Help Me Get My Travel Memories Back

In 2.5 years of round-the-world travel to many countries where muggings are commonplace, I never once had anything stolen. I was never held at gunpoint. I was never robbed. The situations where things got a bit hairy were ones I chose to be a part of: climbing Putucusi with a busted rib, hopped up on diclofenac; taking a rickety boat through the Sumbawa straight with nary a life jacket in sight; sticking it out in Bangkok while the city tore itself asunder; perching myself precariously atop a minivan barreling across Indonesia with a goat in my lap. With the exception a fleece in Bolivia and a few errant socks, I never lost anything at all.

Until I came back to the States.

Yesterday evening, Craig’s apartment was robbed in Brooklyn. He lost his laptop and camera and expensive DSLR lenses and a slew of other belongings. I lost my new MacBook Pro (my birthday present to myself) and my Canon G9. I had a lot of personal information on the laptop – invoices with my bank number, blog posts, journal entries. They also took all the hard-earned money from my summer of stoop sales – $1500 in cash that I was going to deposit today. But worst of all, they took my 500GB backup hard drive, my netbook with another backup of my photos and my 32GB flash card with the 3rd backup of my photos. All of these were in different places in the apartment, and all are gone.

I’m angry. I’ve been watching my pennies this summer and was happy to have made some extra money downsizing my belongings. But the worst of it all is the loss of my memories – they took handwritten Moleskines full of notes from Burma and all of my photos. With the exception of a flash drive I found on the floor with my photos from Burma and Cambodia, I’ve lost everything. I have the blog and photo galleries, but all of the full resolution pictures are gone, as are all the photos I never uploaded to any gallery.

My lesson: back up your travel photos in the cloud

Here’s Where You Come In:

1) I’ve set up a Picasa album on my Legal Nomads account. I’m asking all of you who have met up with me on the road or crossed paths and have photos to contribute to please upload them to this album. Help me get my travel memories back. I’d love to see an album of places from around the world, crowdsourced from the amazing people I’ve met along the way.

2) I am going to the Apple store tomorrow to see about tracing the MacBook but if anyone sees a 13″ MacBook Pro in and around NY with the serial number W8027XK5ATM(and the remnants of a Canadian flag sticker on the front) please raise your hands.

3) Help spread the word by passing this post on to your friends. Don’t let them make the mistake I made by not backing up photos to the cloud. Even with 3 separate copies of my photos, I’m left empty-handed. Also, if anyone has suggestions for sites that allow you to backup your computer’s contents online, please leave them in the comments.

To those of you on Twitter or Facebook who have offered support and/or ass-kicking skills: thank you. Many of your comments brought a smile to my face in an otherwise difficult few days.

Update:  Wow, 54 retweets in just a few hours. Thanks everyone. Just a small update. First, it goes without saying that I’m thankful for my health/not being in the apartment when the robbery happened, but I’ll say it anyhow: it could have been worse. Part of me wishes I was there to beat these people with my own tiny shoes, but I’ll concede it was better this way. Second, police were called immediately and they took photos and found fingerprints. However, unless the theives have been arrested prior, the fingerprints won’t trigger a match. Finally, I’ve been keeping an eye on Craigslist and called pawn shops in the area to try and track down my stuff. No Moleskine notebooks in bushes/hedges around here either, I checked.

Thanks again for all the help, suggestions and retweets/posts to Facebook – I really appreciate it!


100 thoughts on “Help Me Get My Travel Memories Back”

  1. Wow my heart sank reading your story. Nothing would devastate me more than to lose all my photos and records accumulated over the years. Fingers crossed you are somehow able to recover your belongings, and I hope that those you’ve met along your journeys are able to help you restore as many travel photos (and discover new ones) as possible.

    Good luck!

  2. At this point we need to kick some robbers’ asses! That would make me feel better, ya know, getting some rage out. Let’s keep our eyes open for this stuff.

