A Word of Warning to Food Bloggers on Holiday

View of the Pyrenees
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View of the Pyrenees

If I have one piece of advice to food bloggers travelling abroad, it’s this: don’t let your bag out of your sight at any time.

My to my own despair, I get to learn this the hard and, unfortunately, expensive way. Last week I penned a short post on five fond food memories of France. Yes, I got to chase down each of them in turn and while I’m now back on home soil, my trip started out with the opening lesson.

Hindsight tells me it was against my better judgement to carry my 2 year old iPad (a present from herself), a year old white Sony Vaio laptop containing a wealth of photos and my six month old Canon 6D (the most expensive piece of kit complete with charger, spare batteries, memory cards and an additional lens) in my hand luggage, but I did just that. Packed tightly into a rucksack, never left my side from Kilkenny all the way to landing in Perpignan, until we landed at the airport.

With a few of us in the group, two of us headed for the hire car queue, leaving the bags with everyone else. With a car secure, we all go to pick up our bags, take off for a week only there’s five bags where there should be six. Later I would find out that there had been two suspicious-looking individuals, perhaps working as a team, keeping an eye on arrivals from Ireland and the UK. I never saw them. But, seizing a split-second opportunity, they spotted my bag – which still had some of the family sitting beside it – taking with them my work laptop, 6D, months worth of photos, some office work (majority of which is recoverable thanks to online backups), my iPad, phone charger, and some clothes, which had concealed the stockpile of electronics in the base of the bag. Gone too are phone chargers, the latest Alex Cross novel I’d been stuck into on the plane over and my copy of Dianne Jacob’s Will Write For Food (another planned holiday read).

The issue was reported, I had a follow up from the airport midweek to say that it hadn’t been seen since. We scoured the grounds outside, the toilets, the departures and arrivals lounge (it’s a small place – if you’ve ever flown through Frankfurt Hahn, or Reus, it’s possibly smaller) and nothing.

60 Euro on the phone later to try track the iPad by downloading the Find My iPhone app and the search was fruitless. Granted, it could have been a lot worse. My passport, drivers license, phone and car keys for home were in my jacket pocket but alas, the bulk of my mobile office has vanished into the ether.

While I seem to have left my Leaving Cert French some way behind me, Mrs. Any Given Food-to-be is a dab hand which was a major help in explaining the case to airport security but not all the French in the world could get the bag back.

Could I have travelled without the devices? Very possibly. Should I have gone with my first instinct and not bring a shiny new camera with me? Very possibly. The fact that it was all in a nondescript, somewhat torn rucksack didn’t have it screaming ‘laptop case’ or ‘camera bag’, making the crime of opportunity more frustrating in its rewards for those who took it.

A week on and the iPad hasn’t appeared online (via Find My iPhone). Equally TeamViewer shows no logins from the laptop. Thankfully, when it comes to those kinds of things I tend to go for lengthy passwords, pin numbers and two-step authentication where I can. The first night was spent changing all social profiles, email passwords, settings, blocking devices, apps and more from accessing various accounts. It’s only when it all goes missing that you realise just how connected you were.

Photos of recent events have disappeared with it too. If you happen to be in France and someone offers you a digital camera packed with photos from Ballymaloe House, venison dinners, home baking and restaurant interiors then give me a shout 🙂

From one who hates reading blog posts like this, I never envisioned actually penning one, but what’s done is done. As it transpired, I wasn’t the only one who had a bag taken from on the same day and passing back through the airport yesterday evening (which, at the time, included a number of arrivals from the UK and Ireland), there was a notable increase in police – more like an actual presence – around the arrivals area. That said, I sat in the café area watching numerous passengers bound for Dublin and further afield leave their bags unattended to go for a stroll around the airport. Just because it’s a small airport doesn’t make it any safer for your bags!

For now, it’s on to redoing several shoots as soon as I can get the required equipment together, saving up to replace the gear, sourcing viable travel insurance for tech gadgets and all the rest but as I said at the beginning, let this tale be a lesson to the travelling food blogger – if you’re packing any amount of tech gear with you in any kind of a bag, never, under any circumstances, let it out of your sight.

If anyone has any experience or recommendations around lightweight and low-cost GPS trackers for luggage, I’d be all ears!

Written by Ken McGuire
Writes and talks a lot about food, spending way too much time in the kitchen or behind the lens taking photos. Digital Media Specialist by day, broadcaster by night, living in Kilkenny with Mrs. Any Given Food and two crazy rescue hounds.