Coffee, trust and thieves: Saturday photo editing / by Jessica Lee


I was in a coffeeshop in Barcelona, Spain, editing photos like I am now.

I always like to go to coffee shops to edit photos because I like sitting around other people who are working, it's a motivating atmosphere and I like tasty drinks that I can't always make by myself at home.


I'm quite relaxed in coffee shops. I pick a big space, spread my stuff around and get to work. Inevitably, after the second coffee or so, I need to use the facilities. I usually have no problem leaving my things (even my computer) lying around for the two minutes I'll be gone because I rationalize that usually, other people who go to coffee shops are well off enough to spend $3-5 on a coffee, they probably aren't the type of people who would be interested in a computer. Besides, there are usually other people around who will notice if someone is stealing your things.

Anyway, during this particular session in Barcelona, when I came back, the barista approached me.

"Where are you from?", he asked.

"Canada."

"That's great, but around here, you can't leave your computer by itself! You're lucky it isn't stolen."

I thanked the guy and continued working.


I've haven't had anything stolen from me yet while travelling, but I am more aware these days. I still go off on my intuition, but I realize now maybe I am more lucky than intuitive.

I once left for a five minute bathroom break on a bus from Essaouria, Morocco to Casablanca, Morocco, and came back to find a local woman had boarded the bus and was staring at my things. I think the only reasons why she didn't make off with my stuff was because 1. I had two bags, so it would have been difficult for her to carry both 2. It wouldn't have looked like her things, and thus obvious that she was stealing (I had a new backpack that you can't buy in Morocco. It definitely looked foreign) 3. There were other passengers who were watching her. She asked me for money when I got back, possibly because she felt I owed her something since she didn't take anything. I said no. I don't like to be guilted into anything.

It's a difficult dilemma for solo travellers. When you leave for a bathroom break, do you carry all 10 kilos of your things? It seems silly, doesn't it?

I still leave my things lying around in Canada at coffee shops. Perhaps I am too open and trusting for someone who has experienced so many close calls with theft, but I genuinely believe people here are good. I'm not naive either. I choose to live as an open person rather than a person full of fear and distrust. I think there's more opportunities to experience by living this way and more people to meet. There's also less stress in your life.

I don't do stupid things like leave all of my possessions to someone I just met for an hour (that is creating more stress), but I take reasonable risks like leaving a library book I don't want to carry to a job interview with a retail worker, whom I know will probably still be in the same spot after an hour. It feels good when you trust someone and they turn out to be a trustworthy person. You can usually reverse situations early on when you don't feel comfortable anyway. I was in Indonesia once, and a local I had just met said he would carry my wallet for me (because I took really long fumbling for change), but I didn't feel good about that, so I asked for it back (after much awkwardness of course, but very rarely do you get an ideal situation in real life, you just have to do the best you can).

Readers: How much do you trust the strangers around you? Share some stories!