The Quest for Knowledge

My educational journey, from elementary to grad school

Elementary School.

It all began in the year 2000, in Brisbane, Australia. I was five when I started at Indooroopilly State School, and in the same year, my little sister, Zoe, was born. The following year, my family moved to Sydney, and I started at Birchgrove Public School, which sat on the edge of the Paramatta River, overlooking the Cockatoo Island Prison.
I remember one lunchtime at Birchgrove where a couple of friends and I emptied a bin on top of a car out the front of the school. We mustn’t have been too sly because we ended up in the principal’s office and as it turned out, it was the principal’s car that copped the contents of the bin. That day, barely seven years old, I got my first school suspension.

Relative to other capital cities in Australia, Sydney is by far the biggest and most heavily populated, resulting in significantly lower air quality than what we were used to after living in Queensland. Zoe, who had been suffering from health complications since birth, soon also began to have respiratory issues which prompted our move back to Brisbane. Upon returning to Brisbane, I also returned to Indooroopilly State School for the start of my third school year.

I had no interest in class. But I’d found a love of drawing and art, filling all of my books with cartoons and graffiti. I could sit through a whole school day scribbling in my books and not take in a word the teacher said, which has continued right up until this very day. I’ve just learned to multitask better since.

In 2004, for the start of my fourth year at Indooroopilly State, the school decided to trial an all-boy class, which I was ecstatic about being selected for; however, this was nothing but a social experiment where they took all the problem and at-risk kids and threw them in a classroom with a few of the normals. And I can say this because I was one of the problem kids. We would go out and play cricket or rugby every morning, video games during the day, then go out for more sport again in the afternoon, while somehow trying to fit schoolwork into the day. Unfortunately, I found myself sidelined for all of the school camps, surf trips and sports carnivals in the year due to my behaviour. But I didn’t even make it to the end of the year before I was expelled from Indooroopilly State School.

High School.

Going from a school of 500 to a school of 1500 took a lot of getting used to. My new German boarding school, St Peters Lutheran College, was more than five times the size of Indooroopilly. With my classes scattered all over the campus, I was late to almost every single one of them while learning my way around. It was great to now have access to fancy art, technology, language and sporting facilities at my new school, but staying in line was something that I hadn’t yet been able to come to terms with. By the time I was thirteen, I’d been suspended three times from St Peters, and they were already threatening to kick me out. But at least I’d found Rugby.

Rugby is a fascinating game that requires all sorts of skills and player profiles for a team to be successful. Doesn’t matter how big or small, or uncoordinated, you are, there’s a position on the rugby field that’s right for you. To many, it’s quite a barbaric sport. But really, it’s quite the opposite. Yes, there are physical, and very physical components to the game, which often result in injuries, or on some freak occasions, even deaths. It is, however, the mental aspect of the game that one must understand to truly appreciate the sport.

If you play a game of Rugby, with heart, there isn’t a possibility that you won’t be hurt during, or afterwards. Whether it’s from muscle stress or fatigue or taking heavy contact from your opponent, you will experience some sort of pain during that 80 minutes. I know, so far this doesn’t sound very appealing, but bear with me. The beauty of rugby is that there are 30 players divided into two teams, and every position is just as critical to the success of the team as the next. There are always gifted players that heavily influence the end result of a game, but unless every single player in the team knows their role, as well as the roles of the players next to them, the team will never taste victory.

I have never experienced such a show of determination and willpower than when I’ve seen my teammates rally together in the dying minutes of a game and give every ounce of energy and strength they have left for their mates around them. This is true strength. When your body is telling you that you can’t continue, and you carry on anyway, that is when you begin to learn about yourself and your body’s true capabilities. No sport gives you more of an understanding of what it means to be a team than Rugby, and for this, I will always be grateful. I am also grateful for all of my bloody injuries and broken bones that came from the battlefield, these experiences planted the seed which became the idea that pain is superficial and, you can withstand more than you could ever give yourself credit for.

In saying this, you don’t need any sport to help you get physically or mentally fit. Working towards your health and fitness-related goals is just a lot easier when you do it through something you love.