    Jodi, we do feel terrible about your losses and can’t imagine how you feel. I am currently searching for cloud backup, it’s some advice we can all take.

  3. My heart goes out to you. What a sad story. I lived in New York for years and never had a problem. I wish there was some way to help you get your things back. My thoughts are with you.

  4. My God, I”m just so mortified, shocked that they stole everything related to your travels… So sorry Jodi.. I’m speechless. Nothing major has ever happened to me during traveling either, only at home.

    My apartment was robbed in 2004 and it leaves you angry, shocked and grieving for not objects, but things that symbolized memories.

    Have heart in that you might be able to recover the laptop. My best gf was robbed last year and scoured craigslist until she found her latptop, it was recovered with scratches, and returned to her.

    And thank goodness there is an army of fellow travelers who appreciate your work, love your personality, and are willing to lend support. Wish I had some pictures to give you. :(

    Hang in there!

  5. Jodi, have you thought about adding a donation box to your site? Between your twitter followers and your facebook fans, if even a fraction of people donated a few bucks, you’d recover a lot of money. Also, John brought up a good point–if you purchased any of these items with an Amex, file a claim with them and they’ll pay you for new ones.

  6. I echo all the concern and condolences expressed above. I hope that you recover at least some of what you’ve lost. Its a cautionary tale for all of us to heed.

    Take good care.

  7. Jodi, I am so sorry to hear of this. we’ve not met, so no photographs to send. when I had a similar circumstance, though, I found it helpful to clear my mind and start writing about the images, and in some cases the circumstances, that came first to mind. you already write about your travels, or course. so did I, but this offered a new perspective. not one I would have chosen, nor, of course, would you. but I’m confident you are already finding ways to make good come out of this.

  8. Oh, that’s horrible! I try to keep my photos all over the place in case such an event occurs to me, too. I hope you can pull your memories back together!

  9. I am so sorry to hear about everything you lost. I am glad you are ok, I haven’t met you, but I wish you the best luck in retrieving as much as you can from those who have met you. Stay strong!

  10. Oh, man that is sad…so very sad. I am sorry for your losses. It is an experience that I have had and hope to never repeat.

    I use idrive and it works very well–always running in the background–I admit the first time was a pain because it took so long, but after that–great.

    I also back up pictures thru PhotoShop Elements–they have a service, and it’s pretty good.

    I enjoyed your reports and pictures from Bangkok so much..Again, I am sorry for the violation of your life and if they find these bastards, I will happily use my tiny shoes on them too!

  11. Thanks for all the comments and support – it really means a lot, and everyone sharing their own stories will hopefully serve as a reminder to all of us to take care in backing up our travel photos & documents.

    Julie – Thanks for the suggestion re Amex. Unfortunately, the Mac was purchased w/ MasterCard so that doesn’t work.

    Maryanne, Hugh, Turner, Anis: Thanks for sharing your own misadventures.

    Gord, AdventureRob, Barbara Weibel, Gray, JoAnna, Michael Tyson, Lea Ann, JL Johnson, Nancie, Honza: Thanks for all the suggestions – will check them out and once I get a new computer I’ll be sure to pick a backup plan and update this post.

    Angela, Evan, Andy, Ayngelina, Lou P: The notebook stuff is odd to me too. Why would they take them? They were next to the computer, so I suppose they might have just grabbed whatever was there, but still – really odd. I was only away for a few hours as well. It’s all around upsetting.

    Anil: You ARE the computer safety/security guru, so your comments are always well-heeded.

    Sarah, Alessandro, Dave, Honza & Anjie: thanks for the offers to upload or send pictures. Much appreciated.

    Will keep scouring Craigslist (my friend Juan is putting together a programme to search for the things that were stolen on a continuous basis), following up w/ pawn shops in the area and hope something turns up.

