I was Robbed… I’m Going to Puke

I feel like I’m going to puke… I can’t see a way that I won’t puke.

I just had all my camera gear, over $3,000 worth, robbed on a bus leaving Quito, Ecuador.

Today I was on my way to Tena, Ecuador to see my friends, who just had their lodge burn to the ground.  I was going to see if I could help with the reconstruction, or maybe give them some press in hopes of giving them a boost in tourism or something.  Instead, I was jacked of not only my camera equipment, but my livelihood.   I am sitting back here in Quito after spending 3 hours scouring the streets with the police and filling out reports.  In the end, the police told me that there is nothing they can do realistically.  A car stolen can be seen on the streets, a camera could be in any little bag anywhere in the country.  Chances are, according to the police, that the camera gear is already in transit for somewhere like Guayaquil to be sold at a black market where no one is looking for it.

In all I lost:

Camera tripod and penguin

My T1i in Antarctica – click to enlarge

  • Canon 60D body  =  $1,000
  • Canon T1i body = Bought for $600 but probably now worth about $300
  • Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens = $1300 value
  • Canon 18-55mm f/3.5/5.6 = $140 value
  • A bunch of random bits such as batteries, macro tubes, filters and memory cards

What Happened?

I had just gotten on the bus from Quito bound for Tena (about a 4 hour trip), and we were five minutes outside the terminal.  I had a coke, so I opened it and placed my camera bag in between my feet.   A couple minutes later I looked down to notice my bag had slid back below my seat, caused – I assumed – by the incline of the bus’ path.  As a long term traveller I know that bags under the seat aren’t safe.  I slid the bag back between my feet without thinking a thing.  Then, as we arrived at a gas station I stepped up to use the bathroom only to find my camera bag as light as a feather when I went to take it with me.  At the bottom there was a hole and zipper was partly open.  Whoever got in was as smooth as anyone, as the bag still had it’s rain cover on.  How did I not feel anything move???

It’s amazing how these things become so clear after they happen; hindsight is so clear.  I know exactly how it happened and when.  A group of about 5-6 people entered the bus and all took seats behind me, despite there being seats open much further ahead.  A lady selling bread stopped beside me to tried her sales pitch on me to which I thanked her and said no.  However, she continued to chat with me, which isn’t rare in South America; some people are just interested in foreigners.  But quickly, within a minute or two of entering the bus she and the group left the bus.  My immediate thought was “they are thieves, who else takes a long distance bus 2-3 minutes?”  I looked down at my bag, it was at my feet and didn’t think anything of it until we arrived the gas station.

There was a police officer on the street whom I raced to.  He called back up, but in these parts, my camera was long gone by now.  The bus staff yelled at me, claiming it was my fault for not putting it below in the luggage case.  They are partly right, but what if I wanted to take a picture from the bus?  Am I going to leave a small shoulder camera bag in the bottom of the bus?  Unfortunately, if I would have left it below, and it was stolen, the bus company would have been responsible, and liable for 50% of the costs.  Since I brought it on board with me they are not responsible for a penny, even if the long distance bus company was picking up people and dropping them off like a city bus.  The truth is though, these guys were just trying to earn a living, I can’t blame them.

Camera tripod and giant tortoise

my 60d and 70-200 in the Galapagos – Click to enlarge

After driving around Quito and filing a police report, the police officer in charge of my case was clear: “we are sorry this happened, it happens far too often to tourists in this city.  And I’m even more sorry to tell you that there’s about a 100% chance that you’ll never see your camera gear again.  It’s gone.”  As I left the station downtown completely devoted to tourism, two more gringos walked in with long faces.  I’m not the first one to be robbed here, and I won’t be the last.

What about Travel Insurance, are you covered???

Well, despite the fact that I have 3 different types of travel insurance, thanks to two credit cards and more standard insurance, after consulting with the companies… I’m not covered for theft this large.  My personal insurance just covers items under $500 that were purchased in Canada (something I didn’t know until now, not that the $500 would cover anything anyways).  All items stolen had a greater value.  My credit card travel insurance is only valid for products I bought using their cards.  I didn’t make any of these purchases using those credit cards.

Why didn’t I get Better Insurance?

The simple truth?  I don’t have that kind of money.  Since I’ve begun travelling I’ve never had much money to spend, I have student loan bills, and all of the savings I’ve made in the past couple years has gone to my student loans or the purchase of the camera gear I just lost.  To buy worldwide travel insurance for electronics is expensive, it can be well over 150$ a month or more.  To cover electronics in high risk areas of the world is more expensive than insuring a car.  It seems so ironic (well in an Alanis Morissette version of the term ironic anyways) that I was just talking the other day with friends about a travel insurance that covers these things (by Clements Insurace) for cheaper.  I had intentions of buy the top line insurance when my current policy ended at the end of this month.

How do I Feel?

  • I feel heartbroken…  That camera gear is more than just my camera gear.  It was my companion on a lot of adventures, it was my method of expression, and although I only earn a small portion of my income directly from my photo sales it was still my livelihood.  I earn my income from this webpage and articles published elsewhere.  My work loses it’s value without my photos.  How many of you would never come to my site if there were no photos? Heck, I’m not sure I would visit my site without the photos.

