You want adventure. Your mum wants you to arrive back home in one piece. Here are seven tips to keep you intact on your travels.
1. Wired For Sound
MP3 players and iPods are great on planes, trains and those long car trips with your brother’s new girlfriend who won’t shut up about her latest spray-tan debacle. But that’s where you should leave it. When you’re seeing the sights, don’t walk the streets of Paris, Rome or downtown Brooklyn plugged into your iPod and plugged out of the world around you. The number one element “attackers” look for is the element of surprise. So walk confidently, stay alert to who and what is around you. And while we’re on the topic – study maps before you head out. Having your head stuck in a guidebook leaves you open to surprise and also screams “TOURIST WITH NO IDEA WHERE SHE IS!”
2. The Bling Thing
Seriously. As you put on that fourth gold bangle and adjust that shiny necklace, why don’t you also put a sign on your head that says, “Look! Shiny Jewellery!” Sure, you could wear faux jewels but the mugger doesn’t know that. Save yourself the trauma (and the therapy bills). Leave the jewellery at home.
3. Let them have the bag
If someone tries to take your bag, let them have it. The bag, I mean. If you’re smart you’ll have your credit card and your passport stashed somewhere that isn’t your handbag. But even if you do – those things are replaceable. Getting into a fist-fight with a thief isn’t worth your health.
4. Hire cars
The beauty of renting a car is that you have a bit of independence when you travel. Suddenly you can hit the road like a local – stopping where and when you please. And it’s not until you open your mouth and utter “Par-lay voo fron-say” that anyone knows you’re a tourist. Nearly. See the little paper tag hanging from your rear vision mirror? Take it down. It’s an immediate indicator to everyone around you that you’re – most likely – a tourist. Or at least not from that area.
5. Do Not Disturb
Maybe you’re bedding down at the Four Seasons New York. Lucky you. But just maybe you’re staying in some far off place in a hotel your father would call “seedy and a bad idea”. If you think the hotel staff having sticky fingers, hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your hotel room door when you go out. Okay, so the maid may not make up your room. But what are you? Five? You can make your own bed and sleep easy knowing your belongings haven’t been pilfered. And when it comes to choosing small hotels, stick to ones on busy streets where there’s sure to be better lighting and public transport.
6. The Good Wife
Being a single gal about town is great, isn’t it? Well, until it isn’t. There are some countries where single women, particularly single western women, get hassled and hollered at. If you’re heading to a place like that, take a fake wedding ring with you. Whack it on your finger and you’ll be surprised how many men – particularly in Middle Eastern counties – suddenly leave you alone. Strange but true.
7. Go With Your Gut
One of my favourite books is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. In that book, de Becker explains how powerful our gut instinct is in alerting us to potentially dangerous situations. So if anything or anyone gives you a bad vibe, a creepy feeling, an uh-oh moment – listen to it. So if the hotel you arrive it just feels “wrong”, if the short-cut on the map makes you feel anxious, if you really feel unsure about getting in that car with the cute guy from the bar – don’t. Better to be safe than sorry.