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Santa Barbara, Ca

I'm a full-time rambler and contract designer with as many skill sets in my quiver as there are plane tickets in my passbook. I've worked in ornamental iron, jigsaw puzzle design, bookmaking, glass engraving, and a variety of other mediums. I'm currently living out of a backpack as I trek my way around the world.

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Getting Robbed Abroad: When Travel Takes a Turn for the Worse

Zak Erving

Of the 1,200 photos lost in the robbery, this is the one that survived

Of the 1,200 photos lost in the robbery, this is the one that survived

This week on Sparkpunk is dedicated to travel disasters: specifically, getting robbed while abroad. I'll be sharing some of my experiences with the ordeal, as well as some tips to help you, should you ever find yourself in a similar circumstance.

The following is an extract from my journal last summer, on July 13. Asriel and I had just been robbed the day preceding this one:

Zero is as good of a place as any to begin a new journal, and the café receipt taped to the preceding page is, at present, the best metaphor I can muster for it. In the time it took the barista to pull the shots for two iced coffees, Asriel and I were short two passports, a credit card, $800USD, and enough technology to run a fairly successful small business.

We were in Barcelona. It was a hot day.

The officer who filed our report inherited his kind eyes from his mother; amidst our string of profanities uttered while recalling what else was in those bags, he worked without flinching and never lost his touch of compassion and concern. I was glad to be in Spain, and not somewhere less familiar—even if it would have been cooler outside.

Hermann, the police officer, gave us his cell phone number and offered us his house in case we could not find lodging for the night, fully aware that he had not confirmed his plans with his housemate. Asriel, herself the daughter of a policeman, had become endeared to him when he learned of her father’s line of work.

Before Asriel and I retreated into the metro, she asked if we could do one thing more: her mother had given her a Mickey Mouse tie clip before she left. “Give it to someone who helps you, if the circumstances allow,” she suggested. We hurried back to the police station to find Hermann and gave him the small gift in front of all of his coworkers. It was all we had to give, but sharing it with him instilled in us a deep, permanent joy.

Back at our hostel, the managers seemed surprised to see us. They had befriended us during our stay, sharing their meals with us and dishing out sage-like and street-wise advice to us, and we said good-bye to them as old friends would. Our return, and the story we brought with us, broke their hearts, too.

“We can take care of you,” they said in comforting tones. “When we started this hostel, we prepared an extra room in case things like this happened. Stay as long as you need to gather yourselves.” Suddenly, in a foreign land, Asriel and I realized that people who were strangers a week ago were now not only our friends, but our confidants and guardian angels.

The rain drummed dutifully the following morning, pestering the window panes like a kid sister, hissing under tires as their cars drove past. We were hungry, then, and had a list of obligations that started with drawing a map to the American consulate—but the hostel’s computer was being used by a French girl with crimson dreadlocks who was getting lost on Facebook. She kindly asked us if we needed to use the computer, and without getting too into our story we obliged. But as the details trickled out, she became an instant ally, too, offering breakfast or snacks or coffee: anything at hand, anything, anything at all she could do to help.

And later, while getting lunch across the street from the American Consulate, waiting for our emergency passports:

We have been rendered hypervigilant to the kindness and hospitality of strangers, and despite the grief that accompanies loss and violation we breathe gratitude and benediction. Even the bartender blesses us with his famous omelettes, and we eat with solemn reverence.