    Tripod and sea lion

    The tripod is all I have left, and I don’t even have the quick release for it anymore – click to enlarge

  • I feel stupid… Despite the fact that I’ve warned people about these sort of things happening, it has happened to me.  I should have had that camera bag on my lap, or stuffed it in my big bag below just like I’ve recommended to people over the years.  I feel stupid because after 2 and a half years in South America I should have known better. Honestly, I almost wish that I was robbed at gun or knife-point instead so I wouldn’t feel so stupid.
  • I feel dull… My face is stretched in a frown, my heart is deeper in my stomach. But somehow I don’t feel anything.  Perhaps its my body’s reaction in attempt to keep me from crying, yelling, hitting something, or some combination of all at once.  Maybe it’s my body’s version of denial.
  • I feel sad… I feel sad that we live in a world where people need to steal for sustenance. I forgive the thieves.  I feel sorry for the thieves.  Stealing from someone else is rarely right (Robin Hood and The Beach Boys are exempt), but I am not angry with the thieves, I wish them the best.  I hope that they can someday find a place in this world where they do not need to take from others to survive. I’ve learned to take responsibility for what I’ve done wrong in life, and it was me who didn’t protect the bag better. If you go around blaming everyone else you’ll only end up with resent in your heart.
  • I feel helpless… I am a travel photographer without a camera, I have a tripod but nothing to place on it and that alone is enough to make me feel helpless and empty. But most of all I feel helpless in the fact that I can never change what had happened. Regardless how many times I go over the situation I can never go back and change anything.
  • I feel proud… I feel proud that the police helpful.  I feel proud that the man selling ice cream on the bus chose to struggle all day for a tiny income rather than resorting to crime, despite how easy it might be.  I feel proud for the Ecuadorian passenger that came off the bus with me to console me and make sure I was ok.  And I’m proud of the passenger that stood up to the 3 bus drivers on board who seemed intent on berating me over the fact that this was all my fault.
  • I feel angry… And I’m not really sure where to point my anger.  I’m not even sure who I’m angry with… but I’m pretty sure it’s just myself I’m mad at.
  • But mostly… I feel like puking.

At the End of the Day

I suppose I can be happy that losing possessions is the worst that has happened to me in these years.  I suppose it could be much worse.  I suppose that although incredibly expensive, possessions can be replaced.  I need to be thankful that I am healthy.  I am lucky, I have a great family and great friends; knowing that makes my camera gear feel a little bit less important.

Can you Help?

I’ve already gotten lots of messages from friends, family members, and random readers asking if they can help me with something.  I have to say, that I have never been good at asking for help.  I carry a lot of pride in my independence.  .  I would never feel comfortable asking anyone for money; and I refuse to do it now. However, if you feel compelled to help me out because you want to start seeing new photos from my travels, and my depiction of the world, soon then there are some things that maybe you could purchase that would help me out… but please, don’t feel obliged (I don’t want you too feel as if you are paying for my own stupidity).  Maybe one of the products below this post will come in handy or even make a good Christmas present???

The Products

    • Galapagos Islands Calendar:I’ve just come back from the Galapagos Islands and you’ve seen a couple of my images.  I have just put together a “Best of the Galapagos Islands” calendar.  The price is 26US$ plus 6US$ for shipping. I will earn about 5US$ for every calendar purchased.  If you want some other type of Calendar get a hold of me and maybe we can work something out. Buy it here.
    • Photo Prints: I sell photos via a gallery on imagekind.com.  I am in the process of uploading Galapagos photos and there are plenty others already up.  I usually only make a very small amount from these sales, but I have bumped up the price of prints in the Wildlife Gallery for a couple weeks for this case.  I will earn between 2$ and 15$ depending on the size of images purchased in this gallery, but of course you can buy from any gallery if you’d like. Visit my all my galleries here.
    • Vagabundo Magazine Subscription:  I was not about to set out subscription options for the actual digital magazine until next week.  However, I’ve decided to do something a little bit desperate.  Desperate situations call for desperate measures.  I am going to offer a 12 issue subscription via pdf form (to be delivered via email) for 20US$.  The magazine will cost about 1.99$ each volume when the first volume is published at the end of December.  Hell, if you want to lock in 100US$ worth I’ll give you a lifetime subscription to the magazine. For 12 Issues Click here.  Or if you really want a lifetime subscription click here.
    • Photography Ebook:  I wrote an eBook a while back called “How to Take Great Travel Photos with A Point and Shoot Camera.” You can check it out here.
    • Donate: I have had more people than I’d ever image ask me to put up donate button.  As I mentioned earlier, I would never ask you to “give” me money.  However, since some have requested the button I have put it up below.  I appreciate you all so very much.

What if I get my gear Back?

It’s gone.  I know how this works, there is maybe a 0.0000001% chance I see it again.  BUT, if on the off chance it comes back I will give all the money I eared to a charity to be named if that happens.  Moreover, I plan on being completely transparent with you all on my earnings.

Thank You

The support I have gotten from friends, family member, readers, and even strangers always overwhelms me.  And knowing that I have that support goes a long way in making me feel better about how things went down.  Do I need a camera?  No.  But I will always need you guys, in whatever capacity I have you.  Your words, support and comfort is as much help as any donation or product purchased.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: Brendan van Son is a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. He has visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than he has the desire to count. Check out his profile on . for a little bit more about him.

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132 Comments

  1. My friend and I were going on our first weekend trip after arriving in Quito, Ecuador. We got on a bus with Mindo as our destination. We placed our bags in our laps and my friend jumped up at the last minute to go grab a shot of the bus.

    You are right about hindsight. We didn’t think at the time that the bus driver walking up and down the aisle telling people they can’t hold their bags in their laps was fishy. Afterword, oh yes, we did.

    Thankfully, I was taking pictures along the route and had my camera in my hand and bag in my lap the whole ride. My friend, passed out beside me, her bag between her legs.

    We get off a few hours later, walk to the hostel, open our bags to grab our stuff before putting it in the locker area, and my friend realized her $1k+ camera is missing. There was a rip in the side and a gaping hole. It hit us both.

    We walked to the police station in Mindo, Ecuador and explained for hours to the police what happened and eventually, after telling us we would probably never see my friend’s camera again and that it was probably headed to the Black Market, they agreed to drive around the city.

    Everyone in Mindo was listening to our story and felt terrible because they don’t want their little cloud forest to get a bad reputation. They were willing to help but hours later, nothing could be done and my friend accepted the fact that her camera was stolen and long gone.

    She did venture to the Black Market with the belief she could find it and buy it back but was unable to find her camera.

    Ecuador is probably one of the worst places in South America when it comes to theft. They’ll rob tourists and each other. I am sorry for your loss and hope with donations you are able to get back on your feet!

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    • @allison – yes… This country is known for it’s petty crime. Almost everyone I know has lost something at one point. That makes it worse though… I should have known better.

