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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

He burst into the room, drenched in sweat, his chest heaving at the speed his heart was racing. A trail of sand streaked across the floor as he finally found stability on the other side of the room, hands on the back of the couch, arms outstretched, head hanging in between.

“I was just fucking robbed at gunpoint.”

Between gulps of air, the story began to unfold. On his usual morning run, just at the water’s edge and near where he would turn to head up the street to our apartment, he was approached. There was no one else around – just Pete, the assailant, and the loud crashing waves of the ocean.

The guy set his gun, pointed it at Pete’s head, and began yelling while gesturing to the lump in Pete’s pocket. “Give me your phone!” It was a seemingly well-practiced phrase, maybe the only English he knew. Then came the demand for Pete’s necklace and ring. The ring, not coming off easily, had ripped at Pete’s skin and left him bleeding.

“He even took the fucking twenty pesos I had to buy milk.”

I grabbed him a glass of water, took off his shoes for him. He sat for mere seconds and then was back up and pacing.

I made coffee. He cursed about never buying the milk and put his shoes on to go get it. Do you want me to come with you? You don’t need to go at all.  “I can’t let it change me,” he said, defiantly walking to the corner store down the same street he had left just minutes ago.

(Later, when recounting this part of the story to friends, Pete was surprised at this – he didn’t remember making that milk-run.)

I tried to get him to just sit and be calm, but he rattled on about changing passwords and wondering if the software on the phone used to track his run would reveal its location. I gave up trying to relax him and ply him with a shot of nerve-calming rum. Instead, I helped, and began creating dozens of new passwords.

He showered and finally began to calm. We talked details, but they were very scattered. Red shorts, white t-shirt. Was he big? Did he look drugged out?  “I could never ID him,” Pete claimed, the haze of adrenaline having dimmed the details.

Throughout the day, I’d catch him just sitting still, staring off into space. He’d sometimes offer comments on how it could have so easily turned sour if he had reacted differently, but most of the time he was alone in his thoughts. I just kept following him around like a lovesick puppy. I pet his arm, cupped his cheek with my hand, hugged him fiercely. Thank you for doing the right thing, I kept saying.

He couldn’t catch a full breath for that day and into the next. His appetite waned and he barely slept that first night. His muscles were tense and feelings still raw, he kept saying that he felt like he had been hit by a bus. We canceled plans for that day and next, retreating to the comfort of our routine and the generosity of our hosts.


We consider ourselves very careful travelers.

When we’ve heard stories about misfortunes while on the road, they usually go like this: victim was walking where they shouldn’t be, maybe after dark, with a camera slung over their shoulder or other such scenario. We’re typically pretty lame and are hardly out late. When we are we don’t bring our valuables and we stick to reputable areas. We listen to each other and if either is feeling uncomfortable in any situation, we quickly remove ourselves without asking questions.

Pete was not wearing anything flashy. The simple gold chain was the only thing he carried with him in memory of his mother. The ring, entirely expendable and with no sentimental value, was only a near-permanent fixture on his hand because it was difficult to remove. Most people may not run with their phones, but he used it to track his distance and time, and also because he has a difficult time going anywhere without some sort of camera in hand.

It was broad daylight and the beach was full of runners. That the aggressor caught him during one brief moment where there was no one else around was just extremely bad timing. Terribly bad luck. The only slight thing Pete could have considered doing differently was to change his routine, as he had been keeping fairly close to the same schedule. We heard later that there had been other recent robberies at our end of the beach – perhaps it was this same guy, and perhaps he planted himself there knowing Pete would be by. Lesson learned.

The lost goods themselves hold no meaning in comparison to his life – all that matters is that Pete was unharmed and that we will continue. One man does not a country make, nor will he keep us down for long.

Pete wrote about his experience in last month’s newsletter, which you can find here.

We also want to give a huge THANK YOU to everyone for the amazing support we have received since the incident. With everything from encouraging emails to a bucketful of beer, we know that we have the best family, friends, readers and partners on this planet. As always, your support means the world to us. Thank you for being here.

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  1. We also consider ourselves very careful travelers (chicken buses notwithstanding), but are aware a horrible experience like yours could be just around the corner. Bad timing indeed. Glad you’re both OK and haven’t forsaken Mexico on account of one &%@#! Enjoy Guanajuato and good luck!

