Nfld. & Labrador

Icelandic trip turns sour after Airbnb broken into, robbed

What started as an amazing journey took a dark turn for a group of Newfoundland travellers who returned to their Airbnb in Reykjavik, Iceland, to find it had been ransacked.

Comedian Ryan Dillon says thieves took his notebook but left his jokes

Hannah Stilwell, Ryan Dillon and Lora Pope. (Explore with Lora)

What started as an amazing journey took a dark turn for a group of Newfoundland travellers who returned to their Airbnb in Reykjavik, Iceland, to find it had been ransacked.

"I kind of feel like we're in a movie. It's insane," says Ryan Dillon, a comedian from St. John's who now lives in Toronto.

Dillon was one of a group of four who saved up for a trip to Iceland this summer. It was Dillon's first time travelling outside North America.

While in Reykjavik, the group went to the Secret Solstice music festival Friday night; they returned to their Airbnb rental to find their temporary home had been invaded.

They didn't take the jokes but they took the notebook. I was like, did I just bomb while getting robbed?- Ryan Dillon

"We left everything back at the condo — the Airbnb — and when we came back and we noticed that the door, it looked like someone had chipped away or kicked it in, and we walked in and the whole place was just totalled," Dillon said.

"Everything was gone."

Dillon said a lot of their clothing, as well as cameras, lenses, laptops and other electronics were taken, as was their rental car.

The stolen technology can be replaced eventually, Dillon said, and everyone in their group is safe, which is the most important thing.

From left, Ryan Dillon, Lora Pope, Lee Fulford and Hannah Stilwell during happier times on their trip to Iceland. (Submitted by Ryan Dillon)

"We weren't home when it happened and no one got hurt, but the biggest thing for me is they took my notebook … but they ripped out all the jokes and threw them on the ground," Dillon said.

"They didn't take the jokes but they took the notebook," he added with a chuckle. "I was like, 'Did I just bomb while getting robbed?'"

Dillon said the group called the police, who told them it seemed to be a targeted incident.

According to Dillon, the group found out there were a number of other people who had booked Airbnb rentals to attend the music festival who were also victims of break-ins.

"When the police came and started dusting for prints, it just felt so surreal. It felt like we were in a movie or another world," Dillon told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"It's like that classic, you never think it could happen to you. You hear about other people, and then when it happens to you, I just like — I just sat on the ground outside, couldn't even think. It was mind-blowing."

Iceland, at a happier time. (Explore with Lora)

Dillon said the rental car was later found outside the city, and it appeared it had been driven until it ran out of gas before being damaged.

He's just grateful no one was in the apartment when the break-in happened — and he said it's terrifying to think how different things could have gone.

"The biggest thing for me was that my girlfriend, at one point she wanted to come to the Airnb early because she wasn't feeling too well, but we were trying to rally her, like, 'Stay out and have fun,' and she was like, 'OK,'" he said.

"Our first thought was, my God, if Hannah came in by herself, what would have happened?"

The host who owned the Airbnb came over as soon as they heard about the incident, Dillon said, and installed a new door and brand-new locks.

Making the most of it

In an emailed statement Monday evening, Airbnb said the company was "disappointed" to hear about the incident, "and began working to support Ryan and his friends" once they were made aware. 

"Including a refund for the reservation and taking care of their hotel costs," the statement read. The company also said it's ready to support Icelandic law enforcement in its investigation. 

Although Airbnb offered to put the group of four in a hotel room for two nights, as well as $200 US, Dillon said they stayed in their same Airbnb, adding they weren't worried about the thieves returning.

"If they came back, what are they gonna take now? There's nothing left."

Lora Pope, one of the group who travelled to Iceland, lost all the equipment she uses in her role as a travel blogger.

Friends back home in Canada have started online fundraising campaigns, raising thousands of dollars for Dillon and his girlfriend, Hannah, and another one for Pope.

Lora Pope is one of the travellers who had their items stolen during the break-in. (Explore with Lora)

Dillon said the group's insurance won't cover the full cost of items lost.

In the meantime, he said, they're trying to make the most of the situation in a country that has otherwise been "so kind and helpful" while they wait to fly back home on Wednesday.

"We went to the gas station to get a new phone charger because they took our phone chargers, and when we went and we told the gas clerk what happened, he gave us his discount card to give it to us at cost and, like, shook our hand and told us they were sorry," Dillon said.

"Honestly, it felt like we were in a different Newfoundland because everyone has been so supportive and helpful."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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