The Positive Poster Child


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, March 21, 2004 was originally posted on March 22, 2004.

DAY 155: I was ready by nine in the morning to walk downtown to the police department to report my mugging at knifepoint the night before.  Word of my story got to Sylvia, The Backpack’s “gran” (“grandmother”) and she totally flipped out when she heard that all that could have been done for me by the staff wasn’t done.

“How come you didn’t call the police straight away?” she asked.

“They said I could just go in the morning so I wouldn’t have to walk at night,” I said.

“That’s how we do it in Holland,” Ingmar said in his defense.

“No no no, you should have called the police immediately,” Sylvia said.  “They might have gone and caught the man.”

I wasn’t crying over spilled milk, but Sylvia went on a scolding spree.  She blamed Ingmar and Eve for not colling the police or the backpackers’ private security company.  She blamed Gino the night watchman for not doing anything. 

“Looks like I’m getting people in trouble,” I told Sean the Californian from San Diego I met the night before.  To be fair to the staff, it wasn’t like I made a big freaked out scene coming in after the incident.  Like I said, it was more like me coming in as a character on a sitcom episode. 

Sylvia called the police department and explained the whole thing.  She had two officers come to the hostel so I wouldn’t have to walk downtown.  “We don’t want to have him leave South Africa with bad memories now,” she said to the cop on the other line.

I got complimentary coffee and toast that morning while I waited for the cops to arrive.  Sylvia explained to the staff the process of what to do next time such an incident would occur — I was the example, the poster child for crime emergencies.

SERGEANT LAWSON AND INSPECTOR NELL of the Cape Town Police Department came to interview me by mid-morning.  We sat at a table in the courtyard to discuss the details of my attack over cups of coffee.  “Do you get these things often?” I asked to break the ice.

“Unfortunately, yes,” answered the sergeant.

I maintained a positive attitude as I went into the whole story yet again, with details of the events that occurred and the items that were stolen.  Sergeant Lawson wrote up an affidavit for me to sign, which he grouped with the police report that Inspector Nell wrote up.  The inspector told me I was quite lucky; usually the mugger starts with a quick stab to put the victim in shock so he could just “have his way.”

I tried to think of a positive spin on his statement, but nothing came to mind.

IT WAS FREEDOM DAY IN SOUTH AFRICA, a national holiday, so most of the city was as dead as it was on a Sunday.  I didn’t bother going out at all — I was still a little anxious about doing so.  The Backpack wasn’t a bad place to be in all day anyway, with TV, kitchen, internet, pool, pool table and a bar.  I spent most of the day writing in the backyard (picture above, taken with my video camcorder’s mediocre still photo capabilities) and playing the time zone game on the phone when trying to contact my travel insurance company’s claims department.  They told me I couldn’t make a claim until I was back home in the States — eleven months away(!) — which sort of defeated the purpose of it being travel insurance. 

I sent some e-mails out to try and get a replacement camera from the States — actually cheaper than buying one locally — and I contacted the White Shark Diving Company for my diver certification number since I had written it on their indemnity form, so I could try and get my card replaced as well. 

The ball was in motion towards a state of normalcy — and what’s more normal than sitting out in the courtyard with fellow travelers drinking all afternoon?  I sat out with Kate the Irish-American from Long Island, New York on an 18-month round-the-world trip (going the other way around); Sean from Ireland, in town for a couple of weeks;  George and Ed on vacation from Buenos Aires; Jed on holiday from the U.K.; Danit and Assaf away from their homes in Israel; and Dave the Botswanan who worked at The Backpack but was off-duty.  Ingmar and Joann who were on duty, stopped by every now and then.  My tale of the night before had everyone back on guard again — until they just got too drunk to leave the hostel like they had planned, regardless of any mugging paranoia.

When the courtyard bar scene got to be a bit too much for me, I just chilled out in the lounge with the other Sean, from San Diego, California and talked about favorite Lonely Planet television episodes amongst other things.  I informed him that PBS had actually bought out the series in the States and renamed it “Globe Trekker” and that I had one of my stories on their official website.  Sean was intrigued about my life as a freelance travel writer.

“I’d give you my card, but they were stolen!” I joked.  “I’m here all week.”

I suppose that the only thing to do the day after a mugging at knifepoint is to look on the bright side and joke about it, even if your insurance company is giving you the run around.

Next entry: Back On The Streets

Previous entry: Cute Baby Animals At Knifepoint

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “The Positive Poster Child”

  • POSTER CHILD: You say the word and I’ll send the package if need be, if not…packages to namibia will take about 8 days….

    ANY Interested buyers for a lovely SONY DSC-U30 (brand new, silver) and brand new Lexar Media 256 MB memory stick OR ANYONE going to namibia next week?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  12:13 PM

  • better a “Poster Child”, then being on a milk carton !

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  12:31 PM

  • I’m just glad you didn’t end up in the ER… again.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  02:57 PM

  • Africa is one scary place - stay safe.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  03/22  at  03:55 PM

  • even though your last entry you informed us that there would be animals, it still made me laugh and HAD to click on it! just like when you would write “click here to see my poo”... I still had to look! glad to hear you’re in good spirits, hell i’m just “traveling at my desk”! have a good day (or night)! N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  04:20 PM

  • Any idea how long you’ll be stuck in Cape Town?

    As an Irish-American from Long Island, I’m sure I’ve met Kate at the meetings.

    Posted by matto  on  03/22  at  06:05 PM

  • Hey ERT!  Just catching up again..Man, just heard about the mugging.  That really sucks—how they gonna do you like that? Ehm, ehm ehm…shame on them.  Don’t they know you are the anointed one that allow people, like myself to live vicariously.  But more importantly—glad that you are safe ( and not on a carton- like “SIM” said) safe.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/22  at  11:36 PM

  • “...mugger starts with a quick stab to put the victim in shock so he could just “have his way.” 

    OH BOY! i’m glad you’re okay! be safe.

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/23  at  12:43 AM

  • Erik- dude! sorry about the mugging- that sucks bigtime. hang in there &keep; up the great job with the blog

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/23  at  03:14 AM

  • SARA:  Thanks for the donation, hope you like that TGT mousepad! 

    ALL:  Hang in there folks, two entries should be underway before I’m NIZ for a day or two…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/26  at  05:00 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Back On The Streets

Previous entry:
Cute Baby Animals At Knifepoint


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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