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  2. That’s awful! I wish it wasn’t so common for people to be robbed in foreign countries. At least maybe next time you will be more aware and able to avoid this situation!

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    • @Maria – The horrible thing is that I was aware and it still happened… I got complacent… so stupid

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  3. Oh man, that really sucks. I felt sick for you as I was reading the story. You’ve got a good attitude about the whole thing, though – and good things always come to people with good attitudes!

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  4. Such awful news; I feel sick for you as well. Hope you are able to recoup very soon from this. We definitely want more photos and stories of your adventures!

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    • Holly, thank you so much. I appreciate what you’ve done more than you could ever know. :D cheers

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  5. Brendan, we talked privately, so I won’t reiterate here what I told you last night, but after thinking more, here’s what I think you should do:

    Buy a decent point-and-shoot. Rock it. (Hell, you wrote an ebook about taking good photos with a point-and-shoot!) With knowledge of your camera’s settings and good editing, most of your readers won’t be able to tell the difference in quality.

    Lay low for awhile. Perhaps stay in one place for a few weeks or months. Save up money. Take as many lessons from this incident as you can.

    And…GET THAT CLEMENTS INSURANCE.

    Wishing you all the best…this situation sucks all around, but you’ll get through it and be better than ever before!

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    • Thanks Kate… I appreciate all your advice. I wish I could do the point and shoot thing still, but I have commitments to stock photo companies as well as an encyclopedia I stock for, I need at least an entry level DSLR for that work. And, again, because of a bunch of commitments I have: Christmas, New Years, my sister’s wedding in the Caribbean, I don’t have the luxury to stay still. That being said. If I don’t recover from this soon… I will likely head home for a month or two to save up so I can continue doing what I do.

      Believe me… Clements is going to get a lifetime subscription from me…

      Thank you so much for your support, I have really appreciated you through this process.

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  6. Brendan, really sorry this has happened. Keep positive and you will find solutions and ways to work around this. Great things can happen too.

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    • Thanks Michelle… things always happen in waves, so hopefully this means the start of a new wave up.

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  7. Hey Brendan, the situation does suck. I will tell you a little story to help ease your misery: we’d just arrived to the Belize city port to head out on a boat to the paradise island of Caye Caulker. We’d traveled on a bus with a large group of backpackers and we were all exhausted. We wanted to wander and stretch our legs a bit, so we came up with an idea that some of us would stay behind and watch all the backpacks while others went out to smoke and get street food. When it came time for my bf and I to head out for a smoke, we placed our bags next to the ‘watcher’ and just stood outside the door smoking, talking to a little boy.
    We had 2 day packs and 2 big packs, but since I’m paranoid I decided to carry my daypack with me. I TOLD my bf several times to wear his daypack as well, but he thought it’d be safe with our fellow travel watcher.
    We walk back in less than 5 minutes later and take stock of our stuff- his daypack was missing. When we questioned the travel watcher he said he didn’t notice we had a daypack- he thought we only had 2 backpacks (even though I had motioned to all of our stuff when we left it next to him. Obvious dodo head. We called the police, and the best part was the whole thing was caught on the camera installed in the ferry station. The police went up and down the street asking people, we went to fill out a report….it was awful. His laptop, my wallet, the 30 pairs of earrings I’d bought in Guatemala, memory cards, so much stuff. And we had no one to blame but ourselves.
    We made a later boat to Caye Caulker and I walked up and down the streets crying, and yelling at him. It was a terrible situation. In the end we were flagged down by an islander named ‘Bobby’ who took us to his little spot on the other side of the island after I cried the whole story out to him. Everyone on that island tried to help us in every way they could. Crazy shit.
    And yup, you know the Olympus pen and many others (like the G-11 which we have as well) take really great photos so if you can get something small for now to compensate you’ll be just fine.

    I am sorry for your loss and I’m glad you put that paypal button up. I’m not rich but I want to help you out. Your photos and stories rock and you know the community loves you and supports you. Like Kanye said “that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger”…well you know. Chin up.

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    • @Kay – I think some times it just doesn’t matter what we do… it’s the wrong situation at the wrong time. I’ve taken that same bus 8 different times without a single hitch. Just like you’ve probably left your bag aside 100 times without an issue. I am constantly blown away by the support of this community… and will continue to be I’m sure of that. Thanks so much for your support

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  8. I’m so sorry to hear about your photo equipment. I’m glad that you’ve taken such a positive attitude about it but it still stings and leaves you feeling vulnerable. I nearly had my gear snatched in Barcelona a couple years ago; luckily the guy who took it was stupid enough to grab it while I was looking right at it and wasn’t violent when I ran
    after him and grabbed it back. I think he was more shocked than anything.

    Hopefully you’ll be able to get back some of what you lost, but like Kate said–rock that point and shoot!

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    • @Ashalah – Thanks so much for your support… I really appreciate it.

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  9. Sorry to hear about this, Brendan. I can’t even fathom how you must feel. Hope the positive energy of the Universe finds a way to reward you for your troubles!

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    • Bret – Yes… the community has certainly made me feel much better… it wont bring the gear back… but the community can never die! :D

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  10. Again, sorry to hear this Brendan. I know the feeling you spoke about, wanting to scream, hit something, but end up just lost in a daze instead. Replaying the incident in your mind to figure out what you should have done differently. Feeling stupid that you didn’t take your own advice in that particular situation.

    The first few weeks are rough. But like others told me after my computer was stolen, once the bad stuff happens, good stuff always follows. And it’s true.

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    • Thanks Matt – Again, I really appreciated your advice yesterday and do again today. Here’s hoping for an upswing to follow.

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  11. Hey man, again, seriously sorry. In ’07 I was robbed in Peru, in the Cusco bus station. Had a bag between my feet, waiting for the bus, bus company announces that the bus hasn’t even shown up yet, angry crowd rushes towards the counter, in a split second someone snatches my bag, I look down and it’s gone. Ran through the station, inside and around it.. gone. Boarded night bus to Arequipa with my passport, credit cards and cash. In that case, I also lost a camera, but it was a point and shoot of the $200 variety. What happened to you is on another level.

