On the Road: Safety Concerns

Safety is a valid concern when traveling abroad for any length of time. And with the latest travel warnings, even the most intrepid traveler may be a bit intimidated. But in a society that focuses so heavily on the negative (especially in the news), how concerned should you be? And should you let such warnings, and the concerns of family and friends, stop you from pursuing your travel dreams?

MPGNYC Panelists
Our New York City panel for Meet, Plan, Go! share how they approached safety concerns during their own travels.

Brook Silva-Braga (A Map for Saturday)
The world is an amazingly safe place and the greatest practical danger travelers face in 99% of the world is having their possessions stolen. The unfamiliar is often scary–heck the first week of college is scary–but it is almost always a fear of the unknown rather than a marker of actual danger. Even for solo travelers. Even for women.

Jennifer Baggett (The Lost Girls)
One thing I always say when asked about safety abroad is that during the entire year I was on the road (which included notoriously dangerous locations such as Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi), I only experienced one non-threatening attempted pick pocket incident and a crazy cab driver trying to cheat us with a rigged meter. Whereas in NYC, I’ve had my wallet stolen out of my bag two times, punched by a homeless guy and been jumped in an all out fight on the street with two crazy drug addicts. Not to mention that I grew up not too far from Baltimore and Washington D.C. where there was no short of very violent crimes.

And of course after having been to so many places abroad and seeing firsthand how much safer it is than people think, it’s almost mind blowing how many misconceptions there are about international travel. Although considering that places such as India, Africa, Asia and the Middle East aren’t typical tourist destinations for Americans it’s understandable why there are so many perceived fears of the unknown. But like many places in the States as long as you keep your wits about you and make smart, common sense decisions (keep an eye on your stuff, don’t wander off down a dark alley alone or go to notoriously bad neighborhoods at night), you’re likely going to be just as safe abroad as you are at home. Especially since often times people are just after your money and don’t actually intend to do you harm.

Even as a women, I felt comfortable in most places I went (especially since my travel partners and I don’t exactly exude a timid female image) and can pretty much guarantee that most seasoned travelers would say the same thing. Just don’t leave home without travel insurance, consider purchasing a PacSafe and/or slash proof purse/bag (PacSafe also makes them) and don’t act like an ugly American tourist and you’re pretty much covered!

Michael Bontempi (Briefcase to Backpack)
My wife gave me some great advice once. She told me that places are only as dangerous as the situations you place yourself in. Put yourself in a dangerous situation and bad things can happen. Location is irrelevant. As well, pick up any guide book and read about NYC. According to the reference material, we will all be lucky to make it out alive..

Sherry Ott (OttsWorld)
Muslims are all bad, Asians are only after your money, men in India will grope you, Africa is dangerous, eating in India will make you sick, don’t drink the water, you must have a money belt…once you start to travel and see the world, these stereotypes and fears come crashing down. You are able to see with your own eyes and understand cultures yourself. Honestly, I still get scared every time I travel into a new country, but the period lasts much, much shorter now.

Traveling solo does bring on a few new challenges – but I find that the benefits outweigh the extra precautions you have to take. My best advice is take one planning day and call it your “Scaredy Cat Day” to read about travel insurance and to read up on the State Department travel warnings site…then forget it all and go about your planning knowing that everything you just read was the extreme…not the norm.

Brian Peters (No Debt World Travel)
I was so nervous that it took me a month to give my credit card information to my ticket agent for my round the world ticket. I had all the usual self-doubts before one undertakes a big, new experience. But once I booked my ticket my fears were over. I didn’t have any concerns about my personal safety once I started traveling.

Marie Elena Martinez (Marie’s World)
In my life, I try very hard not to be ruled by fear. I approach travel in the same way. To that end, I found the world — all countries — to be welcoming and open. Sure, I had “incidents” as a solo female traveler, but none that were threatening enough to overshadow the beauty of what I had chosen to do. None that I share before I share the wonderful stories about culture, food, experiences, and people. I love dispelling notions that places like Colombia, India, Kenya, Brazil are unsafe. No more than getting into a cab in New York City. The exhilaration wins over fear. Every time.

Michaela Potter (Briefcase to Backpack)
Before heading to Asia in 2001, many people would say to me “Why would you want to go there? It’s not safe. It’s safe to stay home.” The day I was scheduled to depart was September 11. So rather than flying out, I spent the day on the waterfront in Hoboken watching the Towers fall.

So safety is all relative. Even “home” isn’t safe. But if you are aware of your surroundings and keep your guard up, you’ll be fine. You shouldn’t let fear stop you from doing anything that’s important to you.

How have you faced safety concerns during your career break travels?

Catch up on our Meet, Plan, Go! New York City Panel Series:
Career Break Doesn’t Equal Career Suicide | Are Societal Pressures Stopping You? | Preparation: Budget Concerns

And check out an overview of all 13 events as well as event recaps!

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2 Comments on "On the Road: Safety Concerns"

  1. Tweets that mention On the Road: Safety Concerns | Briefcase to Backpack - Travel Advice for Career Breaks or Sabbaticals -- Topsy.com on Wed, 13th Oct 2010 11:19 pm 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sherry Ott, Alisha Robertson. Alisha Robertson said: RT @ottsworld: Are you too scared to #travel and take a #careerbreak – here's how our #meetplango panel overcame their fears – http://ow.ly/2SWCr […]

  2. Tran on Mon, 25th Oct 2010 1:22 pm 

    As a female who has traveled solo in the past (to South America and Asia), I have to say that I almost never felt unsafe. My advice to anyone who is concerned about safety abroad–travel in groups when possible, buy travel insurance, and don’t carry everything you own with you every time you step outside of the hostel. If you don’t have anything to lose, you won’t worry as much.

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