Neoka and her sister Prinita are from Cape Town, on the coast of South Africa. They are seasoned travellers who have unfortunately experienced theft in the past. When Prinita saw the RiutBag - safe backwards backpack - she thought it was a great idea. She then read the story of the creation of the RiutBags - Sarah Giblin's idea, leaving her job to prototype and crowd fund it - and decided that she would buy three for her, her sister and other family members.
Climate change traveller: RiutBag theft
Working on global climate change policy, Neoka travelled to Bonn in Germany with her new RiutBag R25. After many trips already this year and two successful weeks in Bonn, she and her colleagues celebrated in a German bar. The group left their backpacks in a large pile, thinking they'd be safe. They weren't. On Friday night (19 May 2017) two backpacks were stolen - one was Neoka's R25.
She was devastated for so many reasons. The RiutBag R25 had held her laptop, work documents, house keys and passport; she was due to travel to Senegal next and still needed a visa. The R25 was also a brand new present from her sister. Alongside the pressing concern about how to get home she even thought: "Oh no! Now I have to return to my rubbish khaki rucksack with zips on the outside. I'll probably get robbed straight from my back now!"
Emergency embassy visit: Berlin
Berlin was a the nearest place she could organise an emergency passport. Her sister Prinita lives there so they met up. When Neoka told her sister about the awful events, Prinita was gutted. She had bought the RiutBag to let her sister feel safe on her travels. And now it was gone.
In a stroke of genius, Prinita wrote to Riut: "I'm a huge fan of the RiutBag and its story. My sister's new RiutBag R25 has just been stolen in Bonn! We're getting her travel documents sorted in Berlin. I can't afford to buy a second one just now. Do you have any faulty or damaged RiutBag R25s that I can give to my sister at a reduced rate? Maybe we can get it sent here."
How can we solve this?
This bold and unusual request made it all the way to Sarah Giblin, founder of Riut and RiutBag designer. She had just returned to Europe from her factory trip to China and, by complete chance, happened to be in Berlin too. A little jet lagged, she read the email from Claire in the customer support team. "Is there anything we can do for Neoka? And where are you?" Sarah looked down at her own R25 and said: "I'll reply to Prinita. If she'll have it, she can give her sister my personal R25. It's after experiencing theft of any kind that people feel most vulnerable."
It worked. Within an hour the three RiutBag users were sitting together having tea and sharing their best and worst travel stories.
Sarah Giblin, RiutBag designer, says: "It's true. I can't stop thieves stealing your whole backpack - my superpowers don't go that far. But I can help you feel and be safer when your backpack is on your back." In 2014 Sarah left her job to create the RiutBag: the backwards backpack for secure city travel. With a conventional backpack, the person behind you can open your backpack more easily than you can. That seems wrong in today's mobile, tech-reliant world. Over 2,500 Kickstarter backers came together to help Sarah create the RiutBag and help make travel safer for thousands of RiutBag users all over the world.
Sarah went on: "My mantra is Revolution in user thinking, aka Riut. When I saw that message today, I thought: what is the most decent thing I can do for this RiutBag user? There's not enough time to send a new RiutBag R25 from England and I'm not travelling anywhere that I need an R25 this week. By unbelievable chance we're all in the same place. And out of this miserable event, perhaps I can put at least one thing right."
Neoka can now keep focusing on climate change and travel safe with Sarah Giblin's personal RiutBag R25. A friend is organising a laptop for her and her passport is being replaced. She'll have a lock smith waiting when she reaches her home in Cape Town. It's frustrating, upsetting and causes so many problems when these things happen. But, with the support of her sister and a few good deeds here and there, together we found a silver lining or two.
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Sarah's tips: how to keep your backpack safe in busy bars and clubs when your RiutBag isn't your back
1) Don't leave your phone or wallet in your back pocket. It's so obvious that there is the outline of a wad of cash - in the form of money in a wallet or in an easily sold phone. It seems like a classic look, but it too often ends in tears. Put your wallet in an inside breast pocket or a small backpack like the RiutBag Crush.
2) In a group, there's sometimes a feeling than you can leave your backpacks in a pile somewhere. That's fine at a house party but just not in public. Unless your group is blocking the access to those backpacks, it doesn't work. This is precisely how Neoka's RiutBag R25 - and so many other people's belongings - go missing.
3) If you're sitting at a table in a bar, keep your bag by your feet or between your knees, not on the backpack of a chair. You've got plenty of important things in there so keep them near. It's the best way to be able to relax, enjoy the evening and go home with everything you brought.
4) If you get the chance, try not to bring your important things out. Leave larger items like laptops and work bags at the hotel or int he boot of the car if available. Only take what you need with you in a smaller bag. Now that it exists, I take just my phone, passport, wallet and keys with me and keep it on my back in my RiutBag Crush if I'm in a busy bar.