    That said, time heals all and you’ll get through it. Picked up a nice mockingbird print for my mom. Here’s to hoping you can recoup or re-purchase this stuff soon.

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    • thanks so much, you’re a good friend and hope to see you soon when I get to West Africa. I hope your mom likes the mockingbird :D

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  12. Wow this is horrible, I am sorry for what happened. I am just glad you were not held at gun point like I was in Costa Rica. That is even a worse feeling. Just be thankful nothing happened to you, because everything else is replaceable even if it’s going to be hard work to do so. I always take moments like this to remember “We live and we learn”. I know it’s hard, but try not to dread on it and move on. Even though I know it is easier said than done. Hope it all gets better for you!

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    • thanks so much Jaime… yes, I am lucky that it was a “superficial” wound. I appreciate your support… We’ll have to cross paths somewhere on the road… Beer on me.

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  13. I’m so sorry that happened to you. Besides travel insurance, one can also have home or apartment insurance which can cover a portion of certain inventory that you might carry with you on vacation. But hindsight does not make up for your loss. I hope things turn out well.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Will… Unfortunately I don’t have a home. Honestly… I don’t own anything except for my webpage, my computer, and, well, I used to own my camera gear. I lost about 70% of what I own. I guess it’s a little bit comparable to losing your home… in photo-journalist nomad terms.

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  14. you have handled this whole experience with far more grace than I could ever muster. I’m just sorry that it had to happen!

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    • Thanks Jen, If I didn’t have my grace than I would just be another grump I guess haha

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  15. Brendan, this totally sucks but don’t beat yourself up. You’re human like the rest of us and sometimes things just happen – even when we should know better. Keep a good attitude and trust that this amazing community you’ve built is here to hold you up and support you. Hang in there!

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    • Thanks so much for all your support Peggy, I really appreciate everything.

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  16. Sorry that happened to you Brendan! It happens and it SUCKS!

    When I lived in the Caribbean, I had my bag with my IDs, credit cards, money and passport stolen when I left it in my unlocked car’s passenger seat to run inside a friend’s house for only a minute. It was dark outside so I didn’t think anyone would be out breaking into cars. They were waiting in the bushes! Looking back, I had a bad feeling and knew better but didn’t listen to my intuition.

    I’m not saying you’re as careless as me, but usually when you have that uneasy feeling it actually means something!

    I got your ebook and if you want to write for DIWYY (as the second boy ever to do so) we’re paying $10 each for posts about South America.

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    • Jerri, Thanks for your support and for picking up the eBook… I hope it does you well. I will probably take you up on your offer to write for diwyy :D

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  17. Again man, gutted to hear the news… you know the rest from speaking to you on Facebook. Keep your chin up lad!! Just think about holding hands in March ;-)

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    • Dan… holding hands and skipping through the fields of Wales makes this all much easier to bare. hahahaha

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  18. Trying to read on my phone. Too bad there’s a BIG “Follow me on twitter, facebook” sign over the text. But im sure it’s an interesting article.

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    • Gyro… not sure what that happens on some phones… I’ll disable that for you to read…

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  19. :(:(:(:(
    ahhhh I feel so bad for you
    I would probably puke too
    I kind of feel like puking for you!

    I hope that you can get another camera soon and keep shooting

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    • Thanks Seattle… I keep rotating between hysterical laughter about how stupid I was, peace over the fact that it’s done and done, a feeling of loss, and then I’m brought back to live because the people have been so supportive in their words and actions over the past couple days. I appreciate all the support.

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  20. Mate, I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to lose all of that gear. I’ll send the word out and see if I can get some sales for you, and I’ll make some purchases myself.
    I think the big lesson here is that it’s worth the money to buy decent travel insurance. These things happen unfortunately.

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    • Dean, Thanks so much. I really do appreciate it. It’s amazing how we learn our lessons isn’t it? I found out about this Clements Insurance that likely would have covered my lens and 60d body a couple weeks ago, and put off buying it until my current insurance ended because I didn’t want to pay twice… lesson learned. Fool me once… it won’t happen again.

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  21. Brendan, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I guess the only good news out of this is that you weren’t hurt. I would love to read more from others on their experience with travel insurance co’s. I don’t know if you saw this recent CBC story or not. It tells of a BC couple billed $50,000 despite having travel insurance. I am curious to know which companies work best. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/11/11/bc-travelclaim.html

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  22. Mate, I know the feeling well. My recent situation in Lima, Peru (http://bit.ly/smfBF9) was somewhat different in that I relinquished my camera and some other possessions to escape what may have otherwise turned into a pretty nasty episode of kidnapping, but the lingering thoughts of “how could I have done things differently to avoid it?” that keep you awake at night for days after it happens, are something I can sympathise with you on.

    So sorry to hear it happen to a fellow “wanderluster”. Insurance shortfalls aside, you have to look at it exactly the way you have. It could have been a LOT worse. All that you are missing are material (although beloved) possessions. But, as harsh as it sounds, you’re ok, nobody died and the sun will come up tomorrow, affording you the opportunity to embark on a new journey!

    Here’s hoping you can get your hands on some new equipment real soon mate!

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    • Thanks Masey… I fully understand that these things happen. I fully get that this was my fault. And I REALLY get that I need better insurance. Us Wonderers are always going to have stuff happen to us, it comes with the territory, we have to protect ourselves physically first, then financially second… unfortunately I didn’t take care of the second bit. Thank you for your support, I really appreciate it.

