Your Valuables on the Road
carry a purse, wear it.
purse can be snatched from your hand. Or it can disappear when you set it down
to finger the fabric of a possible purchase.
you can too easily leave a purse on the counter of a gas station where you signed
a charge slip, or hang it in harms way over a restaurant chair while you
lunch. Even across-the-body shoulder bags can be quickly cut by an expert at the
craft and made off with. (Worth knowing: Shoulder bags and fanny packs are available
with knife-foiling steel cables in the straps from shops specializing in travel
like literally wearing my purse. I favor the so-called photojournalists
vest with an array of pockets of varying sizes - exterior, interior and one on
the backside useful for a flatly folded rain poncho. Some also have pouches the
size of a small water bottle or mini umbrella.
vests (I have several) have small and large pockets, inside and outside, some
zippered, some with Velcro closing and some with snaps. The pockets are designed
to hold camera gear from lenses to film, but a variety of stuff fits.
avoid that pat-patting search ritual when trying to locate something carefully
stowed I treat the vest as if it were a file cabinet and file the
oft-carried items in an unvarying pattern. (Even vest to vest because they similar
one upper pocket (Velcro closed) I tuck a credit card and my drivers license.
The pocket just below holds, nerd-like, two pens. And for occasions requiring
more light on the subject - guidebook in dark churches perhaps - I carry there
a flat credit-card-sized flashlight that operate at a squeeze. Or a penlight might
substitute for one of the pens.
a shallow closed pocket at waist level are coins. On an inside pocket (deep and
Velcro-closed) is my wallet - a small thin one. That pocket, alas, is not quite
deep enough to hold a plane ticket or boarding pass and still be Velcro-ed shut
so If I do put a ticket there I fold it (gently) at its crease.
the chest pocket with a vertical zipper I keep purse-y things - a
combo folding comb and brush, a tiny fingernail clipper, lipstick, Tums, etc.
front flap pockets can hold - Velcro-ed in - my passport (in a soft, thin leather
folder for anonymity). Another pocket can hold a city map or public transportation
schematic. I always carry a small spiral notebook that fits in another pocket.
a camera can still fit, a small point-and-shoot or a disposable one. When I am
seriously photographing I can carry one with a longer zoom lens on a (padded!)
neck strap carried more or less inside the vest, long lens pointing downward.
That way it is at the ready and I look more like a pro than a snap shooter. (More
about photography next month.)
I choose to carry yet more stuff without swelling into a Michelin man I can add
a fanny pack (misnamed because for security reasons I wear it as a belly
pack.) This is snapped around my waist under the vest so the latch is not easily
accessible to someone with larcenous intent.
If there is even more to carry - such as a windbreaker, sweater, book or
snack - I have a variety of backpacks to call on. One I like is relatively small
dressy leather that travels almost flat in my suitcase. It has a number
of concealed zippers and is not at all easy to open so I am less concerned about
anyone behind me getting at its contents. (Anyway, in crowds I try to stand with
a wall or post or something immediately behind me. And choose close-to-the wall
seats in cafes. Not just for security reasons but because such a position usually
affords a better view.)
backpack contains little more than guidebooks and maps. Maybe a paperback mystery
and a crushable jacket. Sometimes a lower-priced Walkman. Even full this backpack
is flat enough that my sitting down (on a bus or subway for instance) while wearing
it is not at all uncomfortable. And it is suitable in its flattest state for wearing
to dinner or the theater. (And keeping it on.)
have roomier backpacks as well so I can scale up to overnighting with my hands
still free and nothing to drag behind.
protecting valuables many travelers swear by the under-clothes money belts, or
cotton or silk caches that hang around the neck, nestle in the concavities of
the body and hold passport and/or cash. I have a couple of these but rarely use
them. I like my vests. Which, incidentally, use mesh to good effect and thus are
suitable for warm weather. In colder climes the vests over a sweater or nylon
jacket or Polarfleece pullover help preserve heat at the body core where it counts.
If your destination is truly hot similarly useful vests lighter in weight and
sporting even more mesh are available.
hats can be had with small zipper pockets that will hold a few bills, a key and
maybe a credit card, but realize that hats can be left behind and easily snatched
or blown off.
handy is a wristlet that closes with Velcro and has a zippered compartment suitable
for a hotel key, a few bills and an ID. The wristlet (also leglets)
may have been designed for joggers but are handy for the sightseer, too. Ive
seen little purses made fast to your shoes when you tie your shoestrings. And
socks with pockets. Ive stashed a flat item or two in my shoe, but not when
a lot of walking was involved.
a lot of tucking places that will spread the wealth around means that if one thing
is lost or stolen you have not lost everything.
likely your hotel has a safe, or even your room in more up-scale hotels, to serve
as a haven for important documents or cash while you carry only what the day demands.
Its wise to keep your passport with you always.
of the travel-clothing outfits such as
Magellans or TravelSmith
have blazers with a number of pockets, inside and out, some zippered. The blazers
may not have as many carrying options as the photographers vest but offer
a more city, less safari, look. Check out the microfiber blazers - they are light
in weight, feel particularly good to the hand and resist wrinkles and dirt. Some
- even the lined ones - are machine (or basin) washable as well.
you do carry a tote bag or a purse whether over-the-shoulder or across-the-chest
(without in-strap cables) put in them only what you dont mind (too much)
losing such as reading material, guidebooks, maps, a not-too-favorite sweater.
Stash valuables closer to your person in interior zippered pockets or next-to-the-skin
caches. (Imagine the dismay of a panting thief checking his tote-bag haul in a
back alley only to pull out a Guide Michelin, a menu translator, a John Sandford
mystery and a Denver Broncos sweatshirt. Nyah, nyah. Serves you right.)