PC #57 – What would I do if I found €1,000?

Some of you have asked what would do if I found €1,000 on the Camino.

To recap, here are the circumstances: It’s a bundle of cash – found by the side of the trail, as if it had fallen out of a pocket. Or perhaps at a wayside rest stop – on the ground beside a table and bench, maybe. €1,000 in cash. It’s nearly lunch, and I’m just outside a town or village –

Okay, so that’s the scenario. What would I do?

Firstly I’d photograph the cash, in situ. I’d photograph where it was on the ground, in relation to other features around – such as, was it beside or underneath a picnic table, or by a creek or near a bridge? In other words, I’d photograph it forensically, like a crime scene.

Most importantly, I’d determine if the cash was in clear line of sight of anyone walking along that trail. In other words, was I likely to have been the first person to find that cash? Or was it hidden from view?

If it was hidden, then it could have been lying there for days, maybe weeks. If it was clearly visible to any pilgrim walking along that trail, then that would tell me it had probably been dropped only recently – and perhaps the person who dropped it was not far up ahead of me.

Then I’d examine the cash. Was it folded in half? Or rolled up? Was the wad held together with a rubber band, or any kind of note pin? And what denomination were the bills? €100? Or all €50 bills, or a combination of smaller notes?

And then I’d carefully count it. Was it €1,000 exactly? Or €1,200? Or €980? Was it 9 x €100, plus 1 x €50 and 2 x €20. If so, then that would tell me if someone had cashed one of the €100 bills and bought something for €10. It would also tell me that the money had been withdrawn recently, because most likely that was the only breakage of the €1,000 stash.

I would then quickly set off to try and catch up to the pilgrims up ahead of me. I would sidle up to them, and casually ask if they’d lost anything. I wouldn’t mention cash…

Anyone carrying that amount of money would have an immediate and undisguised reaction if they suddenly discovered they’d lost their cash. Straight away I’d be able to read the truthfulness of that response.

And if there were no pilgrims ahead of me, then I’d walk into the town and go from cafe to bar to restaurant, and again ask casually if anyone had lost anything. Again I’d be able to read a true or false response.

If someone did say they’d lost some cash, I’d ask how much. Most of us don’t know exactly how much money we’re carrying at any point in time, but if someone said they’d lost €50, then I’d know they weren’t the right person. If someone said they’d lost €1,000, and in fact it was €980, then I’d ask further questions.

If I’d found the money at a rest spot – at a picnic table for instance, I’d ask if they’d stopped anywhere that morning, and if so where… in other words, I’d try and determine the truth of the claim.

However, if I didn’t find anyone who had a credible claim to the cash, I’d then go to the police. I’d tell them I’d found some money, and I’d give them my email and mobile phone number and ask that if a person came forward to report the missing cash, then they were to contact me.

I wouldn’t leave the money with the police.

I would then do the same thing with the albergues in town, and I’d probably walk on further that afternoon, and do the same thing in the next town.

I would hold onto the money, and put it away in a safe place, and wait for someone to contact me. If I had not been contacted by the time I got to Santiago, or after several weeks if I’d found the money early in my walk, then I would give the money away.

I wouldn’t give it to a church, or a monastery.

I would arbitrarily choose someone at random, someone my PGS told me needed the money – someone in the street, or in a church, or sitting at a bus stop. I would walk up to them, simply give them the cash, and walk away.


13 thoughts on “PC #57 – What would I do if I found €1,000?

  1. And the rewards for this would be great. I know because I’ve done it – but shamefully I have also done the other and just kept it! I only say that cos it’s the truth. But in my more recent life I have found wallets and money and I know the real reward of returning it to whence it came. In fact there’s no feeling quite so good. And you’re right about the demeanour of some poor soul who has just lost their stuff! Equally the relief and gratitude on their face when you produce the goods! But would I give it away to somebody else if I couldn’t find its owner? I’d love to say yes – but in all honesty I just don’t know. This is my perfectly imperfect humanness – I think I might – or I might buy something for somebody who I know needs it. Hopefully I’ll never get to find out – but for today I will simply suspect that I’m human and say – I really don’t know…….


