If the news has you rethinking your next trip to the Caribbean, I can understand why. Something is amiss, and we aren’t getting the full story. Between the disappearances of travelers to clusters of mysterious deaths and assaults around resort areas, our vacays aren’t sounding so relaxing after all.
Truth is, there are few better targets for crime than folks on vacation. Think about it. Your guard is down. If you’ve been at the beach or pool all day, you’ve likely drank at least a couple of adult beverages to stay nice and hydrated. Wink… Your only focus is fun, sun, and rum (or something like that). All is well in the world. Or so you think…
In the meantime while you’re at the beach, one or more career thieves may be checking for unlocked doors of cars and vacation rentals in your area. You, my friend, have become an easy target if you’ve left a door unlocked for quick access to use the restroom or to refill a drink. Not a good idea…
A smart criminal knows that travelers typically carry large sums of cash on trips. They rarely wear their jewelry to the beach, unless they’re a lil’ extra like me. They’ve got their laptops and electronics lying around. Plenty of things are readily available to grab quickly while the rightful owners are sunbathing on the sand. Beer in one hand, a book in the other, and Jimmy Buffet competing with the sound of the waves in the background. Life is good or so you think. All while you’re completely unaware someone is rummaging through your stuff thirty yards away.
Another prime time to be burglarized is while you’re wining and dining in the evening. Common knowledge is most people go out to a nice dinner after a day at the beach. If you’ve got ten people staying in your rental, getting the doors locked before you leave becomes an easy oversight. “I wasn’t the last one out!” Sound familiar? Ever left the windows open to hear the sounds of the waves crashing? See where I’m going with this, because the thief did.
Local creepsters learn to watch schedules and routines during the course of your week-long stay. So if there are typically four cars in the driveway and now there’s only one at 7 p.m., it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out there’s a high probability everyone is out to dinner. Game time!
This real life scenario actually happened to my family once. Our dinner didn’t last as long as the hopeful thieves anticipated. We luckily pulled back up to the rental as a group of three shysters were staggered at different points of our beach house. One at the door. One on lookout. And one around the side of the house. They claimed to know the owners of the home. Luckily, the owners happened to be lifelong friends of my aunt, who made a quick call to disprove their claim after the trio quickly left. Takeaway: Lock all the doors and windows. Leave the TV and lamps on. Try to make it not so apparent that the rental is temporarily vacated and don’t be naive.
Now to the part you’ve been waiting for…
True story–my husband and I survived an attempted home invasion during the middle of the night on one of our beach vacations. So if any of you know my significant other, he’s a big guy. Like 6’8″ big and around 300 lbs. He hates vacations with a passion because he’d rather be working. I know. He won’t see a therapist about that. I’ve tried. Believe me.
Before we had kids, I convinced him to go to Charleston, SC for a relaxing, romantic getaway. Folly Beach was our home away from home growing up, and I sold him on the fact that he’d love the history of Charleston, the food and the architecture. I may have told him that it was one of the safest places in the world. Yeah…
So we rented an adorable beach cottage with a cozy hammock off the wrap-around deck. The place was historic but had been gutted and renovated to the most charming rental I had ever stayed in. Even though the hubs had an aversion to relaxation, he was digging it. A lot, as I did. That is until I saw a ghost by our bed the third night there. But that’s another story and another post. Back to how not to die…
Needless to say, because of my ghostly encounter, I wasn’t sleeping well for the remainder of the trip and had an eerie sense that something was awry. On our last night there, my husband turned in early while I stayed up late taking out the trash, doing laundry and dishes, and packing so we could jet early the next morning. There were no blinds or curtains except in the bedrooms and bathrooms, which made me uneasy since you could see straight into the home at night if the lights were on.
So when I finished, I shut the lights off at 11 p.m. and attempted to wind down and catch a few zzz’s before the journey home. One hour after I went down for the night, I began hearing popping noises. They were becoming increasingly louder and more frequent. I was petrified and just knew the ghost had invited some friends over to party and was rummaging around the house again. Yikes!
I woke my husband, and he claimed it was the wind. Because it’s always the wind in the movies, isn’t it? Finally, it became undeniable that something was happening, and it wasn’t Mother Nature.
He got up and quickly grabbed his gun. Up until that moment, I always believed he was super paranoid and that keeping a gun near you 24/7 was ridiculous. I’ve had a change of heart, needless to say, and respect all that.
While I tip-toed behind him, he began to cautiously approach the noises. We were headed towards the back door, which was mostly glass, when we saw him. A guy dressed in all black wearing a hoodie was holding a crow bar and attempting to pry open the back door. In the meantime, his accomplices were trying to pry open the windows of the guest bedroom and bathroom.
Time stood still and I couldn’t breathe. My husband aimed his gun at the hooded man on the other side of the glass and yelled at him. There was a lot of scuffling around the deck, and the men took off running. Barefoot in underwear isn’t exactly the best way to catch a criminal (or three) so the hubs wasn’t able to chase them and they got away.
While he yelled at me to call 911, I was pacing around like a mad woman and hyperventilating because I couldn’t find our cell phones. Like a good wife in the days pre-cell phone addiction, I had packed them away to be ready to leave at 6 a.m. sharp that morning. It seemed like a good idea at the time…
After what felt like thirty minutes but was only five or ten in reality, my husband had to reorient me and show me he had already called 911. Sure enough, the local Barney Fife and Andy Griffith had arrived. These weren’t exactly first string policemen to say the least.
The first clue Shaggy, I mean Barney, found was the back porch light bulb had been unscrewed and was lying on the table. His theory was a storm was rolling in, and homeless men wanted to get inside out of the weather. They needed to make the deck dark by unscrewing the light.
“But the light wasn’t even turned on. I had been outside alone taking out the trash an hour and half before they tried to break in,” I told them. “They waited till almost exactly an hour after I went down for the night to try to force their way in. I think they thought I was here alone since my husband had been asleep for several hours. You can see straight into the house at night with the lights on.”
Nope, nothing could convince Barney that it was nothing more than harmless men looking for shelter in what they thought was an empty vacation home. No real effort was made to find them and we were essentially blown off completely by the less than dynamic duo. What could’ve been a violent or deadly crime was dismissed like it was no big deal at all.
Needless to say, we wanted to get the heck out of Dodge. We left in the middle of the night, while stopping every thirty minutes or so for me to barf on the side of the road. Adrenalin rushes like that can do some whack stuff to your body. Trust me. Been there. Done that.
So please guys from experience, ladies in particular, have your guard up. Even on vacation. Even if your husband is Andre the Giant. Even when you’re supposed to be relaxing without a care in the world because there are some people who will target you. If you have a concealed weapons permit, check the gun laws in the state(s) you’re traveling to and through to know if you’re legal being armed and what you’re rights are if you’re being threatened.
Most importantly, trust your gut and be observant. You may wanna keep a barf bag and brown paper bag handy, just in case. Hopefully you won’t need them! Wink…I hope you never have to experience anything but fun and sun on your future trips but don’t assume it can’t happen to you. And if you’ve been planning a trip to that one particular place that keeps popping up in the news, please scratch that and make a plan B. But what do I know…Safe travels, guys and thanks for stopping in! xo