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  23. Hi Brendan, I am so sorry to hear about your camera gear – you are such a talented photographer and we will all miss your photos until you get new gear – I’ve deposited something which I know is not much but hopefully will help you restore some faith in humanity (as well as new cameras). You said earlier that “the gear, the magazine and web site” was all you had and your livelihood” – I understand how you feel now but the amazing response from your friends and family show that you have SO much in the ways that truly matter. I say I understand because 8 weeks ago we moved into a new house (new to us I mean) – there had been problems with the previous owner leaving “mountains” of rubbish and delaying settlement – our Solicitor pushed for compensation for us and was successful so the owner decided we would have to use all that money to repair the damage he did – he cut the aerial cable, the optus cable, the cables to all the outside lights, the dishwasher cable, etc. I was “ready to puke! angry, disappointed and the rest” but 8 weeks later I refuse to let him affect my enjoyment of the new house – that’s the only way we can win in these situations.
    So take heart that you have so many good friends – it’s a learning experience and as that old saying says “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Cheers Vicki and Richard xxxx

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    • Thanks so much for your words and contributions Vicky, I’ve sent you a personal email and hope you know how grateful I am.

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    • Thank you Jeremy… I guess things happen though. I am happy to be healthy, and have such great friends and family members.

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  24. I am so sorry to read this. I know too well that horrid feeling in your stomach when you realise what has happened.

    It’s good to see so many people rally round, and I’m doing my bit at this end.

    Maybe one positive is that someone who buys the gear, (presumably for much less than it is worth), may develop a career never possible before. That kind of thought keeps me sane, along with the power of karma which will take care of the thieves in the end.

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    • thanks Valerie… I appreciate the support, and hope that the ebook does wonders for you :D

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  25. I am so sorry this happened to you. When my iPod went missing on my long-term trip, I was sad. I can’t imagine what you are going through.

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    • @D… obviously it’s been tough. But I’m trying to let the past stay there and forget it even happened, while learning from my many mistakes.

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  26. So sorry man! I have run over that same scenario in my head a gazillion times!

    All I can say is, I’m going to buy that Clements insurance. Right. Now.

    I feel for ya man! Might be best to get a Cannon G12 (or even better, a used G10 or 11) for a few hundred bucks to get you started again.

    Good luck!

    Post a Reply
    • @Matt – Yup, as soon as I can get a new camera Clements is getting a check from me… I’ve heard this happen so many times but always played myself as smarter than to let that happen to me… boy was I wrong.

      Post a Reply
  27. My heart goes out to you, Brendan. This is truly awful and I’m sorry to hear that it happened to you. Many years ago, when I lived in Quito, my Nikon mysteriously vanished when I moved. I was heartbroken.

    I’m glad you weren’t the victim of violence. That would have been traumatic in another way, I think.

    And I hope that you get your hands on another camera soon. You’re a fantastic photographer who must have one asap. I wonder if you could get one to review from a camera manufacturer and then keep it somehow.

    Anyway, sad to hear this and I wish you the best. xo

    Post a Reply
    • @Lisa – The thought of getting a camera to review is an amazing one, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of Canon doing that… and I won’t shoot anything other than a Canon. Thanks for your well wishes.

      Post a Reply
  28. This sucks the big one. People like those low-down dirty loser thieves suck the big one. Argghhh! I just want to punch someone!! Instead, I’m going to buy your eBook.

    Best of luck Brendan. You’ll be back on your feet in no time…

    Post a Reply
    • @Raymond – Thanks for the support… believe me, I’ve come close to punching the wall on more than one occasion these past few days… it will only make my hand hurt too though… that I’m sure of.

      Post a Reply
  29. Man, this is terrible news. I was so sloppy with my camera gear in Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia that it is shocking to think I was never robbed. I was lucky and caught the only guy reaching into my bag.

    I hope you find a way to replace things. Please contact me – I am a fellow Canuck earning money with my camera. I can point you to the best deal we have for protecting yourself next time without spending too much.

    Post a Reply
    • @Jeff – Yeah, in hindsight, I haven’t been the smartest with it. The truth is that I always felt like if I looked like I was clinging tight to my bag I would look like I had something worth stealing.

      Post a Reply
  30. Ugh, this is terrible. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I know how hard it is to forgive yourself for letting it happen – we were the victim of a pickpocketing on a bus and although luckily we didn’t lose much, we felt so stupid as we should have seen it coming. It happens to even the most experienced travellers though.

    This doesn’t really help you but if any travel photographers in the UK are reading we use Photoguard to insure our gear (including laptop) and it costs us about 130 pounds a year (although our gear isn’t as expensive as yours).

    I hope you manage to earn enough and get some equipment again.

    Post a Reply
    • @Erin – Yes, it sucks… but I’m ready to move forward now. Canadian travel insurance is really bad when it comes to these things. I just really hope that this Clements Insurance is all its cracked up to be.

      Post a Reply
  31. This is so terrible. I feel so bad to hear that these thieves stolen your precious camera and lens. I don’t think there is anything you can do now. But I do hope karma will catch up to them. But hey at least you’re fine and safe! That’s most important thing.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Sarah. Thanks for your support. As I’ve mentioned, I wish the thieves no ill-will, nor do I wish them bad karma. I wish no one ill-will. I just want to move forward and start shooting some pictures again.

      Post a Reply
  32. I’m glad you’re ok physically, emotionally I can only imagine what you’re going through. My stomach is in knots even thinking about how it must feel.

    Being able to forgive the thieves shows remarkable character, just don’t forget to forgive yourself. I hope karma kicks in and helps you get new gear very soon.

    Post a Reply
    • @Catia – Thanks, and yes I’m ok although my stomach ache doesn’t feel healthy and never really goes away. That camera gear was really my best friend on the road… it hurts to lose it. But it’s time to move on I think.

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  33. Brendan, when I first read your email I felt sick about what happened. After reading your article and all the replies I feel proud. I’m proud of you for being able to forgive the thieves. I’m proud of your accomplishments. You have made an impact with many people and you are making a difference. As many have already said, your personal growth is greatest in these tough times. I’m sure you will land squarely on both feet in the days ahead. Dad

    P.S. Thanks to all those who have given you so much support – fantastic!

    Post a Reply
    • @Dad – I am very proud of this community as well. I am very blessed to be a part of such a supporting group of people… even if I hardly know any of them in person, everyone has been very supportive.

      Post a Reply
  34. Such a sad situation. Sorry to hear about your loss. I’m glad you didn’t experience any physical harm.