I played college Rugby from my first until my last year at St. Peters. But my schoolyard etiquette would find me sidelined from several games throughout the years. By the time I was in senior school, I had a reputation with many of the students and almost every teacher but, it was nothing to be bragging about. I had the reputation of a wild card, willing to do anything that could cause a reaction. Sometimes it was laughs, fun and games, but others it was a little more sinister and often at someone else’s expense. But I had learned a lot about what I could and couldn’t get away with at St. Peters so, I there were fewer encounters with the school authorities.

Around this time, a few of my friends had started smoking cannabis before, during, and after school, which I then started doing, occasionally, for a little excitement and to make my classes a little more bearable. I thought it was pretty harmless compared to some of the other stuff I’d heard about, but it couldn’t have had any positive effects on my young mind. This was also around the time I started going to parties and experimenting with alcohol, often drinking more than my body could handle. I spent the next two years trying to find a balance between all of my new experiences, while also trying to keep my grades up at the same time.

Anyone who went to school in Australia would have heard the term “Muck Up Day.” This is believed by some to be a right of passage on the last school day where the soon-to-be graduates create mischief within their school, and others, depending on how passionate they are about the occasion. Around this time, just before my graduation in 2011, our school, along with many others in the area, brought in additional security and notified police to be alert. These were efforts to dissuade potential troublemakers from coming onto school property late at night but, it didn’t stop the artist of a 15-meter penis, painted on our concrete our chapel forecourt, or the group that decided to storm the study centre before locking the all the doors and starting a rave, all quite harmless in comparison to some of the other stories out there. My afternoon ended on a lower note though, crashing my car into school property while leaving campus. I fled the scene but, they’d already called mum by the time I got home. Apparently, I was lucky to have graduated.

During high school, I had no interest in the schoolwork but, thankfully, by the time I finished, I’d gained some experience from working jobs in construction, hospitality, and retail. I was seventeen when I left school, my family home, and any further financial support that I was ever hoping for.

PT College.

I was working part-time at a pet shop before finishing at St. Peters. When I was finally free from school, I transitioned into a full-time role. I loved the job. All I had to do was look after all of the animals and give advice to customers about animals. If someone wanted some beautiful, young, free-range laying hens, I was the guy they came to speak to. I was also playing Rugby and getting pretty serious about it, I’d been training hard for over a year and increased my weight, fitness and strength exponentially.

My passion for sport, health and fitness led me to look into exercise, sport and nutrition programs at the university I was playing Rugby for; however, the grades I finished high school with did not allow me to enter any of the programs I was interested in. I was still playing, refereeing, and coaching Rugby when I was referred, by Queensland Rugby Union, to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers, to complete my certifications in fitness and personal training. For six months I studied the basics of anatomy and exercise physiology while completing an internship at a local gym before I was awarded the certificates III & IV in Fitness, which accredited me as an Australian personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Now it was time to make some money.

You usually don’t earn too much when first embarking out as a personal trainer, as I found out after starting ‘Hansford Personal Training’ and renting space within a little suburban gym.

For three months, I was spending more money on rent than I was earning from training clients, so I was lucky to have kept my job at the pet shop to still have an income. I had also been certified as a boxing instructor and when my business started gaining traction, I was invited to begin working with Fitness First, a corporate fitness centre with access to more clients with more money to spend. It was an exciting opportunity, which I had to take but, I soon found out that moving from a gym with four staff members to a gym with fifteen personal trainers, where I was the youngest and least experienced, was not an easy transition.

The competition was high and, I struggled to make money within the gym, turning to outdoor training sessions and other sources of income to pay the rent, which was almost double what my previous gym was asking.

When my contract ended, I was fortunate enough to be offered a role within the gym with a salary and no expenses payable, which I gladly accepted. Running my own business gave me a taste of the real world and how much I still had to learn. I also realised that I wasn’t really interested in putting in the effort to become a top-class personal trainer, so I looked again to my study options.

The University of Queensland.

In 2013 I commenced a Bachelor of Business Management at the University of Queensland. Up until this point, I didn’t really know that university was more about parties and social events than it was about going to classes. You get graded on your ability to research and regurgitate information, while learning to balance your chores and co-curriculars at the same time. My commitments to both work and Rugby made finding time to study a little harder but, once I developed a routine and some time management skills, I managed to survive the first year without too much difficulty.

