Posted on October 02 2019
Modern travel offers an abundance of amazing experiences, however, there are several important safety considerations to keep in mind to ensure you return home safely from your adventures.
The world is a big place with many diverse people, cultures, religions, and values. Unfortunately, some criminal ideologies wish to cause terror and harm to those who are vulnerable or do not share their values. Therefore you must become familiar with these safety concerns.
Allow me to say that the odds of you or your family becoming the victim of a terrorist attack or criminal act are extremely rare. At the same time, you should still incorporate these practices both in travel and your everyday lives. Secondly, this is not a full manual and should only be considered as a starting point. I encourage everyone to learn some form of self-defense as well as basic first-aid to be more prepared and capable should the unthinkable occur. I am not a security expert and you may know more than I do in this area. Finally, this post is not meant to demean, objectify or degrade any person, religion or culture. It’s simply the information I have received through military training and life experience that I believe is crucial to the modern voyager.
Basic Travel Considerations
Learn or save the contact numbers of emergency responders.
-When traveling to a foreign country you must be aware of who to contact in the event of an emergency. This would seem obvious by some standards, but I’ve heard stories of people who had forgotten the number 911 during an emergency. Imagine how helpless you would feel if you did not know the number to call in the first place.
-Knowing how to contact emergency personnel also allows reporting of suspicious activity to the proper authorities. If something or someone seems out of place you have an avenue to allow authorities to investigate.
–Do not try to handle the incident by yourself. Report suspected activities to the proper authorities and let them do their jobs. Your job is to give them the most accurate information available.
Which brings us to…
Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
-While traveling to a foreign country can be an extremely delightful and fulfilling experience, you must also keep in mind that you are a visitor and the local customs will be different than your own. Sometimes you may feel a bit out of your comfort zone and honestly, I believe that is one of the best things about traveling. However, you must be constantly vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
-An exercise you can do to improve your memory is to pick out an individual in a crowd. Note the individual’s face, clothing, height, weight, hair color, any tattoos or distinguishing marks and any actions they were taking. Try not to be obvious and alert the individual, you may inadvertently draw attention to yourself and the police may think you are suspicious and detain you for questioning. Next, take note of your location. Remember street names, landmarks, stores or restaurants.
-Now set a timer on your watch or phone. Three to five hours is usually the best. This allows enough time to go about your business and perhaps forget the timer is even running. It’s also usually the amount of time it takes for the authorities to get a situation under control and begin questions witnesses. When the timer beeps, try to recall everything you can about the person, what they were wearing, what they were doing and the location. You may be unpleasantly surprised at just how little you remember. Human memory is fascinating and fallible all at once. You will not get everything correct the first or even the 20th time but you will get better and will become a more reliable witness should the unthinkable happen.
Blend into your environment
–Do not draw attention to yourself! I cannot count how many times I’ve seen a tourist wearing a football or basketball jersey, or a U.S. flag hat or shirt. You might as well just jump up and down while yelling “Pick me, pick me!” You will stand out in a crowd and criminals will know you are a foreigner and therefore vulnerable. LEAVE IT AT HOME!!
–Ladies, do not dress provocatively. You may love your cleavage and short shorts but so will a sexual predator and in some countries, especially in the middle east, you can get in serious trouble. I’m not saying you need to wear a pantsuit everywhere but capris and neutral colors are ideal.
–Learning a few phrases in the local language can go a long way in blending in not to mention being respectful to the culture and the exhilaration of having someone understand what you’re saying. You don’t have to learn the whole language but greetings, courtesies, asking directions to restrooms or restaurants will be more helpful than you can imagine.
I will expand more on how to blend in while traveling in a later post because it’s incredibly important.
Don’t a tempting target.
–Be unpredictable. Try not to use the same routes every day. Add some variation to your daily routine even if it means taking the long way to your destination. Criminals love soft targets. If you leave your hotel every morning at 8 a.m. and make the same left turn every day, you can guess you could be waiting around the corner.
–Traveling in a small group is a great deterrent for would-be criminals as they are less likely to attack if out-numbered.
–Avoid becoming intoxicated. A glass of wine with dinner or a pint at the pub is acceptable but don’t let your drinking get out of control. An untold number of violent and sexual crimes have been fueled by alcohol. Plus, who wants to deal with a hangover while on vacation?
-Visit the State Department website to learn which areas and neighborhoods to avoid when traveling. You do not want to be a “wrong place at the wrong time” victim.
Traveling abroad can be one of the most amazing and influential experiences in life. Unfortunately, we also live in a world where criminals wish to seek out and exploit unwitting victims. In most cases, these victims are tourists. As a tourist, you are at a distinct disadvantage. You are unfamiliar with the location. You may not know who to contact in an emergency. You probably won’t speak the local language. All these factors and more may conspire against you. I do not wish to frighten, only inform.
By considering the previous methods and using them as a starting point to build more useful skills, your travels will become much more safe and enjoyable.