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Five Easy Lessons for All Travelers

Travel Security Tips

Jim Sutton

By Jim Sutton

 Five Easy Lessons for all Travelers 

After several decades traveling around the world, including several “Hot War zones” I’ve learned several lessons about traveling.  I’ve narrowed my list down to the five most important lessons that have kept me safe during my travels.

Lesson # 1: You will make mistakes during your trip, but you must learn from your mistakes and move on. 

Most of us have realized that the best lessons are the results of mistakes we have made.  All of our mistakes have been learned in hindsight.  It reminds me of an old adage: “Experience is the mother of wisdom; experience can only come from living/enduring the consequences of our mistakes.” The greater the mistake the most memorable the lesson becomes.  You will make mistakes while traveling.  Learn from your mistakes and try to share the results and wisdom with other travelers.  However, allowing your mistakes, — losing your wallet, being robbed, or missing a flight–to overwhelm you, will taint your experience and possibly others around you.  Plan for things to go wrong during your trip.  Staying flexible while traveling will allow you to enjoy your time traveling.

Lesson # 2: Wanderlust is an essential component of being human and you can’t allow threats to deter you from traveling.  

We would not exist today as a species if our ancestors did not have the urge to move, explore, travel and visit. While every possible foreseeable precaution is taken to ensure our survival and wellbeing, it is nearly impossible to anticipate all possible contingencies. It is critically important to plan ahead before going on a vacation or business trip, and you should also also take into consideration local conditions at your destination.  Another thing to remember is for you to accept the fact that no travel is completely without risk. The key to travel security is to be well informed about the latest developments in the country you are visiting.  I highly recommend that you read up on the the country or city you are visiting.  Learn about their culture, past security issues, the political situation, and seasonal weather patterns.

Lesson # 3: Violence against travelers is the new normal.

Criminal violence including terrorism is the new normal.  Violence against travelers happens everywhere and each one of us must accept that we cannot assume “it will not happen to us.” Complacency, ego, and travel ignorance are the greatest challenges you will face as a traveler.  The new normal is here to stay and all travelers must realize that there have always been threats to travelers.  There seems to be an idea or theory that Europe has always been a safe place for travelers.  This thought process or belief is risky.  The most recent wave of terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels are part of a long history of violence against travelers in Europe.

Lesson # 4: Make your travel fears concrete and specific in order to overcome them.

From personal experience, I can assert, that the best way to handle fear is to make the fear concrete and specific.  During my travels, I’ve had considerable concerns about the overall level of violence in some of the countries I was in,  however after introspection and time in the country, I realized that an unspecified fear was a psychological issue and not a real issue that could be managed. I have learned to develop the insight that nothing will screw/mess-up with my mind faster that my own brain. I was finally able to make my fear specific when I realized that my real fear was being taken hostage and losing control over my free-will.  Coming to this realization allowed me to better deal with my fear.  You cannot fight a defeat a ghost or an illusion. To defeat a real or imagined enemy you must first make your fear concrete and definable.

Lesson # 5: Stay informed and alert during your trip.  

It is very important that all travelers stay informed.  However, do not preoccupy your mind with rumors or second hand information.  Instead, rely on credible primary sources such as officials in the area you are visiting, or credible news sources with an established local, domestic, and international reputation.  This credible sources could be the Embassy/Consular officers of your nation of origin in the region. Remember, that not all the sources of danger come from the criminal or violent actions of others; but also from Mother Nature herself.

System Failures: We live in a complex technologically advanced world where the biggest source of danger and fatalities come from the system we depend on. Planes crash, ships and other maritime conveyances sink, buildings/hotels/hostels collapse or catch fire. These types of system failures are reported throughout the world on a daily basis.  Therefore, research and gather all the information you can on your airline, cruise ship company, hotel, and tour company.  It is your responsibility to make well informed decisions before and during your trip.

Natural Events: This includes all events caused by nature, from volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, tornados, intense rain storms, pandemics, epidemics, infectious diseases, avalanches, etc. Natural events are of such a large scope/magnitude they cannot be avoided unless we take precautions to evade them once their possibility has been defined or established by a credible source.  Several years ago, a volcano erupted in Iceland causing all commercial flights in Europe to come to a halt.  You should always plan for these types of delays by having emergency funds for food, hotel, and transportation.

Criminal Activity: This is by a the most statistically probable event you are likely to experience. Travelers are victims of crimes all over the world. Travelers can avoid being victims of crime by staying alert, being well informed, and exerciseing common sense.  This can be summed up in two words: Imprudence or Inattention. If you analyze all instances of victimization the cause of the all events is inescapable; it is one of the two “I’s) or a combination of both.

Terrorism: While terrorist incidents receive a lot of media attention, they are statistically the least probable to occur to you while traveling. They are commonly classified as “low probability/high consequence.” Remember, terrorism is political theater designed to frighten people and coerce a change in their normal routines and prove government and authorities are unable to provide real security. Unless you plan to travel into a “hot” zone known for political violence and instability, you should not worry about the unspecific fear of “terrorists.”  To be sure, travelers have been victim to terrorism, but as mentioned before, you are more likely to be a victim of crime or having your flight delayed while traveling.

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