Yesterday in Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City the nightmare of every traveler and photographer came true for me. I was in the park to work out a little bit. The plan was to go for some night and street photography afterwards so I brought my backpack with me. Inside my camera with both lenses and my tripod. I had put my backpack on the ground right in front of me. I turned around to stretch at a tree only about 2 metres away from my pack and this moment only lasted 20 or so seconds. I turned back around and was shocked. No backpack anymore. It seemed like it has just disappeared. The locals around haven’t seen anything either. Whoever stole my backpack, must have been watching me for a while already and just waited for this brief moment. I was in total shock. Some local girls helped me looking around and also brought me to the police station nearby. But I realized straight away that this was it. I was devastated and I still am.
The worst thing is is not the material loss which is still bad. No, the worst is the fact that I lost a bunch of photographs which I had taken recently and which I hadn’t saved yet. I feel like during the last few weeks my photography has improved so much. And among those pictures lost, there were probably some of the best I have taken during my entire trip. It is so frustrating. A lot of people say that the most important memories are the ones in your mind and these can’t ever be taken from you. That is very true but I feel that I have come to the stage where I don’t take pictures for memories anymore. I try to create photographs and I try to create good ones. I put a lot of effort, time and thought into them. I roam the streets at night just in search of that one image or I go back to places I have been to before in order to get that perfect shot. Losing some of my best images really hurts and frustrates me so much. Losing the gear is one thing but the pictures were just priceless. The night before this incident I just saved one picture I took during that same day. It is one of the last pictures I have taken and I put it below as a little obituary.
Another things that bothers me a lot and that these thugs stole from me is my easiness and carefree approach to traveling. I find myself much more worried and cautious while walking around now and also wary of locals approaching me. This is new to me as I was usually totally at ease and confident when traveling a foreign country. I hate it that they took this away from me. I just hope that I can shake it off. All this also puts a different light on my whole experience here in Vietnam which has been great up until now.
I was thinking a lot about what to do now. Traveling will definitely not be the same anymore. Travel photography has become such an important part of me that it will be hard to enjoy things the same way as before. If there is a good thing about it, it is that this happened close to the end of my trip and not at the beginning.
I will try to stay positive but right now I find it really hard to do so. What definitely helped are all the positive messages and comments I received from friends on Facebook. Close friends as well as people I just got to know through this blog showed their sympathy and support and encouraged me to keep going. Thanks so much to everyone of you. It already helped me a lot.
Just a note to fellow travelers: Jut watch your stuff and don’t become too carelessly. Hold onto your belongings, don’t leave them out of sight, not even for a second. I have been traveling for ten months now without anything happening to me. I guess I have become a bit to carelessly and maybe a bit naive. Don’t let this happen to you, keep aware. There are assholes everywhere and things can go alright 99 times but the 100th time it won’t and it will be a painful experience if you let it happen. However, don’t become paranoid, just be careful.