Is it safe to travel? This is a question I am asked frequently. My response ranges, quietly and internally, from a harumph, to a smirk, to rolling eyes. I have on occasion been known to snap my head and stare at someone squarely asking if they live in the same country as I do, and if so, you question whether it safe to travel to say, Ireland or Italy or Paris or London? Even more frequently, now that Cuba is in the news, is the question “Is it safe to travel to Cuba?” Cuba may be one of the safest destinations, considering that gun crime is virtually non-existent and the murder rate is lower than most Latin American countries.
Safety? I wonder what that means to different people and should I be so quick to criticize or reprimand? Fear, I fear, is at the root of the “Safety Question.” Let me consider my own fears. I am more afraid of a ferris wheel than I am of a terrorist, I’m more afraid of a snake than a sniper and I’m borderline afraid of the dark – – not really but I definitely want to be on familiar ground after dark and after a cocktail.
In 1982 (or there abouts) I decided to travel to Europe. The reoccurring question, was really more than a question it was a statement of shock. “You are traveling ALONE to Italy?” ALONE!! Aren’t you afraid to travel – it’s just not safe for a women to travel alone.” My reaction was similar to the one I described earlier: harrumph, smirk, rolling eyes and snap of the head. I was perfectly safe.
Along the way, and over the years, I developed my 7-steps to travel safely. It is less about safety and more about security and troubleshooting, and sidestepping self-inflicted dangers.
7 Travel Safety Tips
- Stay alert and aware. The more eyes the better, especially in an airport, train station or any place of transition. Missing a turn, or not hearing a (read not listening) gate change can really ruin your day. Stay alert. You can relax on the train, but not in the train station.
- Stay rested. Things go awry when you are weary and really goes hand in glove with #1.
- Stay hydrated and well fed. By that I mean, more than ever, you need to be healthy when traveling and this is certainly in your control. Bad food choice result often in bad traveling decisions. Good food keeps the mind and body alert and aware — back to #1.
- Keep your money, credit cards & passport close to your body and safe. I’m not just talking about pick-pockets, I’m also referring to misplacing things. Loosing a credit card/passport happens more than you think, and I believe it mostly happens as a result of #1, #2 or #3 above.
- Follow the “nothing good happens after midnight” rule. No need to be on the streets of a strange city at strange hours. Period–and that is my “mommy voice.”
- Keep a hotel business card with you at all times. Wandering the winding streets, exploring independently can be such a fun adventure until you realize you are deeply lost and have no idea where your hotel is, or more importantly the name of the hotel. If you think this can’t happen to you—think again.
- Keep the group together or release them. Unless you are traveling solo, you will have to consider “staying together” – an awful phrase that no true traveler wants to hear. Try as you might to keep an eye on one another, it likely will happen that one will wander off or stop and shop while the others continue: turn around and “John” is gone. My recommendation is have a plan at the beginning of your trip. Mine goes like this: Return to the place you last made eye contact—and stay put. Believe me this works! Remind me to tell you of the time I left my 13yr old on a train platform in Germany. Yes, the train pulled out and there on the platform stood Ryan. The plan works!
Travel Concerns or Apprehension?
When people ask, is it safe to travel, I wonder if they are really saying I might be afraid to travel? That is a whole other subject to be considered. Fear of traveling is fear of the unknown, fear of the different, fear of the strange and unfamiliar. Those fears like most other fears (ferris wheels, snakes, and fear of flying) are overcome by the doing. When you have a partner and someone to walk you through and show you the way there’s less to be afraid of. What do I do it around station we don’t take the train in the United States most of us that in itself can be overwhelming but if you have someone on your so much on his walk to you through it so he can paint you a picture of what that feels like and what the experience is the comfort level increases and the experience is magnificent. I think
I think travel could be a little bit like swimming. Approaching a beautiful lake or swimming pool can be so inviting however if you don’t know how to swim it can be terrifying until a friend or partner says there’s a shallow end of the pool and there’s a way to walk him gently easily carefully will you don’t lose your balance. With that you can change the air terrifying experience to an exhilarating experience. And the same is true of travel
Is it safe to travel these days? I don’t know—I really don’t. Is it safe to drive or fly? I don’t know