  12. Deepest commiserations Jodi. I once lost my camera and 2 memory cards (my own carelessness) on a 3 week trip to Thailand and that was gut wrenching, but no-one to blame but me. As I am a regular visitor there it was not so hard to re-visit places and take fresh photos, albeit not quite the same. I cannot imagine how you feel, losing so many more memories, in such a terrible way. I have many photos uploaded to Picasa and sent to my gmail account, as well as having many old memory cards and of course all pictures on my laptop hard drive. But this serves as a salutary reminder I must upload everything to the cloud. Best of luck in retrieving your memories.

  13. Jesus. . .I just started following your blog a short while ago, Jodi, and I honestly almost cried when I read this. As a fellow traveler, I can’t imagine the heartache I would feel to have lost what you have.

    I hope you can take some comfort in the fact that it seems your travels are far from over, and I’m sure you’ll make many more beautiful photos/journals in the future. As well, for sure those memories are still with you, despite having lost the physical reminder of them. You’ll see a house of a certain color and it will remind you of a neighborhood you lived in for a month or two, a girl walking down the street will remind you of a particularly great traveler you befriended for a day. . .the sort of travels you’ve had you don’t forget.

    Much love in a hard time from a random stranger. – Krys

  14. I can imagine them grabbing the notebooks thinking there might be passwords and logins in them.

    Anyway, I hope something rather unpleasant happens to the thief or thiefs. But only after you get your stuff back…

  15. You know my heart goes out for you. I take it that Picassa doesn’t store the original size photos?
    Time to move forward now I guess – and it seems that you have a good positive attitude about it (which I always expect from you anyway!). I have only met you in NYC and I think Michaela has those photos – but if I find any of you – I’ll most def. pass them along.

    I know you’ve had a really difficult summer, but I know you’ll make it through…hell…you are The Legal Nomad – if you can survive all of those crazy countries, you can survive this. No one can take your memories.

  16. JJE – have you thought of somehow posting a reward for the drive? A reward worth more than a new one – stating that you don’t care who did it, but would like the contents back?

  17. How awful! Many years ago when I moved into my very first apartment, it was robbed while I was away visiting a college friend for the weekend. I’ll never forget how violated I felt. Eventually I did recover some of my belongings, but not because of the efforts of the local police. It turned out that someone I knew also knew someone who knew the jerks who robbed me. I called the police myself to give them the names, and the jerks were arrested.

    So the point is, spreading the word far and wide just may help. I’ll keep everything I can cross crossed for you.

  18. Jodi,

    That’s an unfortunate story. It makes me mad just reading it. I would be fuming if someone stole my stuff. I hope your travel friends can upload all the memories you’ve lost.

    On your suggestion for storage, I use, the first 2 GB are free and you can sign up friends that will get you an additional 250 MB. So it’s ample enough for documents, journal entries. It’s very reliable and easy to use. It creates a folder on your Mac Book Pro(MBP) and syncs it to the cloud when you have an internet connection.

    To recoup you electronics, you can play the cat and mouse game. There has been success stories of people recovering their Mac Book Pro(MBP) with some clever computer detective work along with the legal work of prosecution.

    Alternatively, if you have renter’s insurance you can make an insurance claim and get the value of the electronics that were stolen.

  19. I want you to know that I am so sorry for the loss! Please don’t hesitate to ask as I would gladly send a contribution for you to help purchase a new MacBook.

    Warm regards,


  20. It’s not often that I respond to a blog but I really feel your distraughtness (is that a word?) at your loss and the violation felt to a deeply personal part of your life. Yes, I am angry at your loss. But at the same time, I am thankful for all you have shared with us, your readers, so far. Keep on doing what you do and I am truly inspired by your endeavour and the path you have chosen.


  21. First off, I am so, so sorry.

    The thing that I always say (and have always believed) is that it’s the loss of the irreplaceable stuff that hurts more than anything.