    You are an amazing photographer and I’m sure things will look up for you soon.

    I hope things work out for the best.

    Post a Reply
    • @Alexandra – Thanks for your support and nice words… here’s to hoping I can get back to shooting pictures again soon.

      Post a Reply
  35. I am so sorry this happened to you. It’s not fun. I’ve gotten my ipod stolen twice and it sucks in the “how could I have let this happen to me?” way. That said, sometimes, we can’t have our eyes everywhere. I put up a note on my Facebook Page to see if my fans would like to donate. I hope you’re able to get something back. Canadian insurance needs to be better on things like this. I’d love to hear any updates for future.

    Post a Reply
    • Natalie – Thanks so much for your support and for posting this to facebook. Canadian Travel Insurance has always been very weak… but it is my fault for not looking at other options.

      Post a Reply
  36. I feel for you. My camera bag was lifted from my car only a few miles from home last May. I’d absentmindedly left it unlocked while I ran into a shop. When I tallied up the total loss, almost as much as yours, it wasn’t losing the camera and lenses so much as all the bits and pieces that hurt so much: a LowePro case full of image cards plus various cables and chargers and filters I had collected over some years. I still wonder what the thief is doing with all my images.

    I’m glad to help however I can to make up for your loss.

    Post a Reply
    • @Lanora – Thanks for your support here, and I hope you got through your loss as well. I know that it’s just a matter of time before this look up again. It seems like these things happen in waves don’t they?

      Post a Reply
  37. It makes us so sad to hear of stories like this. You hit on all the right points though and you’ve handled yourself extremely well given the circumstances. It’s terrible that there are people that have to resort to theft in order to make a living. We’re glad that you weren’t harmed and we hope that you’ll have a camera back in your hands in no time.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Tawny… It’s time to move forward… I’m done feeling bad for myself. Learning for my mistakes and trying to move forward.

      Post a Reply
    • @Zablon – Thanks… but I still feel a little bit stupid… it comes with the territory I guess.

      Post a Reply
  38. I am sorry that this happened to you, I do not know what to say, I can only tell you that you are a “big man” because you do not blame the people that took the camera from you. I would be mad with them!! Take care and think about karma :-)

    Post a Reply
    • @Chris – Thanks Chris… I really hope that Karma does not catch up to them. Instead I wish them good things and that this can somehow bring them out of a life where they need to operate like this. Unlikely I know… but I hope that is the case some how.

      Post a Reply
  39. Brendan, I am sorry to hear about this. Please don’t blame yourself, this happens even to the most vigilant person. Hope you recover from the emotional loss soon, and I also hope that some camera company sponsors you, now that would be fun. :)

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Priyank – Oh if Canon sponsored me I would be the happiest man in the world… not likely, but a guy can dream right?

      Post a Reply
  40. Oh man this is horrible! I’m so sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling :( Your photography has always been great but lately you’ve been really killing it!

    Do you have a preview of the Galapagos calendar? My mom would love that for Christmas – she’s dying to get there!

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Laura.. .can you email me at brendanvanson at gmail I’ll send you the preview. Cheers.

      Post a Reply
  41. oh, man, I feel your pain. I left my camera equipment in the taxi after a trip to mexico. it wasn’t even stolen! I felt so stupid. I am a veteran traveler and I made a rookie move. it happens to the best of us. don’t beat yourself up.

    odd, but I was traveling in SA and met another couple. The woman, a photographer from Norway, had all her camera gear stolen in Peru. anyway, sorry. thanks for the blog and sharing… JD

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks JD… I guess it could have happened to anyone really… but it sucks that it happened at all.

      Post a Reply
  42. Meanwhile, dude sits with his camera gear in a posh hotel, on his expensive computer and cell phone, offering to buy beers for everyone.

    I wager this is all fabricated. Too easy. Woe me, woe me. If ONLY I had my camera gear, I’d survive. Meanwhile, you work for an encyclopedia, newspapers, magazines, do weddings in the Caribeean. Maybe just buy a new camera? Clearly, you’re not starving if you’re offering beers to randoms. You think this is the first time this has happened to someone? No.

    It is the first time someones thought to whine about it for publicity. Who puts a big DONATE tab on their story. Why not DONATE to those dying of starvation, rather than by a knob a new camera he can clearly afford. Take a loan and pay it back. Man up.

    Post a Reply
    • @Myhammad – Thank you for your very thoughtful post. I agree… don’t give me money… give it to someone who really needs it.

      As for your other comments. You can come visit me. I’m at the Blue Hostel in Quito, Ecuador. My camera bag is empty. I am very transparent about these things so if you want the break down of my earnings here it is: I make about 100$ a month from my photography for magazines and stock. I haven’t had anything published photography wise in a newspaper ever. The magazine is my own and I haven’t launched it yet, thus I am spending about 400$ a month to get it off the ground, losing money. The wedding in the Caribbean is MY SISTERS. I offered to do her wedding FOR FREE, because she is MY SISTER. The costs of getting to the Caribbean are about 600$ for flights, and then extra for my room (800$).

      Look Muhammad, I love my job. I love travelling the world. I feel blessed to do so. I do not feel as if it is a right. I don’t feel entitled. And as I mentioned to you, I would much rather people donate to other causes. I never asked for donations, friends and family members asked for me to put that button up because they felt compelled to help out.

      I feel blessed to be a part of such a supportive group of people.

      Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to leave a thoughtful comment and having the courage to leave your real email. I wish you nothing but the best, and if you have a link to your personal aid website where you’re raising money for the poor I would love to contribute a little bit.

      Post a Reply
  43. Hey Muhammad, why don’t YOU donate to the starving millions instead of being an a**hole on someone else’s blog?