    1. Thanks for the support guys. There’s no way one incident like this would make us forsake a country like Mexico. There is so much beauty here to to do that 🙂

  2. Wow what a scary experience! I’m not surprised he forgot he went out to get milk after having such a traumatic thing happen. I’m glad he is ok and didn’t have more money on him. Hopefully he doesn’t have any flashbacks later!

    1. Hi Rachel, I’m having a few flashbacks to the incident, but things are getting better. I’m still a little hesitant when walking alone in isolated areas, but I think that will just take time to pass. Thankfully the incident was non-violent and all he took were some ‘things’.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you, but I’m glad that it wasn’t worse. You never know how you will react in a situation like that. Though it wasn’t at gunpoint, I was robbed once. The teen cornered me and pulled a screwdriver. It was in the afternoon in a safe area of town, I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s definitely a traumatic experience. I hope the rest of your time in Mexico is safe, and thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Thanks Casey. Like you said, it’s just bad luck and bad timing. It’s horrible that it happens, but same thing, glad that you were safe after your incident. They’re just things and your life really isn’t worth it.

  4. I just… I can’t even imagine how scary that must have been for both of you! I’m glad you shared the story, but also glad that you pointed out that you won’t let this guy ruin Mexico for you.

    Good on Pete for being smart enough under pressure to do the right thing!

    1. Thanks Amanda. It was scary. i’m surprised I was as calm as I was looking down the barrel of a gun. But the things were easy to let go of in the hopes that he would just let me walk away, which thankfully he did without incident.

  5. I was so sorry to hear about this. Having had guns pointed at me a few times in my life, I can attest to the fact that it’s an earth-shattering experience. Glad that Pete got out of it with his health intact, and minimal financial loss.

    1. Yikes, once is haunting enough for me, sorry to hear that you’ve had to deal with this on numerous occasions…

  6. So sorry to hear about your experience. Sounds terrifying. Hardest part is to move forward and not let this unfortunate event ruin your time. I hope that you are both well.

    1. Happy to say that this incident won’t hold us back Jen. We are moving forward and having a wonderful time in Guanajuato. Thanks for your support 🙂

  7. So glad you are alright Pete!
    I have yet to have anything this scary happen to me. I am sure it is a life changer but it can be for the better instead of becoming detrimentally fearful.

    1. I hope that something like this doesn’t to you, or to anybody for that matter. Thanks for the support Murissa 🙂

  8. I’m so glad he did the right thing, but what a scary experience (and a pain in the ass). This happens on a near-daily basis on the island I live on, and I hope no one tries to rob me because I’m super aggressive when confronted and will probably fight and then get hurt 🙁 Happy to hear you guys have a good support system there and that this won’t ruin Mexico for you.

    1. Hi Rika, after living in Roatán for six months, I understand what you are talking about. I just read the other day there of the cruise ship employee who didn’t give up his phone and was shot dead. Very sad.

      I hope something like this doesn’t happen to you in any of your travels. Thanks for the support.

  9. Yes, I got a little emotional too reading it. I guess if you travel long enough, something like that may well find you no matter how careful you are. These thieves are just coward a*holes. Glad to hear you’re both OK. I stopped travelling to Mexico after 2008 due to all the bad press, but would really like to go back!

    1. Thanks for the support Marie-France. Really it can happen anywhere, traveling or not. It comes down to bad luck and bad timing, wrong place at the wrong time.

      I don’t consider these ladrones coward assholes, in fact the jag was quite brave to rob me at that time of day in public view. But I do consider them desperate assholes. They see the tourists and all they see is dollar signs. It is crime of opportunity and when they are poor and in desperate need of money this is what they resort to. I hope the community will come together and try to implement measures to help reduce the chance of this occurrence from happening others. They need to.

    1. Firstly, I hope you are never in a situation like this Angela, but if you happen to be I hope that you would react the same and just give up what you have. It’s not worth the risk. Phones, money, passports, cameras are all replaceable. Life however is not. I just read a horrible story out of Roatán, Honduras the other day of a fellow who was being robbed at gunpoint and would not give up his iPhone. He was shot twice and died. No vale la pena.

  10. As I said on Facebook, I’m with you Dalene – SO GOOD that Pete just handed everything over. I’ve thought of you both often since you initially shared the story and am so grateful things ended the way they did. What really slays me is the level of desperation and violence for such a small return.

