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… And This Is Why I Left Concepción

“Hey, how are you doing?”

“We’re okay! Did you have a good day?”

“Well… No.”

I can be bluntly honest with Feng, who knows exactly how fast travelling can go from “awesome” to “let’s get the hell out of here.”

So, this is what happened.

I usually book studios or hotel rooms on Expedia. I’m not always a big fan of it—God forbid you ever need to reach them over the phone—but it works pretty well in Latin America.

In Chile, Expedia doesn’t charge your card, you pay at check in. The property manager in Concepción didn’t take credit cards and I didn’t have enough Chilean pesos or dollars, so we arranged to meet the following day for payment.

When I came back from Talcahuano, I withdrew enough money for the rent and the rest of the week, then I went straight to the studio to call the landlord. I opened the door and found the place as I left it, which is normal because apartments aren’t your typical hotel room—there’s no housekeeping.

I used Skype to call the property manager. “I’ll be there in thirty minutes!” she said.

Meanwhile, I counted the money to have the exact amount ready, and I opened my bag to put what was left with Chilean pesos I keep in a small envelope.

I paused.

It wasn’t there.

And it looked like somebody had gone through my daypack, the bag I don’t actually take during the day and leave at the hotel, the bag with my computer, passport, wallet and several envelopes with cash in different currencies.

The only bag I take when I go out is my small camera bag, and I only carry enough cash for the day (usually $25-30).

Safer this way, right?

Unless someone somehow has the key to your room and is looking for cash or valuables.

I’m pretty organized and I don’t carry much—one large backpack with clothes and toiletries and one small daypack with the electronics, IDs and money. That day, I also knew exactly how much I had left in Chilean pesos because I was going to the ATM.

I emptied the bag, checked everywhere, but the money was definitely gone. Nothing else seemed to be missing, so that was a relief—and I didn’t have much left in the envelope, the equivalent of $60.

I looked around the studio again and suddenly noticed the garbage bag I hadn’t taken out wasn’t there anymore. What the hell?

The landlord rang the bell. She immediately noticed I didn’t sound as upbeat as on the phone, minutes earlier.

I explained the problem as politely and as tactfully as I could.

“So, who has the keys to the studio, exactly?”

“The cleaning lady.”

“What cleaning lady? The studio wasn’t cleaned—and that’s fine, by the way.”

“We don’t change towels or make the bed.”

“… Then why would a cleaning lady come? And anyway, I’m not accusing her, I have no idea what happened. All I know is that someone did come, took the garbage out, went through my stuff and took an envelope with Chilean pesos that was in an inner pocket in my bag.”

“If you don’t want the cleaning lady to come tomorrow, I’ll tell her not to come.”

“That’s besides the point,” I replied. “I don’t want to be here tomorrow.”

I realize that was how I felt the second the words came out of my mouth. I knew I would never see that money again. I knew absolutely nothing productive would come out of this very civil discussion. I knew I didn’t want to stay any longer because I didn’t feel safe in this studio—who had the keys, exactly?

I paid for the two nights, not the four nights I had booked.

“Call me in the morning,” the property manager said.

I checked the time—7 p.m.

I considered my options.

I could move to a different place, but the property management company I was renting from owned most of the budget apartments in Concepción.

I didn’t like Concepción enough to pay more or go through great lengths to stay in the city as planned.

I did a quick search for studios in Santiago—a few available.

Quick, I hopped into a microbus to the bus terminal and I bought a ticket to the capital for the following morning.

I walked back from the terminal feeling strangely relieved and at peace with my decision.

It may sound like I’m overreacting. Feng and I both did “lose” stuff over the years when travelling. It happens, it’s part of life. My camera was stolen in Nicaragua in 2001. We got robbed in Guatemala and in Panama. Feng lost his wallet in… multiple places, actually (in New Zealand, someone brought it back!) Our car got stolen in Ottawa about ten years ago (got it back as well!). The list is long…

Did you have a good day?”

“Well… No.”

I can be bluntly honest with Feng, who knows exactly how fast travelling can go from “awesome” to “let’s get the hell out of here.”


When you travel, you have to trust your gut and mine were telling me not to push my luck. I didn’t lose much, maybe by chance because that day, exceptionally, I had my credit card with me to withdraw money—and I was low on cash anyway.

“So, do you have your bus ticket?” Feng asked.

“Yep. Just came back from the station, leaving tomorrow at 8:45 a.m.”

“Call me when you get to Santiago tomorrow night.”

“Will do!”

Curious to see what Concepción looked like and why I wasn’t a big fan of it? Tomorrow!

Terminal Collao, Concepción
Terminal Collao, Concepción
Back in Santiago
Back in Santiago

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