The traveler’s trail is a boulevard of tragic stories of lost iPhones, Android Devices that (like in their clever commercials) grew legs and ran away, pilfered ergonomic earphones, stolen laptops, absentee underwear and most seriously, misplaced passports. Losing your stuff while traveling sucks, not only because of inconvenience, the stress, the replacement costs but more importantly because of the time it takes that could be spent enjoying travel, doing cool things and connecting with interesting people. This article will present some bizarre memory systems, life hacks and uncommon yet practical solutions for not losing your valuable stuff while traveling.

Consistency of Placement

The most common sense (yet uncommonly practiced) solution to not losing your stuff is this simple: keep your things in the same place. One of the biggest reasons people lose things, temporarily and permanently, is that they leave them in new places because of convenience or absentmindedness. You are rushing to meet friends for dinner so you leave your shaver in the hostel bathroom or you are exhausted after a long flight so you fall asleep with your laptop on your bed. Resist this temptation, and create a system for keeping your stuff in the same place.
Here’s a few practical examples:

  • My passport — Goes in the back internal zipper container of my backpack or in my left pocket next to my wallet.
  • My iPod Earphones — Goes under my pillowcase while I’m sleeping or wrapped around my Android in my pocket.
  • My Fancy Fedora — Goes under my bed behind my toiletries case.
  • My Laptop — Goes in my backpack under my bed or in a safe box.
  • My USB Cables — Goes next to my underwear compartment in my luggage.

Using Bizarre Memory Associations

While traveling, inevitably you are going to leave your things in completely new places.

  • Your hotel room is not quite ready so you leave your travel bag with reception.
  • You leave your phone on the tables while getting sushi with friends.
  • You are Couchsurfing and the only power outlet to charge your iPad is in some strange corner of your host’s house.

When you are leaving your stuff in novel locations, I suggest using the highly effective, millenniums old method of bizarre memory associations; create a ridiculous visualization between between your thing (fancy hat, passport, laptop, fluffy handcuffs, whatever…) and the new place you leave it. When forming your bizarre associations I recommend using these five elements:

  • Substitution
  • Out of Proportion
  • Action or Violence
  • Multiplication
  • Sexiness (If you are like me your private thoughts tend to be dirty more often than not. So by all means feel free to make absurd associations sexual — it certainly helps to make them more bizarre!)

The first couple times you use absurd memory associations it will take some creative energy and make you feel a little odd, but soon it becomes really easy and fun. Here’s a few examples:

Item: Shampoo
Location: In your friend’s flat’s shower
Bizarre Association: Imagine a giant 20 foot tall version of your shampoo bottle squirting shampoo on your friend while in the shower.

Item: Your water purifying tin water bottle
Location: In the hammock, near the volleyball court at the hostel.
Bizarre Association: Hammock… Think of a guy playing volleyball while wearing a ‘banana hammock’ (European style men’s underwear), with your metal water bottle sticking out of his banana hammock (weird right! That’s what makes it a great, memorable association)

Item: Your iPhone
Location: Charging in the center console of your host’s Honda Accord.
Bizarre Association: Imagine that your iPhone has an App that can shoot out a giant bolt of lightning, you blow up your friend’s car with the bolt of lightning.

If you don’t have much time: Sometimes you are in a major hurry and don’t have the time or inclination to make up an elaborately weird visualization, in these situations just imagine that your thing is plunging deeply in whatever or wherever you are leaving it. For example:

  • If you leave your Mazula Gear backpack on your hostel bed, imagine it sinking into the bed.
  • If you leave your food plate on the table in the social area imagine it weighing thousands of pounds that break the table.
  • If you leave your beer on the bar when you go to the bathroom imagine it sinking into the bar and the beer spilling all over the place.

Don’t you hate making new friends and then forgetting their names? If memory systems interest you checkout this uncommon memory system for remembering limitless people’s names instantaneously.

Create Perceived Social Repercussions with Potential Thieves

In a lot of lower income countries taking advantage of tourists is something of a national pastime. Indeed, in Asia there is a prevalent philosophy in the business world (which has consequently trickled down to a variety of street hustlers) that if you can take advantage of someone for a profit you should, since you are ultimately teaching them a valuable lesson. As far as I can tell the strongest deterrent to this is social repercussions, creating the impression that screwing you will result in them being ostracized by their immediate community.

Longevity of your stay, the last thing you want to tell a potential thief or hustler is that you don’t know anyone in town and will be gone in a few days. People are way less likely to screw you if they think they are going to be seeing you again. So emphasize that you are actually interested in becoming part of the community. When I meet locals in a new town I tell them how I am interested in expanding my small business into their part of the world, I mention clients, non-profits and projects that I have worked with in nearby countries or cities. If I am leaving soon I mention that I really liked their town and will be returning at some point for a more long term stay, to rent an apartment or bring a big group of friends to party.