    1. Thanks Mara, your words and support mean a lot. I’m so thankful it was non-violent and that Dalene decided to stay home that morning. I can’t imagine her having to go through that ordeal. Like I’ve mentioned in previous comments, I hope the community comes together and finds a solution to help reduce incidents like this from happening to others. It’s definitely not good for their tourism.

  11. Man my heart is beating as I read your story. I think part of the frustration may be that this happened in Mexico but I’m happy to read your other stories that really paint an honest, beautiful picture of your surroundings! Great attitude. Enjoy the rest of your time, I’m enjoying reading about it 🙂

    1. Thanks Caro. I still have little flash backs to the incident. And yesterday we just read of another incident that happened in the same place and it brought back a wave of emotions. The community needs to come together and help to prevent these occurrences from happening to other people, otherwise bad times could be ahead. We’re not letting it hold us back in this beautiful country. We’re settled now in Guanajuato and really enjoying our time here.

  12. What a scary incident. I hope you are doing okay, Pete. I’m sure something like that will stick around for a long time. Very thankful that you are okay.

    1. Hey Kim, thanks for your wishes. I’m getting better, but certainly there are times where the wave of emotions come back. Reading last night of a similar incident at the same spot just a couple weeks ago brought back some of the feelings I initially went through. As much as it was bad luck, I have to say that since we have heard of a happening on more than one occasion. I hope the community comes together to help to prevent these sort of things happening to other tourists otherwise it won’t be good for that spot going forward.

  13. This story has brought me to tears. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. I’m just so glad that Pete and you, Dalene are safe and sound and carrying on and doing what you guys do best. Much love from Andy and I 🙂

    1. Thanks Becki. I am just happy that it was me and not Dalene. I’m so happy that she stayed in bed to sleep more that morning. We’re settled now in Guanajuato and things are back to normal. We’re loving it here and itching to explore more 🙂

  14. The sad thing is this kind of thing can happen anywhere, travelling or not. Okay, maybe not gunpoint, but similar things can happen anywhere. I’m glad you did the right thing.

  15. That must have been so terrifying for Pete. Being robbed is pretty bad, but at gunpoint is just so scary. I am so glad that nothing happened to Pete and I am glad that you are not giving up on Mexico and travelling because of one bad experience. Keep going guys and I can’t wait for our reunion somewhere in South America. There are still so many more weird things I need to eat/drink with Pete, such as frog juice here in Arequipa where we will be for the next 2 months. Fancy it? 😉

    1. Of course I fancy it!! I still remember our first steps into a South American market and the frogs they were throwing into the smoothies. I didn’t try one back then, but I’d probably try one now 🙂

      We’re not letting an incident such as this hold us back. Mexico is such a beautiful country and the number of wonderful experiences we’ve had easily outweighs this bad one. Chalk it up to bad luck, that’s all.

      Looking forward to the reunion 🙂

  16. That sounds incredibly, incredibly scary and, even though I’ve never met you guys in real life, I’m glad you’re OK. What a horrible thing to happen. I would just be beside myself with shock.

    It saddens me that these kind of things happen, and to be honest it scares me a little bit.

    But the main thing is that you’re OK. Thoughts are with you both

    1. Many thanks Beverley for your kind words and support. It’s notes like this that keep our spirits up and our resolve to keep going alive.

      Being a little scared is a good thing I think. I think it keeps us sharp and aware of our surroundings. I let my guard down that morning thinking that it couldn’t happen then and there. How wrong I was.

      The good thing is I’m ok, wasn’t hurt and can move forward. I wish something like this to happen to nobody, but if it does, just give up whatever they want. It’s not worth the risk of fighting for it.

      Looking forward to meeting up one day in real life and sharing a drink 🙂

      1. You’re right, I think it can be very tempting in these situations to try and fight it and not give up what they want; your phone, your money, your jewellery etc, but ultimately it’s the safest way to get away unharmed, I think.

        And yes, hopefully our paths will cross in the future for a drink or few 🙂

    1. Hi Bianca, I remember that post from long ago, loved that he got his laptop back. Unfortunately I did not have anything installed, but it was a dying phone anyway, hence why I didn’t really care. But the data inside I didn’t realize that you can set up to format if it’s an Android. Note to self for next time. Here’s the link >

    1. Sorry to hear Hannah, i hate hearing stories like this. Hopefully you were ok. I’ve heard stories of people getting injured by being dragged along by these moto-thieves. So many bad things can happen. Thanks for your support.

