We are all familiar with the movie Taken, starring Liam Neeson. While Neeson’s actions and method of response in the movie are far-fetched, the reality of the storyline is that there are a lot of dangers when traveling. While it may not be as extreme as being kidnapped and sold into the human trafficking crime ring, that is a possibility, along with theft and a string of other dangers. There are measures that can be taken when traveling to lower the risk of becoming a target.
First and foremost, always make sure someone knows where you are. Never just go across seas and not tell your friends or family that you are traveling. Do not go off grid. Lavanya Sunkara writes in her article “Ten Smart Tips for Solo Women Travelers” from her blog Nature Traveler, “Going off the grid is overrated. You want to unplug from your hectic life back home, but staying connected to friends and family via emails, texts, social media, and FaceTime/Skype is a smart way to let them know your whereabouts while also combating any loneliness” (WordPress). If something were to happen and you never came back, no one would have any idea what happened or where you were. If you have a specific day to day agenda that you plan to follow, leave it with someone back home. Keep in contact along the way. Make sure that someone is always being kept in the loop about your location.
Another tip is to research and educate yourself on clothing styles and trends that are native to the place you are visiting. Predators are experts at locating tourists, especially by the way they dress. If you dress like a local, you are less likely to be targeted. It can also be helpful to know a few words or phrases in the local language. Victoria Wiggins, author of the article “Five Tips for a Safe Study Abroad” states that “Even if it’s just a few words, like hello, bye, please and thank you the locals will appreciate it. Even though many people speak English nowadays, making the effort to converse in someone else’s language will make a world of difference in regarding politeness” (U LaLa). Dressing like a local and being able to communicate the basics in the local language make it less likely that you will become the target to hunters.
Always, always, always be aware. Be smart about where you are and who is around you. Keep your belongings on you at all times. Do not put down your purse, even for a second. Busy areas like museums or tourist traps are perfect hunting ground for the unsuspecting tourist. This does not mean that you have to assume everyone who smiles at you is targeting you, but do not be naïve about your circumstances either. While you should always be on your guard, it is also a good idea to talk to locals. Shop owners, cafe workers, the guy behind the counter at the hostel you stay at, and anyone else who you may come in contact with. Do not, however, mention where you are staying or how long you plan to stay. Those are details that are need-to-know, and not by the locals, except for the guy behind the counter at the hostel. These are the details that predators will want to find out so that they can become familiar with any routine you may have picked up while visiting.
Be familiar with maps of the area. While we heavily rely on our cell phones for maps these days, it is extremely beneficial to be able to work your way around a map, especially when abroad. Knowing a map can help you figure out where you are if you become lost. If you take a taxi and do not know how to communicate to the taxi driver where to go, being able to show them on a map can also be helpful. Also, it is okay to go out and enjoy yourself at bars or pubs, but be careful with how much alcohol you consume. You do not want to do anything that could make you an easy target or impair your judgement (U LaLa). This is why a map can be helpful. If you go out to drink, being familiar with a map will help you get home when you are a little buzzed. Be responsible, no matter what.
Pack light, and pack appropriate for where you are traveling. Depending on where you go, what you wear could be offensive to the locals, and the last thing you want to do is offend the people who could be most helpful to you. Packing light is also a good idea because in most places, you’ll be able to wash clothes, and it makes it easier to travel when you have less luggage to haul around. Pack what you need, and leave the nicer, expensive stuff back home. While your favorite accessory may be your Coach purse or Marc Jacobs watch, those are not things that will make your trip better, so leave them behind. They can also make you a target since those are expensive things and could make you a target for thieves. Also, be sure to pack a whistle. A whistle is tiny, so it will not take up much space, and can be a life saver if you find yourself in danger (Nature Traveler).
Sunkara, Lavanya. “Ten Smart Tips for Solo Women Travelers.” Nature Traveler Ten Smart Tips for Solo WomenTravelers Comments. N.p., 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Wiggins, Victoria. “Five Tips For a Safe Study Abroad.” Inspired College Blogging. N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.