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The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

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I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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June 2003 to June 2004

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March 2002 to April 2003

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START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
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(see all 3 book)

Looking Deep Into the Eyes of a Thief: pickpocket crime against tourist in the Mexico City Metro (subway)
(Sept. 21, 2002)

Mexico City is quite a place.  According to our guide books it is Latin Americas only megalopolis.  We spent over a week there and experienced a crowded place of extremes.  We saw business tycoons in expensive Italian suites closing the big deal on their cell phones. while waiting for a plush limousine to crawl through dense traffic and pick them up.  On the same block we saw homeless mothers pointing out trash cans to their children to pick through for something to eat.

Mexico City also has a well earned reputation as being one of the most polluted places on earth.   It made our eyes water and gave us both a sore throat that lasted days after we left the brown cloud behind.  The smog was worse than anything that I had ever seen in Los Angeles or Phoenix before.  About the only place that I can think of as being similar in air quality is breathing directly into a tailpipe of a semi truck needing a tune up.

Mexico City also had a wonderful side.  Despite being a large city people were very kind and friendly.  It had museums and art galleries that draw tourist from all over the world.  We visited the large and ultra modern city zoo that we were told is comparable to any of the best zoos in the world.  It even had Giant Panda Bears which is an impressive feat considering that China is very picky about where they allow their precious bears to relocate.  This place of extremes is truly the mover and shaker of Mexico and the entire Spanish speaking world.

Mexico City also suffers from a serious level of crime.  Before we arrived we had been reading in Mexican news papers about the terrible crimes being committed specifically against foreign tourists.  A reoccurring theme in the papers was how a taxi would pick up foreign tourists, drive them somewhere out of sight, beat the daylights out of them, and steal everything they have.  Many are never heard from again.  Our guide book even warned us not to carry our ATM cards with us because tourists were also getting kidnapped and forced to visit cash machines throughout the city to make withdraws.  We were not interested in riding in a cab after reading all that.

Luckily one of the most impressive things in Mexico City was the subway system locally called "El Metro."  In a city of 22 million it moves 4.7 million people a day.  It costs a fraction of a cab ride at less than US$0.20 per person to go just about anywhere in the city including major tourist attractions, national bus stations, and even the international airport.  Our guide books warned about pick pockets that roam the Metro and specifically target foreign tourists.  This type of crime is seemingly very preventable and at least better than getting beat up or worse.  If you do not have anything in your pockets, especially a wallet or passports, there is nothing to grab.   We use a money belt worn under our clothes and I kept our camera completely under my jacket and my arm firmly over it.  The Metro was always too hot for a jacket but I wore it anyway.  When we were on extended outings we would carry daypacks with food, water, sunscreen, and rain gear.  None of this is very valuable but still a headache to replace if stolen.  We would wear our daypacks backwards so everything was in front of us.  At first we thought this looked weird and paranoid but after seeing the locals on the Metro do exactly the same thing we knew it was a good idea.

I do not want to sound like a country bumpkin but I had never ridden a subway much before and never experienced pickpockets with their hands in my pockets in my life.   All that has changed after my recent visit to Mexico City.  We rode the Metro almost every day for twelve days as we explored the sights.  I was impressed with its efficiency and speed.  We heard that it was modeled after the one in Paris.  I can not imagine how this monster of a city survived without it.  We tried to avoid rush hours on the Metro because our books said that these were the worst times for pickpockets.   Occasionally, the train cars were very full and people pushed and shoved to cram on the crowded cars.  I do not believe that we have ever heard a Mexican complain about anything the entire five months we were in the country and the crowded Metro was no different.  The locals are masters at "going with the flow" and smiling the whole time.  We did the same and squeezed on when necessary.

It was during these crowded times that the pickpockets tried to grab our stuff.   We experienced three separate attempts during our twelve days there.  You can feel their grubby little hands going into your pockets but they are quick and it is hard to figure out exactly who is responsible.  The usual scenario, as I experienced it, goes like this.  The thieves work in groups of five or so.  It was impossible to get an exact count and I believe that they use innocent passengers in their scheme.   They start by standing around the more crowded stations, waiting for targets.  They do not stand together and they all act like they do not know each other.  When they see you about to board they all rush up to the platform to predetermined positions and act like they are trying to get on at the last minute.   The last one in line pushes everyone obnoxiously hard and everyone is pressed up against each other.  At this moment your body is completely in contact with someone else's body and it makes it hard to tell who is innocently pressing against you and who is probing for your wallet.  By the time you feel a suspicious hand in your pocket it is gone. 

