September 17, 2018

Core Story 10: Colombian Bus Fiasco

I was telling you last time about arriving in Argentina, and the challenges of travelling alone…

As the weeks ticked past I spent a lot of time in hostels and cheap hotels. You would hear stories through the grapevine about travellers being robbed – held at gunpoint even.

The closest I came to being robbed was entirely of my own doing…

Towards the end of my trip I was travelling in Colombia with two friends I had met. We were on a bus between the Caribbean cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta. From Santa Marta we were planning to do a three day hike up into the Andes to La Ciudad Perdida – The Lost City.

It was a stiflingly hot day in December. I had relaxed on the bus as we travelled through beautiful countryside. After about two hours the bus ground to a halt in the city of Barranquilla, where a guard got on.

“Cambio! Cambio! Cambio!” he shouted quickly. Change buses. I gathered up my belongings in a panic and hurried off the bus.

As I stood at the roadside watching the bus drive away, I instinctively patted my tummy where my money belt usually was. There was nothing there. A cold feeling of dread swept over me; one of those moments where blood somehow runs to your feet.

I was due to fly home in a week, and my moneybelt contained everything: my passport, bank cards, and decent amount of money.

Our next bus was about to depart. “Sube!” urged the female conductor, urging us to get aboard. I explained as best I could, in broken stuttering Spanish, that I had left my passport on the previous bus.

‘Get on,’ she replied in Spanish. ‘We’ll make some calls.’

The bus journey to Santa Marta was two hours of pure internal despair. I sat there mulling over my own stupidity. Should I have got on the bus? Should I have left to track down the previous one?

“It’ll be okay,” encouraged Jenny, one of my companions.

“Yeah,” continued Allan, “if you need to get back to the embassy we’ll lend you the money.”

Great,’ I thought sulkily. ‘Just what I need. A twenty-hour bus ride back to Bogotà, to beg for a passport…

Despite the promises when we got on, I couldn’t see a whole lot of calling going on from the conductor. I sat there contemplating my forthcoming trip to Bogotà, watching the still-beautiful countryside fly by like forbidden fruit. Every passing second meant travelling further away from my passport. I reflected moodily that I shouldn’t have got on.

The sun set over the horizon as we passed into the suburbs of Santa Marta. More and more people got off the bus. South American buses stop anywhere for anyone, regardless of how much time has passed since the previous stop. Every minute someone would call out “A la esquina, por favor! At the corner please.Even if there actually was no corner.

Finally, we pulled into the Santa Marta bus terminal and shuddered to a halt. The driver switched off the engine, and everyone else got off. “Come on guys,” I said resignedly, standing up to get off.

Espera…” the bus conductor said to me, blocking my path. Wait. She disappeared off the bus for a moment.

Two long minutes later she reappeared… holding my money belt.

I’ve honestly never felt such a wave of relief, before or since. I gave her what I can only describe as a bear hug – something I don’t do lightly! She explained in Spanish that the original bus company had searched the bus, found my belt, and passed it to another Santa Marta-bound bus. Some of the money was missing, which didn’t matter. My passport was there, and my bank cards.

Despite all the stories you hear of tourists being robbed in South America, my own experience was overwhelmingly positive. I suspect looking back that being robbed and receiving unbelievable levels of trust were both never far away.

Often you had to trust your gut… and trust other people.

I tell this story in my Nurture Email Mastery course, and ask students to tell me what they think the story is about. More often than not they say ‘trust’.

The whole point of telling your core selling story is also to build trust. We often think of attention as being the ultimate form of marketing currency, but attention without trust rarely leads to a sale. I once heard this called the ‘emotional bank account’ you have with your list. If you sell based on trust, you first need to have made sufficient regular deposits.

The real outcome for me of the moneybelt incident was learning to trust my gut a little more, and learning to place trust in other people based on that feeling. This idea will reappear later in the series…

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.