Name drop, anytime I arrive in a new town I make an effort to befriend or at least meet some high profile locals; hostel operators, local musicians, tour company operators, bar owners, nightclub promoters, etc — anyone in the business of knowing a lot of people. As you meet new people, name drop these local celebrities like a Hollywood PR agent, creating the impression that while new in town you are not someone to be messed with.

Beware of Buses

These lumbering beasts of steel and rubber are a notorious destination to lose your things. Whether it’s dropping your electronics through the seat cracks, pickpockets on crowded chicken buses or forgetting your bag in moment of absent mindedness after a long ride, buses are a place worthy of your vigilance.

  • Don’t drift off to sleep with your electronics resting on your lap, put them in your pockets.
  • Don’t place your backpack in the overhead storage.
  • Hold your backpack on your lap.

Beware of Coffee Shops

How often have you had this absurd conversation with a complete stranger in a coffee shop?

‘Hey I’m going use the restroom real quick can you please keep an eye on my laptop?’

‘Yeah, sure.’

This conversation is really useless unless you are just using it as a pick up line or ice breaker (which it works great for!). Is a complete stranger really going to put themselves in the path of bodily harm to protect your expensive stuff from a petty street criminal who spies your laptop through the window of a cafe? Very doubtful… Don’t leave your laptop or electronics unattended at a coffee shop with strangers.

Beware of Dorms

Many travelers delude themselves that we live in a fantasy land where all other travelers are well meaning and altruistic. The reality is that hostel dorms are some of the cheapest accommodations in any given city and no kind of background check is ran on the people sleeping mere meters from you. The vast majority of people traveling would never do you any harm but don’t be the naive traveler who leaves their laptop out on their bed, or their wallet in plain site unattended in the dorm room.

Beware of Laundry Ladies

Many travelers elect to have the help do their laundry for them. Budget hostel laundry rooms are a sure place of disorganization; how much care do you really think the minimum wage earning employees are taking with your dirty laundry? Whenever you get your laundry back make sure to check that all items are present.

Misdirect Potential Thieves

One of the top concerns of small time criminals is speed of execution, they don’t want to spend more than a few seconds mugging you, grabbing your backpack or looking for target of opportunity in a dorm room. Here’s a few ways of misdirecting them:

  • Don’t keep all your money in one pocket, when you go out on the town at night. Keep the majority of your money in a money clip in a second pocket. Leave just a few bucks in your wallet, if you get mugged just offer up what’s in your wallet.
  • In your backpack put your expensive electronics, wallet & passport under your smelly socks.

Get Luggage Locks

For less than $10 you can get 2 luggage locks to dissuade would be thieves from opening your bags.

Get Two Phones

Acquire a second phone, a throwaway that you don’t really care if you lose it. A lot of times you can buy a second hand Android phone for less than $50 or a ‘feature phone’ (a ‘dumb’ phone with old fashioned buttons) for even cheaper at an electronics store abroad. When you are going out to socialize take this phone with you, that way you can…

  • Make calls
  • Collect people’s contact info (useful for when you meet the love of your life on a dance floor somewhere exotic)
  • Take blurry camera phone pictures
  • Maybe even check your email via wifi while out and about

…without worrying about losing your valuable phone.

Use a Portable Battery Charger

One of the most common ways people lose their valuable electronics is while charging them, you leave your iPhone charging on your bed while you sleep or you leave your phone charging next to a friendly stranger in a common room for example… Stop doing this!

Many a traveler has lost their valuables this way. A super convenient solution to this is a Universal Portable Battery Charger, this is a portable battery that holds much larger charge than your smartphone or tablet. When you need to charge your devices put them in your backpack or locker with the Portable Battery to charge. A portable battery can also be a real lifesaver on those +8 hour bus rides when your devices die in the middle of your favorite movie. Talk about convenience and safety!

While Drinking

Whether home or abroad most people’s chances of losing their stuff increase drastically when they are drinking. The solution to this is preparation, avoid taking your valuable stuff out with you (see the suggestions above). You’ll also find that if you practice the first suggestion of the article ‘Consistency of Placement’ that you can ‘train’ the drunk version of you to take better care of your stuff. Using bizarre memory systems, is surprisingly effective and fun while slightly intoxicated if you are bold enough to tell your drinking companions about them!

Furry Handcuffs

If you don’t have furry handcuffs, get some ASAP, here’s why:

  • When you are leaving your luggage unattended in your dorm room or other location handcuff it to something immovable so would be thieves can’t grab it. Obviously, luggage locks are a good idea to accompany your kinky luggage.
  • If you find yourself tortured by mosquito bites which you can’t stop yourself from itching at night handcuff yourself so you can’t!
  • Inevitably you’ll find some other interesting uses for furry handcuffs on the road…

What are you waiting for? Get some furry handcuffs!

May mischief find you and misfortune avoid you!

Originally published at

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸

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