After the first time I was furious.  Although they never got anything from me the (act) thought of being violated like this made me mad.  What nerve these people have.   I dreamed up all kinds of things I could do.  I thought of putting glue, ink, and even a mouse trap in my pocket for them to find.  I even thought of fake props that would appear like things too vile to mention on a family web site but looking real enough to really gross the thieves out.  I never did any of these things but I still (felt) had the need to get back at them somehow.  I knew that we still had to ride the Metro several more times and that they would strike again.  I wanted to catch someone's hand in my pocked the next time.  Big men are too cumbersome to make good pickpockets in such tight areas.  This profession attracts small quick men.   They would be easily over powered in a direct physical battle.  I was eager for the chance to give them what they deserve. 

The next day we had to switch trains in a crowded station that our guide book specifically pointed out as notoriously bad.  The platform did not seem overly crowded and I looked around for people scooting us out.  I thought I saw nothing.  Our visiting friend, Patti, said that she was pretty sure a few guys were checking us out.   I told her that they were just staring at her because she has naturally blond hair which is rare in Mexico and considered the pinnacle of beauty by Mexican men.  I would soon eat these words because looking back she was exactly right.  As we were getting on the train it got crowded quickly.  I got on last thinking that I could protect Cindie and Patti this way.  Several people wiggled in-between me and the girls that I was trying to protect.  As I was stepping on the train a big push came from several people behind me.  It all happened so fast.  I felt someone's open hands press firmly against both of my rear pockets.  I was not convinced at the time but now I am pretty sure that they were checking for a wallet.  I asked the girls if they were OK and if anyone had tried anything.  Cindie looked frightened and Patti told me indirectly in a combination of sign language and cryptic English (you never know who speaks English) that someone had tried to rob her and they were standing behind her.  I already had enough because my back pockets had been checked but to violate and frighten my wife and her friend made me boil over.  I scanned the crowd and saw several young men looking down and seeming frustrated that they had come up with nothing. 

I said openly and firmly in Spanish, "No me gusto Rataros" translated to English "I do not like thieves (derogatory)"  to the close quartered crowd.   One of the suspected thieves immediately looked up and straight into my eyes in defiance.  I knew he was guilty.  He said nothing but we stared at each other long enough to have a complete non verbal conversation.  This conversation transcended language barriers and cultural differences.  He said silently "Hey Gringo I do not like being called a Rataro".  I felt strong and confident from months of riding and a 100 pound weight advantage.  I glared back and the pure unmistakable rage on my face let him know that once I get my hands on him he was in for some vigilante justice.  Neither of us looked away for several seconds and I fruitlessly tried to inch my way closer in the over crowded train car.  He saw this and his looked changed to fear and he quickly looked down.  I knew at that moment that I had won.  I still wanted to get my hands on him but I saw that the train was coming to a stop and that he was going to get out before me.  I said aloud to him and his suspected accomplices "no mas" or in English "no more." No one looked up which empowered me even more.  The train stopped and the doors flew open and they quickly disappeared into the crowded station. 

In some strange way I am glad that this all happened.  Nothing was taken from us and I took from these experiences knowledge of how pickpockets work.  I realize that every scam is different and pickpockets on the beach will have a different maneuver than the ones we dealt with on the Metro but some elements must be similar.  Thieves like to look for areas where tourist are abundant and use some form of diversion to distract you and get your valuables. 

I still prefer the little traveled back roads where a diversion is watching the sun set and the only thing of real value is a mans honesty and that can never be stolen.

Tim Travis

DSC00267.JPG (582325 bytes)
The metro at rush hour, a friendly gesture is always welcome.

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Some of Mexico Cities skyline.

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The Zocalo.

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The Zocalo at rush hour.

 

INDEX #1: North and Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

Subscribe to Email Newsletter

(Before March 30, 2002)
Life in Prescott Arizona, USA

Cindie's Daily Journals
Life in Prescott Arizona

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Good bye Letter

Other essays by Tim
About Us
Our Bicycle Wedding
Riding In Prescott
Hiking in Arizona
Favorite Bike Movies
The Great Zorr Dog
Life in a $500 RV
The Plan
Good bye Letter

 

(March 30 - May 12, 2002)
The State of Arizona, USA
Prescott to Douglas, Arizona

Cindie's Daily Journals
Cindie's Journal in Arizona, USA

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Our first week Down the Road!
Enjoying Arizona
Heading into Mexico

Other essays by Tim
The Day We Left
Lost Dutchman Mine
Ghost Towns
Tombstone
Chiricahua National Monument
Portal Arizona
Backpacking in the Chiricahua Mountains
Apache Wars

