I have been thinking a lot lately, undoubtedly as many of us have, about my safety when I travel. I have never been one to live in fear of anything. I have never let fear keep me from exploring the world and having amazing adventures. But this doesn’t mean that I act carefree without exercising caution. I find that there are things about travel that worrying about and obsessing over won’t help one bit. I will admit to still getting nervous on every takeoff and landing, but it will never keep me from getting on a plane. I have just accepted the fact that mechanical failure or the act of a evil person could bring down the plane at any time.
I know the acts of mad men do not just occur far from home. We have plenty of crazy people right here in the United States motivated by a number of different philosophies and at varying levels of insanity.
I often ask myself what would I do in an emergency. I think one of the keys is to spot one before it escalates to try to avoid being taken by surprise.
I don’t consider myself paranoid but here are a few things I do that are just a habit at this point but do increase my personal safety. I always take note of exits — that goes for when I’m at a bank, restaurant, shop, or government building. When we go out, I sit with my back against the wall and in a place I can see the entrance of the restaurant or cafe (it also makes for great people watching). I think that step alone goes a long way in securing your personal safety.
I am in no way an expert so here are some tips from the U.S. Department of State on travel safety:
- Pack light so you can move more quickly and have a free hand when you need it.
- Carry a minimum number of valuables and plan places to conceal them.
- Check your bags, clothing, and vehicle to make sure you are not carrying any banned items or substances, such as weapons or ammunition, into your destination country. Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity and nationality.
- Avoid packing IDs, tickets and other vital documents in backpacks or other locations you won’t be able to see at all times.
The U.S. Department of State hosts a private sector security overseas seminar, which includes intensive security awareness briefings and comprehensive discussions of services provided to private U.S. citizens overseas. This is the same security training that is required for all official U.S. government employees.
Some of the topics that you will be trained on are:
- International Personal Security Overview
- Surveillance Detection
- Explosives/Mines (I hope you never find yourself in a place where that information is necessary)
- Sexual Assault Awareness and Response
- Hostage Survival
- Environmental and Road Safety
- Cross-Cultural Awareness
- Crisis Management
The dates for this year’s seminars are April 20-22, 2016 and September 21-23, 2016; tuition is $420.
I’m not saying you have to become some sort of Liam Neeson in “Taken” kind of badass but just someone who is more aware of their surroundings especially when you are in unfamiliar ones.