This is a post in an ongoing feature on Her Packing List called “The One Little Thing“. Each week or two, I’ll be interviewing a traveling lady to find out the one little thing she just can’t travel without. This post is brought to you by Michele Herrmann:
The one little thing I feel secure about traveling with is my money belt. Yes, it does sound boring. Plain. Practical.
A money belt is neither stylish as a multi-purpose black dress nor sentimental as an entry journal. However, for me, this belt not only fulfills its purpose as a security precaution. This same item also gives me more self-assurance in my ability to take the many journeys since I bought it twelve years ago.
When I decided to go on a guided tour around Italy in May 2000, I would hear constant warnings from relatives and other travelers about watching out for pickpockets. I was told these people would fake scenarios to distract me to grab my bag or my purse, to dig into my pockets.
Yes, my friends and loved ones were well meaning. Yes, this advice was important to heed. Yet their continued concern over my possibility of being robbed, along with over-hyped anxiety over my personal safety, were starting to be too much.
This tour marked the first time I was going outside of the United States, for the most part, on my own. And would I want fear of the unknown to damper my anticipation of seeing Italia?
Would I have had to constantly fret over the possibility of losing my passport, my money, even my credit card? Should I be leery of crowd places and riding on packed trains?
Thankfully, someone gave me a rational solution: get a money belt.
I purchased one of Eagle Creek’s undercover belts, which slips under the hip portion of my pants with a strap to adjust its fit to my waist.
This thin belt has two zipper pockets, so I could separate my cash in one place and my credit card and passport in the other. The price at the time was good and I still use it twelve years later.
While in Italy, I felt better having it on me. During a packed ferry ride to Venice, my tour group members and I huddled near to watch out for each other and our respective stuff. We heard later that supposedly a group of pickpockets cleaned out other passengers–most likely tourists–on the ferry. Hope that was just a rumor.
As I continue to travel throughout Europe and the United States, my money belt has gone beyond serving as a security blanket.
For me, it is multi-purposed.
Often I store non-monetary items in it. It’s held a room key during a night walk alone in Athens, near the Plaka. It’s been like a drawer for stomach medicine needed after a heavy BBQ meal in Memphis and ibuprofen for the morning after a strong cocktail and a nasty fall on Bourbon Street.
Other contained items have ranged from hotel business cards (because it might take a while for me to remember the name of the place I’m staying), to handwritten notes.
My money belt even helps me better manage my cash flow. Before venturing out, I try to take out how much I think I will need or spend that day or night. I leave the rest in. If I find I’m running short on dough, I find a bathroom or convenient corner where I can pull the belt out discreetly.
Gradually, my money belt has made me feel bold enough to leave my purse at the hotel, taking out the essentials, and walking around bag-free with confidence.
Although I have a tendency to overstuff my money belt – I try to counter this look by wearing a baggy top or cleaning out nonessentials – just knowing that it’s on me makes me feel secure. From time to time, I’ll do a quick tap around the side of my pants to reassure myself that it’s still in place. Then I know I’ll be fine.
Michele Herrmann, a writer and editor, contributes advice-based pieces about travel to various websites. She has ventured throughout Europe and up, down and across the United States and Canada. When she’s home, she likes to go hiking and enjoys festivals and general exploring. Follow her on Twitter at @micheleherrmann.
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