At the start of the next year, before the Rugby season had even started, I suffered a shoulder injury which resulted in me deciding to sit the first half of the season out. Initially, I thought that with one less commitment I would be able to complete my schoolwork to a higher standard, but I soon learned the positive impact a sport like Rugby has on your life. After withdrawing from my competition, and more than fifteen hours per week of training, I become restless with my sleeping and began to lose focus in class. It didn’t help when I started combatting the sleeping difficulties with alcohol either.

It wasn’t long before my lifestyle contradicted everything I knew about health and fitness. I began a routine of non-stop substance abuse from Friday to Sunday, sometimes dragging it out until Monday or Tuesday if I could get away with it. I met a lot of people when I was frequenting different clubs, bars and parties in Brisbane. It also didn’t take long before I had a reputation as someone you could come to if you needed anything. But this did me no favours. You don’t do your homework when you’re out late at night, and you don’t go to class when you’re in bed battling the dark thoughts that fill your mind after days of inflicting chemical trauma on your body. My grades started slipping but, I didn’t care, I was too busy having fun. Even after multiple arrests and pending trafficking charges, I managed to juggle my co-curriculars with my schoolwork until the end of 2015, when everything finally caught up with me.

I’d been involved with some small-time gangsters which came to an end after a series of chaotic and unfortunate events left some of my associates in a bad way with worse people. I’d also just found out that ‘Papi’ the Somalian in the above video, had been using my car to hide firearms so, I cut all ties when they asked me for a “loan.”

I didn’t lend them the money so they came after me to take it. I was taken, tied up and tortured overnight. It was a pretty horrible ordeal which landed me in hospital and the news headlines. I was pretty shaken up so during my recovery, I decided to withdraw from my university studies and figure out what I was doing with my life.

I became interested in real estate after completing several property subjects as part of my undergraduate studies at UQ. To continue my professional development while taking some time off university, I enrolled in a short course that certified me as a real estate agent in Australia. About a week later, I had my certificate and was applying for all the real estate positions I could find. Fortunately for me, some of the courses I’d already completed as part of my university major looked great on my CV so, I was getting a few calls for interviews. Unfortunately for me, most of the interviews ended shortly after the hiring person asked me about why I was all over the news a few months back. I was even given job offers at two separate firms, which, to my disappointment, both were later retracted. It was only when I met with the director of Harcourts Southwest Brisbane and made a good impression, that I was given my shot at a career in real estate.

Fast forward a few months and I’d gotten myself into a healthy routine. I had an income, some close friends, and I was on talking terms with my family, which meant at the very least I was getting some good advice when I needed it. It was time to go back to school though, so in the middle of 2016, I went back to UQ and pretty much just picked up where I had left off.

Looking back on that year, I learned one lesson I’ll never forget, YOU are the company you keep. To all who knew me through these times – I know it shouldn’t have taken what it did for me to realise that what I was doing was just complete self-destruction, but hey, better late than never.

I felt like this was my second chance to do things right. My attendance was a lot higher and anything I missed in class I made a big effort to catch up on at home. I made some friends in my program, some of whom I am still close with to this day. We created a support network where over the next year and a half we would spend dozens of sleepless nights together, working in the university libraries. It’s incredible how much you can fit into a day when you have a good routine in place but, even so, university for me was not without its struggles. I completed the subjects of law, economics, marketing, finance, and management with relatively little difficulty, as you could basically pass just by thoroughly reading the content. But the property valuation and development subjects were different. Their assessments were based around feasibility studies and creating a series of formulas on hundred page excel spreadsheets. For me, this was nothing short of a nightmare and I can’t thank my crazy Argentinian friend, Federico, enough, for creating our study group and pulling me through our final months at UQ. I honestly would have been lost without him.

In mid-2018, I graduated from the University of Queensland with a bachelor of business management, real estate and property development. A huge achievement for me. Another noteworthy achievement for me was that from when I picked up my studies again in 2016 until my graduation in 2018, 50% of the grades I was awarded were distinctions (six out of seven on the grade scale). I could write pages of praise about my experiences at UQ. From the sports programs to the facilities, teachers and course delivery, it was all first class. Though I never really realised how good education in Australia was until I decided to study in the capital of Cataluña.

Maritime College.

