Don’t you sometimes wish for a traveling companion like the Robinson’s robot in the 1950s tv show Lost in Space? When out exploring unfamiliar places, s/he could be the voice of caution, alerting you to the presence of danger and helping to fend off the bad guys. Unfortunately, that technology does not yet exist. So, how do you know where your next step should go?
When any of our crew travels, we check three boxes to help ensure safety: Research, Precaution and Awareness. Now, we’re not talking about physically dangerous activities like climbing glaciers or scaling vertical cliffs – we just aren’t that brand of crazy. (At least, not all of us.) Our travels are literally more pedestrian, but there still can be an element of danger in the form of violence, crime, or health hazards.
While the latter can generally be mitigated with shots and precautions like face masks, there are often areas you’ll want to avoid due to health risks associated with outbreaks, natural disasters, or sanitary conditions. These are some of the issues tracked by the Centers for Disease Control at their Travelers’ Healh site. By choosing a destination, you can see what vaccinations are needed, other travel recommendations, and any travel health advisories.
For American travelers – and really, for anyone – the US Department of State lists travel warnings and alerts on their site. These come in two varieties: Alerts that indicate possibly dangerous conditions (Cyclone season in the South Pacific, for example), and Warnings which detail elevated, sometimes ongoing dangers such as terrorism, violence against tourists, high crime rates, etc. Be sure to read these carefully as they may pertain to specific areas of a country.
Before embarking on any international travel, it’s a good idea to check with your government’s web sites for instructions on what to do and where to go if you need help abroad in case of crime, accident, illness or crisis. Also be sure to note embassy and consular locations, and consider registering for citizen abroad programs. (US citizens can find this information at the US Department of State’s Travel site.)
No matter where you travel, your best warning system is your own skill of observation. While it is easy and sometimes tempting to keep an eye on your phone, tourist guide or map, it’s important that you keep your head up so you can be completely aware of your surrohundings. If something or someone seems fishy, listen to the inner voice telling you to walk away. Precaution is another skill you should develop. Before you leave the hotel, look in the mirror. Do you see a tourist? Take a look at the locals and try to mimic them to minimize the chance of being a target.
Since we don’t have robots to alert us to danger, it’s up to us to be savvy travelers. With a bit of research, precaution and awareness, you can dramatically decrease the chance that your dream vacation will turn into a nightmare.