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page for Arizona Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Pictures from the first day
- Arizona Photo Page #1 Prescott AZ - Tucson AZ
- Lost Dutchman State Park
- Arizona Photo Page #2 Tucson AZ - Tombstone AZ
- San Xavier Mission
- Arizona Photo Page #3 Tombstone AZ to Portal AZ 
- Tombstone Arizona
- Ghost Towns in Arizona 
- Chiricahua National Monument
- Portal Arizona
- Chiricahua Wilderness Area Backpack (Trek)

 

(May 13 - 31, 2002)
The States of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico
Agua Prieta to Cuauhtemoc, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Greetings from Mexico!

Other essays by Tim
The Problems with the Border Area Between Mexico and the USA
Paquime Ruins Casas Grandes, Mexico
Barranca del Cobre or Copper Canyon

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Mexico #1 Photo Page   Agua Prieta to Zaragoza, Mexico
- Paquime Ruins - Casas Grandes, Mexico
- Mexico #2 Photo Page    Zaragoza to Col. Alvaro Obregon, Mexico
- The Mennonites of Chihuahua, Mexico
- Mexico #3 Photo Page 
- Barranca del Cobre or Copper Canyon Photo Page

 

(June 1 - July 17, 2002)
The States of Zacatecas and Guanajuato, Mexico
Zacatecas to Guanajuato, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Zacatecas and Guanajuato, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Hello Guanajuato
Adios Guanajuato

Other essays by Tim
One Fine Day Down The Road
Learning Spanish at Casa Mexicana in Guanajuato, Mexico
Cindie's Car Crash: a Mexican Experience Guanajuato, Mexico

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Zacatecas and Guanajuato Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Zacatecas, Mexico
- Central Mexico #1  Zacatecas to Ojuelos, Mexico
- One Fine Day Down The Road  State of Zacatecas, Mexico
- Central Mexico #2 Zacatecas to Guanajuato, Mexico
- Dolores Hidalgo, the Home of the Mexican War of Independence
- Guanajuato and the Mexican War of Independence
- Guanajuato, Mexico #1
- Guanajuato, Mexico #2
- Mineral Museum of the University of Guanajuato

 

(July 18 - Aug 22, 2002)
The State of Michoacan, Mexico
Guanajuato to Toluca, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The State of Michoacan, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
The Great Secret of Michoacan!
Toluca

Other essays by Tim
Into the Mist State of Michoacan, Mexico

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Michoacan, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Guanajuato to   Penjamillo, Mexico
- Penjamillo to Patzcuaro, Mexico
- Patzcuaro, Mexico
- Patzcuaro to Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan, Mexico
- Morelia, Mexico
- Into the Mist Mexican highway 15
- Cuidad Hidalgo, Michoacan, to Toluca, Mexico
- Toluca, Mexico
- The Velodrome in Toluca, Mexico

 

(Aug. 23 - Sept. 17, 2002)
The States of Mexico and Morelos, Mexico
Toluca to Amecameca, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Mexico and Morelos

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
So Close to Mexico City Yet So Far From Anything

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of The States of Mexico and Morelos, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Toluca to Chalma, Mexico
- Malinalco, Mexico
- Chalma to Amecameca, Mexico
- Cuernavaca, Mexico
- Amecameca
- September 16 Mexican Independence Day
- Various Extra Pictures

 

(September 18 - 27, 2002)
Mexico City Area
Including the ruins of Teotihuacan

Mexico City, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
Mexico City Area

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Six Months Down the Road

Other essays by Tim
Looking Deep Into the Eyes of a Thief Mexico City Metro (subway)
The Velodrome in Mexico City

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Mexico City Area Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Mexico City
- National Palace and Zocalo
- The Velodrome (bicycle track) in Mexico City
- The Ruins of Teotihuacan #1
- The Ruins of Teotihuacan #2
- Xochimilco
- Mexico City Zoo
- National Museum of Anthropology

 

(Oct.  12 - Nov. 8, 2002)
The States of Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico
Villahermosa, Tabasco to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico

Cindie's Daily Journals
The States of Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Our Final Weeks in Mexico

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Museum La Venta and the Olmec Heads Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
- Villahermosa, Tabasco  to Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
- Palenque #1 Photo Picture Page
- Palenque #2 Photo Picture Page
- Misol-Ha Waterfall Chiapas, Mexico
- Agua Azul Chiapas, Mexico
- Tonina Mayan Ruins Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
- Mexico's Day of the Dead Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico
- Ocosingo to Cuauhtemoc Chiapas, Mexico

