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During a two week holiday with the first leg in Mexico and the second part in Colombia, someone took a bag of adapters and power cords for my computer. We (my wife and I) were on a night bus going from Playa del Carmen to Cancun and did not put on our travel heads. So, our eyes were not always on my bags.

In the past, We have taken night buses in seemingly sketchier places, and have not had this experience. But this time, we entered the situation a little rusty. I am thankful that we only lost those things considering what could have happened.

My goal for this trip was to practice the idea of working from anywhere. While my day-to-day work at IBM was on holiday, I wanted to keep writing for the blog and run portfolio workshop for aspiring UX designers. However, fate would have different intentions. Here are my lessons for getting robbed in Mexico.

1. Panic – It’s ok

Discovering that your stuff is missing is discombobulating. At first, I felt guilty for going through these emotions of anger and self-loathing.These were feelings that I did not want to experience during my break, but they were normal. I needed to process them.

When I was in the right space, I could then reflect on what I did and what I needed to do next.

2. Accept your fate and unplug

The good news was that we still had our computers. The bad news was that without power adaptors we had limited battery power. My wife had an older Mac and could get a replacement in Mexico. I had a newer MacBook Pro with the USB-C adaptor. This was harder to find.

I made the choice to not focus much more time on tracking down a new adaptor for me. So, I used my computer battery to finish up some side projects that required design work.

I let the computer putter out of energy for the rest of the year.

What was good about this? I immediately found more time to focus on reflecting on 2017 and planning for 2018. I wrote out and drew my thoughts in my journal. Getting reflections and ideas out on paper removed me from getting bogged down in app processes and nuances. I didn’t need to worry about saving it to Dropbox and sharing it. I could just think, process, and communicate with my wife.

2018 Plan Journaling and Sketching

Sketching out my 2018 year by quarters in watercolor and pen and ink

3. Communicate with mobile apps instead

For part of my time in Mexico and later Colombia, I was working remotely for clients and some IBM tasks. Most of what I had to do was communicating over Slack, Hangouts, and Facebook. My takeaway from this was that I had unknowingly set up most of my work and teams to make it easy to monitor from anywhere. The other point was that we had finished all of our hard work. We were not stressed finishing up things last minute.

Observing surroundings and sketching them

Letting my battery die out helped me slow down and observe life

4. Getting robbed and planning

As I start to work more in different places, I have to start thinking about where I am and who is around me. Our goal is to create businesses and projects that are more flexible with location and time. Freedom still requires due diligence. We still have to be conscious of how we travel and where we work.

A piece of advice from an old mentor that I have been chewing on after this experience is, “plan like hell and go with the flow.”

Do the preparation with planning for safety. Have a backup plan for situations like this. Adapt when a bus in Mexico throws you a curveball.

Want to see more on drawing and sketching. Check out my post on 30 days of sketching.

Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.