. He did, however, require a kiss on the cheek as a reward. But I’ll forgive almost anything in France 😉

    Many times have I forgotten items, and many times have they been put aside for me. I still have a moment of panic when I realized something’s missing, but it’s more about the fear of not being able to remember where I left it.

    People are generally kind and honest.

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:10 am - Reply

      Hey Catia – I’d say a kiss is worth it to retrieve your purse! I’m not sure if I should feel insulted that the guy at the shisha cafe didn’t ask for any such payment in return for returning my backpack to me the other day 🙂

  53. Matthew Cheyne November 18, 2011 at 7:23 am - Reply

    It’s interesting that you talk about the basic goodness in people. It’s something that His Holiness The Dalai Lama often talks about and is a principle often discussed in Buddhism. People are inherently good. Nobody is born evil. We become reinforced to behave that way and/or believe that people are bad because of the bad experiences we are exposed to. As for my experiences, I’ve had both good and bad. But just when I believe that people are bad something happens or somebody comes along and challenges that hypothesis and puts me back on track.

    One thing that challenged my mindset about people was a documentary called Dhamma Brothers. It is about a group of maximum security inmates in a jail in Alabama. They do a ten day Vipassana meditation course and at the end of the ten days they are transformed. It made me realize that although these people had done horrible things they are basically good. It’s just greed, ignorance and delusion that cause people to do bad things.

    I hope you enjoy Turkey 🙂 My mother just came back from there. She did a tour of about 2 weeks in and around Instanbul.

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:14 am - Reply

      Hey Matthew – I’ve actually seen that film as well and I’ve also participated in two Vipassana meditation courses myself, so I can definitely relate. I know that it can be difficult at times, but I also do maintain the belief that people are inherently good and don’t think I’ll ever change that view. It’s easy to have our ‘good’ brains tainted as we grow older but that core goodness will always remain and if we put in the effort we can clean away all of the ‘garbage’ that builds up around it over time.

      • Matthew Cheyne November 20, 2011 at 4:31 am - Reply

        Good to hear you’ve done the course twice. You’ve done one more than me. I did mine three years ago in Woori Yallock east of Melbourne. I’m getting to the stage that the basic goodness of people is one of my core beliefs. Living in Morwell, a country town two hours out of Melbourne to the east, I get to see a lot more of the basic goodness of people than I used to. I’m curious to know, where did you do your two courses? Was it during your time in Melbourne or someplace else?

        • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:35 am - Reply

          Hey Matthew – While I am familiar with the center in Woori Yallock, I’ve actually done one in North Fork, California and another one in a small town called Hoshiapur in the state of Punjab in India.

  54. angela November 18, 2011 at 7:21 am - Reply

    i love this. hooray for people is right! and hooray for you! xoxo

    • Earl November 20, 2011 at 4:14 am - Reply

      Hooray for you as well Angela! Still need to find a way to meet up one of these days!!

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