 

(Dec 2 - 15, 2002)
Guatemala #1: The Highlands
Quetzaltenango to Antigua

Cindie's Daily Journals
Guatemala #1 The Highlands

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Guatemala: Riding Through the Highlands

Guatemala: From Paradise to Despair

Other Pages Tim Made
Escuela de Idioma Español Utatlan, Spanish Immersion School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Guatemala #1 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- La Mesilla to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
- The Indigenous Highland Village of San Andreas Xecul
- Climbing the Volcano Santa Maria.
- Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
- Quetzaltenango to Antigua, Guatemala.
- San Pedro la Laguna Lago (Lake) Atitlan, Guatemala
- Lago (Lake) Atitlan Santa Cruz to San Marcos Hike
- More San Pedro Photos Photo Page

 

(Dec. 16, 2002 - Jan. 6, 2003)
Guatemala #2: Northeast Towards the Caribbean
Antigua to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala

Cindie's Daily Journals
Guatemala #2
: Heading Northeast Towards the Caribbean

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Antigua, Guatemala to the Sea

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Guatemala #2 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- The Colonial City of Antigua, Guatemala. #1
- The Historical City of Antigua, Guatemala. #2
- The Active Volcano Pacaya, Near Antigua
- Antigua to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala
- The Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
- Livingston, Guatemala

 

(January 7 - 31, 2003)
Honduras
From the Guatemalan Border to the Nicaraguan Border

Cindie's Daily Journals
Honduras

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Honduras: From the Guatemalan Border to the Nicaraguan Border

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Honduras Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Honduras: The Border to Comayagua, Honduras
- Omoa, Honduras and Fortaleza de San Fernando de Omoa
- Parque Nacional Cero Azul Meambar, Honduras Page #1
- Parque Nacional Cero Azul Meambar, Honduras Page #2
- Comayagua to Tegucigalpa, Honduras
- Tegucigalpa, Honduras to the Border with Nicaragua
- Odds and Ends

 

(Feb. 1 - 19, 2003)
Nicaragua
From the Honduras Border to the Costa Rican Border

Cindie's Daily Journals
Nicaragua

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Nicaragua: Travels Through a Troubled Land

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Nicaragua Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Nicaragua: The Honduras border to Esteli, Nicaragua
- Esteli, Nicaragua:  the Stronghold of the Sandinista
- Esteli to Granada, Nicaragua
- Granada, Nicaragua #1
- Granada, Nicaragua #2
- Volcano Masaya - Near Managua, Nicaragua
- Granada, Nicaragua to the Costa Rican Border
- Isla / Island Ometepe, Lake Nicaragua
- Ernie, The Entertainer from Jamaica

 

(Feb. 21 - March 14, 2003)
Costa Rica #1
La Cruz to Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica

Cindie's Daily Journals
Costa Rica #1

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Costa Rica #1 (incomplete)

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Costa Rica #1 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Nicaraguan Border to Playa Tamarindo
- Liberia, Guancaste, Costa Rica.
- Playa Tamarindo
to Playa Samara
- Playa Samara to Playa Jaco
- Manuel Antonio National Park #1
- Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica #1
- Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica #2

 

(March 15 - April 10, 2003)
Costa Rica #2
Manual Antonio to Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

Cindie's Daily Journals
Costa Rica #2

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Costa Rica #2 (incomplete)

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Costa Rica #2 Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Parque National Manuel Antonio, #2
- City of Santa Elena and Monteverde
- Butterfly Garden, Santa Elena, Monteverde
- Finca Ecological, Monteverde
- Frog Pond (Ranario), Santa Elena
- Santa Elena, Cloud Forest, National Park
- Sky Walk, Suspension Bridge, Canopy Tour
- Sky Trek Zip Line, Canopy Tour
- Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

 

(April 12 - 17, 2003)
Panama
Panama City, Panama

Cindie's Daily Journals
Panama

Tim's Emailed Newsletters (Join  List)
Panama (Incomplete)

Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail Page of Panama Pictures

Full size Picture Pages

- Panama City #1
- Panama City #2
- Panama Canal

1North and
Central America
3-30-02 to 4-17-03

2 South America
6-3-03 to 6-17-04

3 SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to
9-15-06

4 Australia
9-15-06 to 9-15-07

5 New Zealand
9-16-07 to 5-2-08
6 Alaska, Canada, and the USA
5-3-08 to 4-30-10
7 India. Nepal, and the Subcontinent
5-1-10 to present
Where am I  now

Subscribe to Email Newsletter

 

 


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