    When my husband’s laptop was stolen a few years back, I had yet to upload some photos from that trip – photos taken immediately after we got engaged. Pictures of my dad, who lives in Germany, reacting to the news of our engagement … snapshots of us running around New York, giddy and stupid and in love.

    The loss of those things hurt more than anything else – no tangible possession could have meant more to me.

    It sucks. That’s the long and short of it. And it stings, and it’s wrong, and I’m convinced that there is a special kind of hell for people who steal. I’m so sorry this happened. I wish you solace and luck, for what they’re worth.

    If it’s any consolation, I promise: It does get better. It really does. And you’ll make new memories, take new photos, and actually have faith in people again. It takes a while, but it does happen.

    Oh, and in the meantime? File a police report (if you haven’t already), check local pawn shops, and scour eBay and Craigslist. You might get lucky …

  22. That really sucks….

    In the future, when you have more memories to back up to the cloud, try Mozy. Its 2GB free, unlimited for 5 bucks a month. Thats what I use.

    Or use Windows SkyDrive…I’m pretty sure that is 25GB free with a hotmail account, although its a little less user-friendly.

    My family makes fun of me for backing up everything so many times, but its definitely worth it!

  23. The response that the travel community and readers have shown to this loss is overwhelmingly supportive – I’m very thankful for you all!

    Krys C, Ronnie, Sherry, François: Thank you for the kind words of encouragement.

    Peter, Everywhereist: Thank you for sharing your own stories & yes, I have filed a police report & will continue to check Craigslist and local shops.

    Sandra – I appreciate your offer for a donation, but I’m waiting to see if the owner’s insurance will cover me. I certainly don’t want to make a profit off this, but thank you regardless!

    Mike & Jez Good suggestions. Mozy seems to be winning on the suggest-a-backup front given the balance of Facebook and blog comments.

  24. I too, am sorry to hear about your dilemma and hope you get your computer and drives back.

    I second Jez’s suggestion of Mozy, which I use and automatically backs up everything to the cloud. Mobile me also has space in the cloud, but I think you would have to actually upload the files yourself, unlike a solution like Mozy that does is automatically in the background.

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  26. I too could have cried when I read about the theft. You have been such an inspiration as I prepare for my own RTW (I am also a teeny tiny soon-to-be-former lawyer) and I was devastated to hear what happened. Your positive attitude in the face of this loss continues to inspire me!

  27. I’m so sorry to hear about that. I hope you can have at least some photos from your friends so you don’t lost all the photo memory. I know how that feel, because someone broke in to my old apartment in Queens and took my mac-book and stereo system. I didn’t had hard-drive that time and no dslr. So it wasn’t as bad as you. I hope Apple can help you trace who stole it. Best

  28. Jodi, I am so sorry about this. My apartment was robbed a long time ago and I was lucky because I didn’t have photographs stolen but they stole some wedding gifts and other personal items. It made me extremely paranoid about safety. For years, I used to be ultra-careful about locking things, etc., and it honestly has taken me almost 10 years to forgive the thieves and put aside that anger.

    I hope that the insurance covers all this loss quickly so that you can bounce back from this and be on your way back into the world.

  29. Hi Jodi, Linda and I just saw this … That really, really sucks and our deepest commiserations to you. I once lost images and video from a two week trip to Fiji … I’d hate to think how I’d feel if all my drives and backups went missing.

  30. Hi Jodi,

    So sorry to hear this. I can not imagine how frustrating it must be to lose all these pic’s and notes from your trip.

    Please remember that actually being there and doing that was far better then the pictures will ever be… You are still a big inspiration for many people that love to explore the world and I hope you keep doing that.

    Greetz from Berlin,


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  32. Dear sweet Jodi, I’m SO sorry to hear this horrible news! I back photos up multiple times, but now that I think about it, they are all in the same household. I never thought someone would steal my computer in addition to an external drive and even memory cards, but I would be so devastated if someone stole all of my backups. I bet that was so devastating. Now I’m definitely going to start backing up photos online to something like iDrive or Mozy! Thanks for spreading the word about this. I hope you are able to recover some of these things!