  17. Best part is that you understand that one person does not a country make. This could just as easily have happened in South Beach, Florida, Miami Beach in California, or anywhere else in the world. Just bad luck, and bad timing.

    Sucks to have it happen. I’ve jogged on some pretty remote sections of beach in Cancun and Playa del Carmen and never had any issues, but I don’t run with a cell phone, just a cheap MP3 player. To be honest, the phone, more than anything else, probably prompted it. After four years in Mexico, the HOTTEST ticket in terms of thefts are smart phones and tablets.

    I’ve read some truly brazen accounts of thieves who would probably otherwise never have looked twice simply because the target in question was toting a cell phone or tablet. With the more than double cost of electronics and taxes on purchasing unlocked phones here in Mexico, a simple 400 dollar Nexus, for example, costs around 1,000 USD in Mexico.

    Bearing that in mind, snagging a smart phone that they can pawn off for 8000-10,000 pesos or a tablet that they can get 12,000 to 15,000 pesos for = a single target can very well pay for 2-6 months worth of living expenses for an entrepreneurial thief.

    Most important thing is he’s safe and sound.

    1. I completely agree T.W. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have had the phone on me. I let my guard down and thought it couldn’t happen to me at that time of day. Lessons learned. It won’t hold us back from exploring the beauty of Mexico. Our wonderful experiences easily outweigh this one bad incident.

      All I can hope is that this community tries to come up with a solution to try and prevent this from happening to others. We’ve now heard multiple incidents of it happening in the same spot over the past couple weeks (the last a family of four was held up). If people are to feel safe going here, they’ll need to try to somehow prevent this from happening.

      Thanks for your comment and support.

  18. I’m sorry this happened to him, but it is very comforting to know that he did the right thing and nothing nasty came of it. You always assume that by taking out very few possessions and money with you that you’ll be ok, but someone who plans on taking advantage will always take advantage, I guess, no matter how small the reward.

    1. Thanks for your support Julia. It’s a combination of bad luck and me letting my guard down. The loss of these things is minimal in comparison with my life and that I’m safe. I hope it never happens again, but I’m pretty sure I would react the same if it did. It’s sad but these things do happen everywhere.

  19. Dalene and Pete, my god. I’ve been curious to hear this story since I first heard about the robbery on social media. Thank goodness Pete is okay, and the two of you are level-headed enough to not let it tarnish your views of Mexico and travel in general. As you and many others have said, it could happen anywhere — I’ve had my house broken into here in Toronto, which left me with nightmares for weeks after, but have never had anything nearly as traumatic as that happen to me while abroad.

    1. Tammy, thanks for the support. We’re both extremely thankful that the incident was non-violent and that I was able to walk away without physical injury. It really does leave a scar on your emotional being though. It certainly won’t impact our views on Mexico, not at all. We’re settled now in Guanajuato and loving it here.

  20. Scary indeed, I remember reading your tweet at that time and feeling a wave then. But he actually handled the whole issue remarkably well, its always better to part with some things rather then get shot or mugged for a few dollars.

    1. Exactly Arti. They’re just things. My life is way too valuable than losing those things. Thanks for your support my friend.

  21. It makes me angry when bad things happen to good people. Like everyone else, I’m just glad things were not worse. Also glad you’re not letting this change your view of Mexico. Keep on truckin’!

    1. Me too Jo, me too. I hate hearing stories like these when they happen to good people. But they happen and all I can hope for is that they are safe and not hurt.

      Thanks for your support and words 🙂

  22. Really sorry to hear this story but as you conclude correctly the main thing is that you are okay Pete.

    I dare say that no matter what precautions we take we are likely to be caught out at some point, home or abroad. I guess the gunman knew that spot was a vulnerable place for passersby.

    Sorry to hear of the jewellery, it sounds as though it is of some sentimental value and therefore irreplaceable.