  2. WOW, very forensic approach. Very impressed and of course, now that you’ve outlined it, a very good way to deal with it. Just goes to show how it can pay to think outside the square, eh? But what’s with the fish photo? How does that fit in? Fishes and loaves to the needy? 🙂


  3. Yeah, I’d do something similar IF I were in a decent financial situation, albeit in my own style …

    Every time I’ve found lost stuff I have tried to return it to its owner, and often been successful ; the one real exception to that being a wad of cash in the street in Monte-Carlo, just lying there, MANY years before there was even a whiff of global financial crisis. Just some rich guy’s pocket money.


  4. I found a mobile phone when walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge some years ago. The owner was very grateful to have it returned safely to him. Honesty is the best policy.


  5. Bill, a very methodical approach. Gives one some options which perhaps had not been considered in how to deal clinically with the find, cover all bases and not be placed in a compromising or questionable situation.


  6. Dear Bill,

    I love your idea of arbitrarily giving the money to someone you felt needed it.

    I was on the receiving end of a similar bout of generosity once, many years ago, and have never forgotten that random act of kindness, and think often of it all this time later.

    When I was a young thing, around 25 years ago now, I was in London doing that thing that many young Australians do, spending 18 months or so back packing my way around the world. I spent a lot of time with London as my base, and I used to love to see as many west end shows as I could afford – which being a backpacker wasn’t many.

    One time, a friend and I were waiting in the line at the returns ticket counter in the hopes of scoring a discounted ticket for a performance of the musical Carousel, which was due to begin in the next hour or so. There were maybe a dozen or so people waiting patiently in the hopes that some last minute tickets would become available, when we were approached by a man in his fifties asking us if we were interested in two tickets to that nights performance. We immediately assumed that he was wishing to circumvent the trouble of returning the tickets to the box office and was wanting to do a direct, covert deal with us. We replied that, yes, that would be great, as we were not at the front of the queue, and time was ticking away. When we pulled out our wallets to pay for the tickets, he waived the money away, and said no, the tickets were a gift. Upon seeing our suddenly suspicious glances at each other, he beckoned his wife over to join us, and explained that the friends they had been expecting to join them had at the last minute pulled out of the evening, and now they had these two tickets available and would be pleased if we would take them. Despite our repeated protestations that we were more than willing to pay for the tickets (bearing in mind that the cost for us would have been several days worth of food), he refused, handed over the tickets, and wished us a happy evening. Of course being numbered theatre tickets meant we were soon reunited with him and his wife as we were seated right to next to them for the performance. At interval, the four of us exited into the foyer together where he and his wife not only returned from the bar with a glass of wine for each of us, but also with a copy of both the programme and soundtrack album – an unheard of extravagance for us.
    Overcome with gratitude, I asked him why he was being so kind to a couple of young girls, complete strangers to him. He told us that when he was young and traveling around Europe many years before, he had been hitchhiking in the cold and rain, when he had been picked up by a man who turned out to be a retired Navy admiral, who not only offered him a lift to his next destination, but insisted on taking him back to his extravagant home, making him a home cooked dinner, giving him a warm and comfortable bed, before driving him to the station the next morning and giving him the train fare to his next destination.
    He had never forgotten this mans kindness and generosity at a time when he really needed it, and had been waiting 25 years to “pay it forward” to someone else. He said that when he saw my friend and I in the line that night, obviously travelers of some sort, he saw the opportunity to pass that kindness on, and make a difference in someone’s life.
    Well, as I say, 25 odd years later, I think of that man often, and how his kindness and generosity to a couple of strangers impacted me in such a simple way. I probably think more often of that man than I do of the girl I was traveling with at the time.
    I’m awaiting my own opportunity to pay it forward, and I’m hoping my own PGS will guide me when the time is right.
    You really never know the impact your actions have on others – in a very real way I owe a debt of gratitude to that retired Navy admiral who was once kind to stranger on the other side of the world, 50 years ago.


    • Wow Libby –

      what an incredible story.

      Kindness begets kindness.

      Would you mind if I posted this onto the blog separately, so that people can see it and comment on it?

      love Bill


      • No, not at all Bill, if you think its of interest!
        I believe a catch up with you and Jennifer is in the wind. I cannot wait to see you both and hear your stories in person.
        Much love,


        • Hey Lib –

          it’s out there baby!!

          It was a beautifully written piece, and worth a separate blog in its own right.

          Yep, Jen and I are down next Thurs & Fri. Have emailed you

          love Bill


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