  33. @Aaron: Thanks for the comment. Mozy seems to have gotten the most votes by far. Friends who use it swear by it too, so I’ll definitely install when I get a replacement computer.

    @Amy: Thank you for the kind words. Been a long week but staying positive is easier with such a great, supportive travel community.

    @Sarah @Akila @Craig: thanks for sharing your stories too!

    @Ruurd Do you have any photos from Santiago? I’ll add you to the Picasa album if so. Thanks for the comment too :)

    @Emily: That was a big reason to do the post – I really wanted people to think about backing up their photos and journals online so they didn’t lose them if something happened. I really thought 3 backups would be sufficient, especially since they were scattered throughout the apartment, but I learned my lesson! Thanks for the support Em.

  34. Jodi, that is terrible!! I’m so sorry. We had some memories taken from us in Colombia but nothing close to this scale. I hope your belongings and pictures turn up soon and they catch the people who did it. As always, we’re impressed that you seem to be making something positive out of a tough situation.

    Kevin and Kristin

  35. WTF. Hoping karma will kick you a lotto ticket worth $10M so you can pay for a good PI to hunt down the thieves. i’ll make sure to upload the shots in thailand and malaysia. – J

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  38. If you’re checking out then you can save 15% on MozyHome with the promo code EMMA, and EMMA15 gets you the same deal on MozyPro.

  39. Hi Jodi,
    This story struck a real chord, so I decided to look into online storage options for my own photographs. The best I could find, and cheapest (free), would seem to be Microsofts own SkyDrive service.They provide 25 gb of free storage per windows live account. This should just about keep me going, I guess when the time arises I’ll get another live ID. I’m going to give them a whirl and upload some photographs. Found another interesting program called gladinet that lets you sync the skydrive as a folder on your laptop for easy file transfer (plus automatic backup if you upgrade to pro)…
    Hope this helps,

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  41. Ugh, that’s a terrible story. Do you think it might be someone you know, like an acquaintance or friend of a friend? It doesn’t make sense for a complete stranger to steal your Moleskins. Written diaries are invaluable in terms of memory but don’t bring any monetary return. I wish you all the best in the future and hope you manage to get your things back.

  42. Really a sad story, probably one of the worst things that can happen to a traveller.
    I save my pics in different places, I think one of the best options is to edit the best ones and then save them on dvd’s, they are very cheap and I think nobody would steal a dvd.

  43. such a shame : / something similar happened to me last year that is why I downloaded ZenOK Online Backup to protect my data the interface of the software is very easy, losing my kids pic again is not even acceptable…highly recommended.

  44. Jodi (and other Picasa users): In the desktop version, if you go to Tools –> Options, then navigate to the Web Albums tab, the top option is to set the Default Upload Size. I’ve got mine set to Original Size. This will be much slower which could be a problem when traveling, but will keep the photos at their original resolution for safekeeping.

    Sorry you lost all that stuff, but hopefully it is a good learning experience! Backups are good, but redundancy in both amount and location is important.

    1. Thanks Andy. Still tough to do while on the road as the internet isn’t as fast as at home, but for the photos I really want to maintain, it’s a good option I wasn’t aware of.

  45. Jodi, I came to your blog from Hipmunk, looked around and eventually found this entry. After reading your post, I did a little googling and came across some software that will let you track a stolen Mac (provided you install the software *before* the Mac is stolen). It won’t help in this case, but perhaps for the future.

    The software is Undercover and the developer is Orbicule. Now I’m off to install it on *my* computer! Thanks for the wake-up call and sympathy for your loss.

    1. Hi Stephen, thanks for the comment. I now know to install software like Hidden or other tracking stuffs, and to back up online. Appreciate your sympathy! Have a great rest of the week.

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