After spending a good part of my life close to the sea, I only discovered the joys of sailing on a few island hopping and camping adventures around Southeast Queensland during my time at university. I have always loved driving motorboats and my fathers 4-metre aluminium ‘tinny’, but sailing was very new to me. After graduating from UQ, I travelled through Europe with some friends, and we ended up in Croatia on a catamaran, all to ourselves. Only, we were in a flotilla with 50 other yachts and island hopping to different party destinations. It was wild. During that week I also realised that I’d make a pretty good skipper so, when I found out I was moving to Barcelona, I started looking for maritime colleges.

It wasn’t long before I found MT Sail & Power, a family run sailing school operating out of Port Vell in the middle of Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella. I hadn’t even recovered from the jet lag before I was on their boat as crew, spectating a Yachtmaster training group. It was during the group’s final sessions before undertaking their practical exam and, we went out to complete some open water manoeuvres and emergency response situations before practising docking in different ports along the coast. It was intense, but I loved it and knew I was ready to have a go myself.

For the next few months, I was focused solely on studying the ins and outs of sailing, navigation and meteorology, while also completing regular passages around the Spanish part of the Mediterranean. I was able to see all of the coastline from Costa Brava down to Dénia, slightly south of Valencia, before travelling through the Balearic Islands. We stopped for several days in Ibiza, then Mallorca, before the short passage back to Barcelona. It was a lot of fun and, after three months of intense training and five theoretical exams, I was now ready to go for the Yachtmaster license. After a short theoretical question session with the examiner, who had been flown in by the RYA to supervise our exam, we went out into the Mediterranean to commence the exam, which lasted about eight hours. It was extremely challenging, but all three of the students in my group passed, and we went out to celebrate by doing what sailors do best. Drinking.

A few months earlier, I had applied for the Quarterdeck Skipper Academy in Croatia, where they train the captains and hostesses for The Yacht Week charters. I had completed all of the interview stages and my placement in the program was just pending my attainment of the Yachtmaster certifications, which I now had. So I flew into Split, along with 40 other skippers and hostesses from all over the world, and began nine days of skipper training in the Adriatic Sea. The skippers’ course took everything we had learned during the Yachtmaster training, which I was still trying to master, and added on several different components required when operating as a charter skipper in a flotilla, for long periods of time. We had to learn and practice many different mooring and rafting situations, often in extreme conditions, which are common in this region of the Adriatic. It was an incredible experience. Far more challenging than most of us could have imagined, but we were all glad to have made it to the end.

It’s a tough gig being on call 24 hours a day for a whole week straight, in a situation where you’re responsible for the lives of your guests, who are usually just smashing drugs and/or alcohol the whole time. It’s also pretty likely that at some point, something is going to go wrong. Then when the week is over, you start again, the same day with a new crew. I honestly don’t know how long I would have lasted in this situation while trying to party at the same time. But I think the academy instructors had the same thoughts as I did not go on to skipper for The Yacht Week that season. They said it was due to my lack of experience as a captain. I think it was more to do with the reputation that our two boats full of crazy Aussies had earned during my first visit to Croatia. Either way, it was probably for the best as I was ready to party harder than my guests. But I went back to Barcelona, heartbroken, instead.

I learned a lot from ‘failing’ the skipper academy in Croatia. Before then, I had a sense of arrogance and complacency that I’d created through coasting to most of my achievements. I always achieved what I set out to do, but I never really had to work hard for it, which is why it came as such a shock for me when I was told that I wouldn’t go on to skipper for The Yacht Week that year. This failure hit hard, but it wasn’t long before I had my sights set on another opportunity.
After being called in as a relief skipper for a short voyage around Barcelona, and apparently doing a great job, I was then called back on several occasions to continue skippering for the charter company. I had a great time in this role, sailing and looking after the guests, who were always from far and wide with an interesting story to tell. But this came to an end with the summer season, when Cyndi and I returned to Australia.

We planned to return to Spain, so I could find a permanent role onboard a yacht in early 2020, but nothing could have prepared us for what 2020 had in store.

Post Grad, Cataluña.

After months of waiting for Australia’s borders to reopen, while fighting the government for permission to leave, my partner and I were finally able to return to Spain in the middle of the year, and the European summer. But we returned to empty streets and very few businesses still operating in Barcelona. The city had been closed for tourists and under heavy lockdown conditions which it had not yet recovered from; there was still no one around.