  23. I know I posted on Facebook when you shared that this had happened, but I am just so glad that Pete is ok and that the only casualty of this whole ordeal was a few things that can (mostly) be replaced. You don’t have to tell me that you guys are pretty savvy and tend to keep your wits about you, so this just goes to show that things like this can (and do) happen to the best of us and when we least expect it. I’m so sorry to hear that your time in PE has this rather significant blemish on it, but really, so long as you two are both healthy and safe, that is what really matters.

  24. So scary! Glad you guys are okay. My car was broken into in Santiago, Chile a few years back and even though I was not there at the time (just around the corner, actually), the incident left me feeling terribly violated, angry and scared. I have talked with the victims of house robberies and pickpockets and they all say the same — even if the robbers take nothing of real value, you cannot underestimate the emotional toll of feeling that your safe space has been breached. I cannot imagine a robbery at gunpoint. I hope you are able to give yourself all the time you need to fully recover from the trauma. All the best!

  25. How scary this must have been! I often wonder how I’d react if ever put in a similar situation and hope that I would be as calm and clear headed. Though I definitely would have taken you up on that rum 🙂

  26. Wow this is SO intense. So happy Pete is Okay though, that is what really matters. What a strange and daring robbery it was, guy must have known the area well or scoped it out for a while. I’m sorry you both had to experience this!

  27. How extremely frightening. This is possibly my worst nightmare. It sounds like it couldn’t have been avoided though, Pete wasn’t doing anything silly. So glad he escaped unharmed.
    We are off to Mexico in a couple of months… loads of people have told us how dangerous it is but we always think you shouldn’t let your fear stop you from seeing the world.
    Good tip on changing your running routine each day though – we run and had never thought of that!

  28. Thanks for sharing this. It is too easy to think it won’t happen to you, but it can. Glad to hear you’re moving forward and feeling strong. I’m quite interested in seeing (and eating in) Mexico – seems a few long-term travellers are talking about it at the moment!

  29. Thanks for sharing your story as it reminds us not to carry smart phones in some areas that we travel. Believe it or not, this also happens in dicey parts of downtown San Francisco. Peds looking down at their phone while texting and poof! thief grabs the phone and sells it cheap on the streets of San Francisco.

    Glad you were not hurt.

  30. Just so lucky there was no more physical damage than some scratches. Great story. You never know when or where. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Wow, I can’t believe I missed this– goes without saying, but so so happy nothing worse happened to Pete. Man, I can so picture him defiantly going to the store for milk! You guys be safe out there in the world <3

  32. So sorry to hear about your experience! I’ve also only had one scary incident on the road, and like Pete, it was somewhere you wouldn’t expect a problem. Ironically, it’s those moments when you probably let your guard down a little bit more. I’m glad that everyone is okay and that you won’t let this keep you down but hearing that you’ve had tremendous support is important.

  33. Holy crap. What a crazy story! Thankfully Pete wasn’t harmed, but I can imagine how that would shake a person up. Thank you for sharing this story.

  34. What a hair raising experience. I got a bit freaked out reading it! I’ve had my share of tight spots while travelling, but I can’t imagine having a gun pointed at me. Glad Pete wasn’t hurt. Thanks for the post.

  35. I was born and raised in Guatemala City and I am so saddened for the way the “war on drugs” have made Mexico, Central America and Colombia such dangerous places. I hope governments start realizing that as long as there will be consumers in North America and Europe buying those drugs, there will be suppliers for them. Innocent people caught in the middle. I know it is a complex issue. Glad you are ok.

  36. I’m from México and I’m very sorry to hear this story, hoping that the experience didn’t change your vision or idea of my amazing country. As a mexican I can tell that we do have safety issues that need to be fixed, but we also have incredible people willing to help 24/7.
    I can identify with this story, as I’m currently living in Brazil, my friends and I also got robbed in Rio during Carnival and it sucked. It was my first time out of my country, the first two weeks in Brazil and we struggled to continue our trip without being scared or without trying to modify our plans because of that.
    If you have plans coming here I would love to meet you! Sending you the best vibes on your journey, as I admire both of you.

  37. sucks to happen..a price for capitalism and international inequities where people in one country earn on average let’s say 20 times as m

    uch as those in another..

  38. Wow I had no idea! I’m so glad Pete’s okay. I can’t believe he made a milk run after all this and still have such a positive outlook on Mexico. It is a beautiful country but like every place, the world will always have bad apples and you’re right, we can’t let it change who we are.

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