You guys know that I’m just back from a trip to Spain.

I had so much fun.

(Side note: I am horrible with directions, and I burned a chunk of data using my iPhone to navigate the streets of Barcelona. Apple Maps should be free on all carriers/all countries, and subsidized by the legacy of Steve Jobs, to encourage user adoption and market share dominance over Google Maps. But nobody asked me.)

My friend and I were walking back to our flat (from our second visit of the day to a local gelateria) when two young girls from Poland approached us and asked for directions to the Plaça de Catalunya.

I said, “I’m sorry, we can’t help.”

Although I have a friendly face and seem helpful, that’s a lie. I’m not.

My friend said, “Of course we can help them, Laurie.”

She pulled out her iPhone and started downloading directions, which caused my lizard brain to surge into overdrive. I know that I’m a cynical woman, but this is the type of scenario they warn you about in the Rick Steve’s travel guides. Safety first, everybody. Don’t be too American, too friendly, or too quick to whip out your expensive electronics.

So I said, “Fine, she can help you. But if you grab our phones, we will fuck you up.”

Both girls, sorta fluent in English, started to laugh. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind. You could see it in their eyes—Is she joking? She’s got to be joking. She’s little and old.

I also laughed while making eye contact, extending my umbrella and sending telepathic messages. I can do pull-ups. I’m stronger than I look. I will truly fuck someone up if given the chance.

But these girls weren’t interested in our crappy iPhones or purses, thankfully. They simply wanted to go meet up with cute Spanish boys in a bar.

So we said goodbye after they thanked us profusely and told us how much they want to visit America.

(Yes, even after my warm welcome.)

My friend said, “Laurie, you are awful. We ask for directions all over the world. We have to pay it forward for our next trip. And you have to give to receive.”

Yeah, okay. I think that’s probably true on some level, but after having my purse stolen in London back in 2011, I will mess up anybody who tries to steal my stuff. I am a global ambassador for goodwill and kindness, but safety matters.

What would you have done?


  1. Well, I had a camera stolen from me in Barcelona in 2006, so I can totally see why you were concerned:) With all my love to Spain every time a stranger starts a conversation with me when I am there, I just make sure I hold on to my purse more than usual.

  2. I’m with you. We were pick-pocketed in Barcelona, and it took years to sort out. Can happen at home, too – I was assaulted in NYC a few months ago and I live here (!). I didn’t realize I’d stopped paying attention (I blame the wear of travel). It’s nice to be nice, but better to be bad ass. Because you never know.

  3. I must confess, I am more careful when travelling than when I am at home. I also have to confess to an unconscious bias that would have ruled my response before I could even think about it. Two young women asking for directions? No problem, I’d do the same as your friend and whip out my phone to help. Two young men approaching me? Nope, I’d react like Laurie…ask anyone who has been mugged by “two nice-looking young men asking for directions…”

  4. I am way too cynical. When I read this, all I could think was “wasn’t this how one of those ‘Hostel’ movies started?”

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