I was too late, all the yachts were either locked down in a marina or drifting around at sea, trying to find a country that would let them in.
As Barcelona’s tourism in 2020 died with Covid, so did my yachting season and I began looking at other opportunities for work and professional development. This search led me to several postgraduate study options and I decided to enrol in the International MBA program with EAE Business School and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

The main reason for enrolling in this program was that public university admissions had closed for similar programs, narrowing down my options. The chosen dual master program awards a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from UPC, and a Master of International Business (MIB) from EAE, but comes with a nineteen thousand Euro price tag. When I heard the cost, I told my admissions counsellor that there was no way I could afford, or find value in paying for this program and that we would conclude our business together there. But Mr Pau was a well-trained salesman. After giving the whole EAE sales pitch the one thing that stuck with me was that the school finances almost all of the program fees and then immediately, based on your skillset, arranges employment with one of their many professional partners.

So they loan you the money for two separate masters degrees and then help you to pay it back by giving you a job? After about four months of unsuccessful job hunting, that sounded incredible.

I had been promised great success from day one. But the moment I paid the deposit for my placement in the program was the moment everyone from EAE vanished. For nearly two weeks, I was calling and emailing the school trying to get in contact with Mr Pau, who would just direct me to someone else who would refuse to talk to me. I was denied any further assistance as Mr Pau continued to tell me that it was no longer his job to help me and even started laughing when I expressed my disappointment with both him and the school. I had my suspicions before, but that was the moment I really felt like the whole setup was a scam. So I immediately pulled my enrollment to pursue a more trustworthy institution.

Read what myself and other students have to say about EAE, here.

After a careful analysis of the current economic climate, as well as my new professional and study options, I have decided to enrol into the University of Barcelona for 2021. After being offered placements in both the Master of International Business, and the Master of Marketing and Sustainability programs, I have chosen to proceed with the first, due to it being offered in English. I am looking forward to starting the next chapter of my educational journey in a world-class institute that was born in the fourteenth century.

Until commencing the masters program, I will be largely focused on writing, as well as a managerial role within an international property services agency. This is just a summary of my educational journey so far and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences from the never-ending quest for self-improvement.

Paz, amor y buena salud.

5 Tips For Safety in Barcelona

Everything you need to know about staying safe amidst the theft and crime in Barcelona.

There’s something truly magical about the capital of Cataluña. Whether it’s the energy in the streets from the mountains down to the sea, or the architecture, music and arts that people flock from around the globe to experience.

Everyone wants a taste of the Mediterranean lifestyle and, after arriving in Barcelona for the first time, it doesn’t take long to understand why.

skip to the tips

I first came to Spain in the Summer of 2018. I’d just finished my undergraduate studies and was meeting a few friends in Barcelona to embark on a five-week trip through Europe. Having come from Brisbane, which is more of a big country town than a city, I was in awe of absolutely everything I saw in Barcelona. From the first day I arrived, I knew that I would be back one day to live. Fast forward 7 months and I was on a plane heading back to Spain.

The most valuable piece of advice that I was given when I first arrived in Barcelona was to protect your belongings and keep your phone out of sight. After two years in the Catalan capital, this is the first thing I would tell anyone who is looking for advice.

I saw more robberies during my first six months in Barcelona than I did over 24 years in Australia. Most of the thieves are swift, vanishing before their victim even has a chance to realise they’ve been robbed. It works easily when there are seas full of unsuspecting tourists everywhere and absolutely no criminal charges for robbing another person in broad daylight. But many don’t fear being seen. They roam around in groups, looking for absolutely anyone they can overpower to take bags, phones, watches, and anything of value from.

Since the initial Covid outbreak there have been several distressing videos released which show such crimes taking place. The video below, which sums things up well, is of an English tourist, who is begging to get into a taxi after being targeted a group of Maghrebi men. The guy is absolutely terrified, but the driver denies the man entry and tells him to get into another car, which to no surprise, is being guarded by the assailants. The tourist enters the taxi, closely followed by the three others who then proceed to assault and rob him.

English tourist having his watch taken by thieves. The taxi drivers facilitate these robberies daily.