    Post a Reply
  44. Hi Brendan
    Sorry to hear about you getting robbed. I have had a similar loss. It took months to get over it. Many people have read your article and will be more careful and so you are preventing future theft that may occur to your readers. Also, your article probably brought new readers and supporters like myself. I want to follow along when you bounce back.
    Take care and I know good things will be coming your way.
    Darcy

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Darcy, there is always a silver lining. If me getting robbed prevents it from happening to others, in some way, I’m happy for that at least. :D

      Post a Reply
  45. @Muhammad Abdul Who are you to Judge? Do you have some insight the rest of of do not? No Faith in others? I’m usually quite out spoken, as some on this thread know. But I will tone it down and leave you with a few Words of Wisdom to contemplate.

    “Judge not, that you be not Judged. For with what Judgement you Judge, you will be Judged….with the Measure you use, it will be Measured back to you.”

    “Why do you look at the Speck in your brothers eye, but do not consider the Plank in YOUR OWN eye?”

    @Brendan Most excellent response to Muhammad, Respect you have earned today. :) I feel your pain as this has happened to me, Nikon a few years ago and an Android last year. Your right, you will never see the equipment again. The comment earlier was way off base. Furthermore, your income now is irrelevant. I’m sure you have other expenses as we all do. I left the Corp. world and close too a six digit salary to pursue my dream, I wasn’t able to replace my equipment right away despite my salary, that cash was channeled to other means. I had no cushion.
    You can count on me for what help I can give today. As far as the dude earlier about you buying beer for other’s, well next time I’m down your way we’ll buy each other a beer or two!

    Take it easy, it will all come back around. :)

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you Kevin for the support. I appreciate it. If we meet on the road at some point I will definitely take you up on the beer exchange.

      Post a Reply
  46. That really sucks. I would be devastated and angry and pretty much everything you described except for forgiving the robbers. I consider myself lucky that I lost nothing of value when I got robbed in Quito…. although I was still quite angry at myself.

    I hope you are able to get your camera gear replaced soon.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Steph, crossing my fingers for a speedy recovery.

      Post a Reply
  47. Wow. Brendan – so sorry to hear the news. I can only imagine how you must feel. I would be devastated, in tears as if I’d lost a good friend. What a terrible thing to happen. I would be pissed as hell at those kids and the bread lady.

    I’ve got my fingers crossed that good things will be headed your way soon – maybe a camera sponsorship! :)

    Post a Reply
    • @Beth – Thanks so much. No point in being mad… it’s over and done with, learn and move on. Hahaha, a camera sponsorship would be amazing… but I’m fairly sure Canon doesn’t even know who I am! hahaha

      Post a Reply
  48. Brendan, just want to say thanks for the email and I hope you get sorted soon. Really enjoy ur photos and look forward to seeing more in the near future. Your positive outlook is an inspiration.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you Andy… really appreciate the support.

      Post a Reply
  49. I JUST ran across your photos of the Galapagos a couple days ago and thought you were one of the most talented photographers I’ve seen in a while. Your dad said everything that needs saying (you go, Dad! I’d be proud of him, too), but I’ll buy your book…or a calendar???…or….

    Post a Reply
    • @Kate – Thanks so much for your support, I really do appreciate it. My pops is a pretty cool dude… ;)

      Post a Reply
    • Hey Dustin, Yup Clements is in my future. The stupid thing is I was going to buy it at the end of this month but didn’t feel the need to double up on insurance… wrong.

      Post a Reply
  50. Brendan,
    Moments like this typically shatter our faith in human decency, but you seem to have put it all in perspective. Things are just things, and can be replaced (eventually), but the most important thing is you’ve retained your positive view of humanity. I think it’s smart to write about it – it’s not only a learning experience that can benefit others, but it’s probably therapeutic for yourself as well.
    Cheers,
    J.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks J. Yeah, writing has always been my therapy… ever since I can remember it was my escape. Even if I never posted this article I would have wrote it. Somethings just need to be said outloud, or on paper, so that they’re not held in and turned into resentment.

      Post a Reply
  51. Brendan, that does suck. Hopefully by telling you story you can help others avoid the same thing happening. You’ll be back on your feet in no time, I’m sure. You have the talent and drive to get through this.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Erik, I appreciate the well wishes. The drive these past couple days has been based entirely on the support you all have shown. Cheers.

      Post a Reply
  52. James and I read about this this morning…. it’s just awful!!! And getting the right travel insurance is always so tricky when it comes to electronics! At least you were not harmed at all.

    We have decided to buy one of your calenders. I hope that helps a little bit anyway!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks so much for the support Jade. I am wrinkling out a small detail with the calendar but hopefully it gets to you by Christmas

      Post a Reply
  53. Hang in there, kiddo. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’ve been robbed (big) twice — once on my second European vacation in middle school and once two years ago in Central America. It is part of the expat tax in that part of the world I think sometimes… Good luck! I could talk/write about this all day, so email me if you need to vent/powwow, etc. Good luck!

    Post a Reply
    • @Abby – Thanks so much. The truth is, I’ve already moved on. The community has been amazing at putting me back on my feet. I appreciate your support. I will be in Vegas this January… we’ll have to get a drink at some point.

      Post a Reply
  54. Hey Brendan, hope you’re doing OK. I mentioned you on follow friday in the hope of sending you more followers, but that channel nearly broke my internets.

    Sending you lots of positive energy. Hang in there.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you Melinda, I appreciate the support. I am doing well thanks to such a great amount of support. Cheers.

      Post a Reply
  55. No way man! That is terrible, I’m sorry. I can only imagine the mix of emotions you must be going through right now. It’s good to see you’re getting a lot of support. This also serves as a good reminder for all of us, too. I’m usually very careful with my belongings, since it literally carries my whole life, but after reading this I realize I’ve been getting a little lax, and I can never be too careful. I’m sorry again, bro, I hope everything works out.

