At Some Point, Something Will Get Stolen

If there’s one thing those beautiful #VanLife Instagram posts DON’T show, it’s the rampant theft we constantly have to worry about when we live on the road.

van life theft
Don’t advertise the fact that you’re rocking a big T.V.

From the precious cargo inside of our rigs to the various fun gadgets we might have strapped to the outside, theft can be a real pain in the ass to process mentally.

It’s easy to find yourself thinking every parking spot is a target, and every stranger a thief.

But that is no way to live!

Since we just had an item stolen off of our van last week, I thought this might be a good opportunity to talk about how to deal with those emotions that will inevitably come flooding in when you find out a stranger has been rifling through your shit.

1. Let it all out, man.

First things first, let those big ugly emotions out. If you have to cry, then cry. It’s ok. Someone has just dug around in your underpants drawer looking for your grandmother’s jewelry. I don’t care how tough you are, that one hurts, and it’s alright to feel violated.

sad puppy
I feel you, little dude.

When my bike was stolen, I sat in my Jeep and cried for a solid 30 minutes before reporting it.

It was a bike I had modified with a small electric motor all by myself, and it was VERY special to me. I had driven from Massachusetts all the way to Oregon with it locked to the back of my vehicle with no problems.

Less than 36 hours after arriving in Portland, it was gone.

In my 30 minutes of ugly crying in a parking lot, I went through every emotion conceivable. But before I called the cops, I had to get the really violent emotions out of the way, lest they think I was going to turn into some murderous bike vigilante.

So give yourself a few minutes to freak out, but then you have to move on.


2. Get some help.

friends talking over coffee
Call a friend, but, like, a “cool” friend. Preferably with a nose piercing.

After you call the cops and report the rat bastards that robbed you, call or a friend or even a therapist and start talking those feelings out. Even if you think you are way too cool to be bothered by something like petty theft, deep down, it can be damaging.

Personally, I stewed in anger for days because I thought I was above leaning on others for emotional support.

And then I realized I was being a moron.

You see, once I talked about how violated I felt, to someone that was actually listening, it made a huge difference. I was able to start seeing things from a different perspective and eventually came to realize that there were far bigger problems on this planet than my bike.

Having a safe space to talk about how you feel can be huge, I highly recommend it!

3. Don’t let it disrupt your routine.

Since I was new to Portland when my bike was stolen, I had no idea how bad the theft problem actually was. It was easy for me to say “My bike was stolen in the Irvington neighborhood so, fuck that place in particular!”

astronaut in field
No place is safe.

My plan was to avoid it like the plague, or at least be on high alert if I had to park there for an extended period of time.

Once I started telling native Portlanders about my bike, however, it seemed like everyone had a story to share. It dawned on me one day that people in the city no longer buy bikes for themselves. They buy them to use them for a month or two and then relinquish them to the people that will inevitably take them away.

I realized that there is no “safe” neighborhood and I had to continue living my life just like everyone else. I couldn’t let small-time theft dictate where I went, and it was silly that I let myself get wrapped up in it to the extent I did.

While I couldn’t do much to stop theft from happening, there were measures I could put in place that could at least help recover my things when they were taken.

4. Work smarter, not harder.

When I reported my stolen bike to the police, I told them all about how I had locked AND tied my bike to the back of my Jeep. I thought I was being so careful with my cable lock and heaps of heavy-duty rope.

The woman on the other end of the line did not agree:

“That’s great, but did you record the serial numbers? Because there is no way we can recover your bike if you haven’t recorded the serial numbers”

The lady at my insurance company wasn’t much help either:

“Do you have serial numbers and pictures? How about proof that it’s value was $1,500?

bikes secured in car parking spotI felt like such an ass but learned an important lesson on what actually matters when it comes to securing my items.

Now, whenever I buy something of value, I record EVERYTHING. I also invested in a GPS unit that stays securely inside my van at all times and alerts me when it moves locations without me.

It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

5. Move on

After checking everywhere, including the basement of The Alamo for my lost bike, I decided to move on. She was gone and there was nothing I could do. It still sucked, but at least I could stop obsessing about it.

Jerry can on back of van
Farewell, friend.

What was stolen off of our van last weekend was just our Jerry Can. Not an expensive item by any means, but for a second I felt those familiar rage and violation feelings bubble up inside me.

I gave my self a few minutes to be angry, but then I let it go.

Hopefully, you never have to deal with theft, but if you do, these tips should help you start the healing process so you can move on.

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