During my first visit to Barcelona in 2018, in the very same place the above video was captured, my friends and I got into a taxi to return home after a night out. My good mate, Doug, got into the front seat, and I witnessed him holding his phone at multiple points during the journey home. When we arrived and went to get out of the taxi, Doug’s phone was nowhere to be seen. We turned the car upside down before the thieving driver started getting pretty aggressive. So Doug accepted that his phone was gone and we went home without it.

Another one of my close mates came to visit in 2019. As it was when I was preparing for my Yachtmaster exam, I stayed home one evening that he went out to see the city. After meeting a guy in a bar, near the infamous La Rambla, and talking for just a few minutes, my friend, Lachie, realised the moment that the man’s hand was sliding out of his pocket with his iPhone.

In efforts to save his mobile phone, Lachie grabbed the mans hand and tried to wrestle it back from him. But the man calmly told him that he shouldn’t try anything as they were surrounded by the thief’s accomplices and my friend had no chance of winning this fight. They then escorted him to a cash machine where Lachie purchased the phone back from the thief for 200€, only to have it stolen again not two days later.

My partner also had her phone stolen three times in the space of two months in Barcelona. Once with violence, where she was hit in the head by the thief from behind, and on the other two occasions, on the metro and a restaurant terrace where the thieves were gone before anyone realised what had happened.

These are just the stories from those who are close to me, some of the other victims of robberies here have not been so fortunate though. It was also around this time that a report surfaced which detailed the fatal stabbing of a young woman in a Port Olympic nightclub. All for an iPhone. story

While I don’t agree with the title, this video is just a prime example of how some of the opportunists prowl the streets in search of victims, before using distractions to execute their crimes.
Again, forgive the title but you can probably start to see a pattern here. This is one of many instances of groups executing robberies with violence, which happens all too often here in Barcelona.

The thieves you see in the videos are just opportunist cowards who, for their own safety, will only ever hunt in groups. They are usually looking for phones, wallets, bags and jewellery in areas that they can make a quick offload and escape; but, wallets and bags will usually just be emptied and discarded nearby. Most are actually quite scared of being confronted though, even though their crimes usually carry no punishments if they get caught.

So how do you avoid becoming a victim or a target altogether?

5 Tips for safety in Barcelona:

A high percentage of Barcelona’s crime is isolated to an area that I’m going to call the Red Zone. Ciutat Vella, meaning old city, is one of Spain’s most frequently visited tourist destinations for so many reasons. It is also one of the countries’ worst areas for crime, covering more than half of the Red Zone on the map below. This is an area where particular caution is required, but this is also no secret to most people who visit Barcelona. My advice for anyone who doesn’t want to become a robbery Victim in Barcelona is simple.

Map of Barcelona showing areas where particular caution is advised at all times. Raval, Gotic & Born are the tourist and crime hotspots.
The Red Zone encapsulates the area between Gran Via and the sea, as well as Avinguda del Paral·lel to Glòries. Although crime is by no means limited to this area, extra caution should be taken here at all times.

1: Be cautious in the Red Zone, especially at night

The Red Zone houses some of Spain’s most frequently visited tourist destinations and is also home to some of the Barcelona’s best-known places to eat, drink and dance. It is also the quarters for numerous mafia presences within the city who continuously fight for control of the area, causing the occasional death and regular episodes of violence, predating my arrival in Spain.

Drug factions of different nationalities can often be seen fighting on the streets, and many flats are being stolen from their rightful occupants and converted into narcopisos. After living in the area for over a year, I recommend anyone visiting exercise caution at all times.

If you frequent this area alone, especially late at night, then it’s worth considering Pepper Spray as a pocket-sized deterrent for someone trying to harm you. It’s cheap and readily available from surplus stores around the city and best of all, completely legal to carry. A little tin of spice juice could give you the time you need to escape a nasty situation, as long as you don’t blind yourself first. It’s worth noting that just being careful with your belongings and not talking to strangers who approach you will keep you quite safe also.

2: Try not to look like a tourist

Guiris‘ stand out in Barcelona and, as the locals aren’t overly receptive of tourists, thieves can happily live off their prizes from robbing them. As long as the thieves don’t rob the Catalans, they can go about their business with little resistance from most locals.