    Post a Reply
  56. Oh and I was gonna say, be careful with the Paypal “donation” button, as I recently had my account restricted. I’ve used it for years, but I ran into some trouble here in Asia, and like you had to ask friends and family for support, which I NEVER do. (Your line about never doing that is almost a reflection of what I wrote in my email.) Anyhow, I had immediate and amazing support, with double the amount of what I needed, well this raised some red flags for Paypal, they were suspicious as to why I had such high donations from people all over the world and I was transferring that to a Hawaii bank account while I was in Taiwan. I know now, looking back, it would seem a little fishy if you didn’t know what was really going on. As a result, they locked all of the Paypal accounts of the people who donated money to me, only reopening it when they were able to verify that it wasn’t identity theft, and as for my account, since I’m not registered as a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) they did not verify it. I tried to explain to them that I didn’t know it had to be registered as an NPO, and that I was just using it as a way for friends and family to help me out. Either way, I broke the rules, albeit unknowingly, and my Paypal account is forever locked. Anyway, I just wanted to give you a heads up on that one, bro. Good luck!

    Post a Reply
  57. Brendan, I am so sorry to hear about this. So sorry and I hope it works out.

    Post a Reply
  58. Brendan, sorry to hear what happened. I know how you feel. I got my DSLR/lens/credit cards/passport stolen from a bus in Peru about six months ago, about $2000 worth of stuff, I did have a specific insurance for the camera, that covered most of it, so it was a little different for me. But that was the thing, it was’t so much about the money, it was that I felt stupid, I knew it could happen, why hadn’t I been more careful. I should’ve known better. And I felt hollow, I spent two weeks in Lima waiting for a new passport, I could’ve traveled, but only went to Paracas for few days. I just didn’t feel like traveling. It will take a while to get over it, but you will!

    Post a Reply
  59. Dude. So sorry. Like I said on Twitter. I feel badly. I hope we can all help out in our little way. Your shots are great. I dont want to miss out on more!

    Post a Reply
  60. Just read your post and it reminded me of that gut wrenching moment when you go cold realising your stuff has been stolen, also happened to me in Ecuador, Quito. I love your images so am buying a calendar, hope that goes towards helping you out, and we get to see more of your great photos. If you also want a free subscription to our house sitting website then email me, may help you find a place to stay for free whilst you recoup and save for a new camera. Good luck!

    Post a Reply
  61. Urgh, I know that heart wrenching moment when you realise, I also had my bag stolen in Quito, tis the place for it. Also felt pretty stupid at the time, but it is rife… I came across your photos recently and think they are amazing. Will buy a calendar to hopefully help and it’s the perfect gift at this time of year.
    If you fancy a free subscription to our house sitting website then do let me know and I’ll send you a promo code, may help you find a nice place to stay for free until you get back on your feet with camera in hand! Good luck….

    Post a Reply
  62. I just donated some money mate!!! I hope you collect enough money and get yourself new camera gear back, you are a great photographer!!

    Wrote a little note on the donation ;)

    Cheers,
    S.

    Post a Reply
  63. Brendan, that sucks sooooo much. And unfortunately I understand all to well that feeling of stupidity that takes forever to get over. Especially when you’re a seasoned traveler. But you know…as much as possible be inwardly forgiving, and continue to cherish this community of yours that has your back. Best wishes for amazing things to come out of this experience.

    Post a Reply
  64. I can sympathize. I was stabbed with a screwdriver in ecuador by someone trying to get their hands on my wallet. I had stepped forward between the man and my wife.

    It is worth checking your house insurance policy. My brother got his camera gear replaced because of damage on a trip, even after explaining that he wasn’t at home at the time.

    I think you’ve said it all as far as feelings go.

    Post a Reply
  65. Oh, man. We’ve featured your scrapes and near misses a few times in The Working Traveller because they have been some of my favourite posts across the web. This isn’t funny though and I’m sorry it has happened to you.

    Post a Reply
  66. So sorry to hear this, Brendan, getting all your gear stolen must really hurt. You’ve published so many amazing photos on this website, we hope you’ll be able to sell some to a big publication & that it pays to replace your gear!

    Post a Reply
  67. What a hideous experience. My sympathies and I agree with the comment above about checking your household insurance. Hopefully it may cover something of the loss. Your photos are absolutely stunning.

    Post a Reply
  68. Brendan,

    So sorry this happened to you, and I am sorry I have just heard about this now. Have not been reading blogs as much lately. I will do what I can.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Ted… the process has been a challenge but these things have a way of working themselves out for the better.

      Post a Reply
  69. You don’t have to feel sad since you still have your life! You still have hope, so make the best out of it.

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  70. Life continues its just pure material thing. You should be glad that you still have your life, so cheer up!

    Post a Reply
  71. Ughh! just happened to me on a bus from Guayquill to Montanita, except it was my HFS-30 video cam. As outfitted, I lost about $1,300 but what hurts most is losing about 8 days worth of footage that is simply not replaceable.
    If anyone ever comes across a “used” (stolen) stolen HFS-30 in Ecuador and my footage is on, get me at tom@tomroy.com and perhaps use drop-box to get the files back to me>
    Sorry to hear about your loss, but know that you are not alone and that it’s easy to be sloppy and tired for even just a few minutes

    Post a Reply
    • Tom – Sorry to hear that mate! Sucks so badly… especially sad to hear about the footage. From what I was told, when things are stolen they stay underground for a month or two and then pop up in the markets, and often in markets outside the city where it was stolen. I hope you get lucky and find yours!

      Post a Reply
  72. Hey Brendan,

    So sorry to hear this, this is something we are so vigilant about (read paranoid!) our laptop bag and camera bag are attached to us on buses, but I think we could still fall victim if they are robbing from under the seat!

    I am interested in your travel insurance, where you able to get up to $500 on each item? Or where those items just void? I was under the impression that I would get up to $500 on each of my larger items, but I am going to check now!

    By the way we love World Nomads for travel insurance, as they are super flexible for long term travellers (if that sounds cool here is my affiliate link) http://bit.ly/ZWkNHV

    Also I noticed you have a donate button with Paypal, many people have had their money frozen as donate buttons are only for registered charities and not for profit orgs. Basically Paypal can freeze your funds at any time if you ca’t prove that you are this kind of org. I know a few people who have lost it all, I really hope that you now have enough for your gear!

    We are heading to Quito tomorrow,so will hold on extra tight!

    Cheers,
    Serena : )

    Post a Reply

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