Tourists are by far the biggest target for thieves in Barcelona, and that’s the way the locals like it. People here do not speak English unless they come from overseas, and out of principle, many of the Catalan people do not even speak Spanish unless they absolutely must. For this reason, just a basic understanding of Spanish can get you very far in Barcelona. Whether you are asking for help or directions, or even trying to file a police report, you are not going to get help in any language that isn’t Spanish or Catalan. I was very fortunate to have a partner that speaks Spanish fluently but, if I could change one thing, it would be putting much more effort into learning castellano when I first arrived.

Life here in Barcelona is a lot more enjoyable when you can communicate with the people around you. I also regularly hear stories from people who have had their passports stolen while on holiday in Barcelona and unfortunately, if you don’t speak any Spanish then you will get no help from the authorities, and getting home can turn into a horror story in itself.

3: Travel light and keep your essentials close

This one depends a bit more on where you are going and what you are doing. I personally try to avoid going anywhere with more than just my wallet, phone, and keys, but, I understand that not everyone can be in the same boat. Just try to keep your valuables close to your body and out of sight and never put your phone or bag down on, or under, a table if sitting outside. My partner had her phone swiped from a restaurant table of four people, and no one even saw it happen. These guys are quick so, don’t give them a chance. In my honest opinion, Bum Bags and Satchels are incredibly underrated when it comes to keeping your personal belongings safe.

4: Go easy on the jewellery

There are eyes on most of the busy pedestrian areas and metro stations observing what people are wearing and carrying. If the patrolling thieves see something they like, they’ll follow the owner until they can try and take it. Watches seem to be one of the biggest targets in Barcelona, as seen from two of the videos above. Here is another video from 2020 where a group of men attack a Brazilian tourist and try to remove his watch outside a hotel in the Gotic Quarter. Luckily, they failed. But it still would have been a horrible welcome to Barcelona for this family.

Another recent instance was a Russian footballer who was wearing a flashy watch in a Port Olympic nightclub while in town for a match with his team. The wrong people saw the watch and the Russian went home without it. But that’s just how it goes here. As a watch lover, it hurts to say this, but don’t wear a fancy piece on your wrist unless you’re prepared to lose it. These guys are trained professionals and know how to spot something worth stealing. One of my partner’s friends got held up at gunpoint for some expensive shoes she was wearing while walking next to La Rambla. I guess that was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but if you’re not wearing thousands of dollars for people to see, then you’re far less likely to become a target.

5: Don’t trust people, trust your instincts

I hate to say this because I’m a friendly guy who loves making friends and connections everywhere I go, but don’t be too trusting of anyone you don’t know. I’ve found Barcelona to be quite a cold place at times, especially for foreigners. Even businesses and restaurants can be very unwelcoming at the best of times, so be extra careful of anyone that comes up to you on the street, who’s overly friendly or asking for help, as I can guarantee that its just a distraction for someone approaching you out of sight. Also, watch out for anyone that offers you drugs or membership to a coffee shop, these guys are also everywhere and no more trustworthy the thieves. Just ignore them and move on.

The element of surprise is all these cowards really have in most robbery attempts, so if you can see them coming, then you should be able to foil their plans. It doesn’t take long to figure out whether or not someone is out to cause harm, and on the occasion that I get that gut feeling of danger, I make sure whoever looks suspicious knows that I’m confidently watching them and ready for whatever they want to throw at me. If you have a bad feeling about a person or situation, trust it, ten times out of ten. Your body never lies.

Pepper Spray is a handy tool in defence and can be found in surplus stores throughout Barcelona. It is also perfectly legal to carry.

Staying safe in Barcelona isn’t too difficult as long as you understand the potential threats and dangers. This alone gives you a much greater chance of resolving undesirable situations to achieve desirable outcomes. Be aware of your belongings, situation, and surroundings, and always be alert. Like I said earlier though, if you do wish for that little bit of extra protection then Pepper Spray is definitely my go-to (I don’t let Cyndi leave home without it). But simply being alert and realising that someone may have harmful intentions can often be enough to foil their plans.

Most of the city is quite safe, but it’s always a good idea to be careful when visiting an area you’re unfamiliar with. Exercising caution can be as simple as keeping your valuables secure, but goes as far as always being aware of your surroundings, exit strategies, or emergency responses to certain situations.

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Staying safe in Barcelona is easy, if you know what to look out for. Harrison has been a resident of this city since 2019 and aims to help others have a safe and enjoyable experience in this magical city.