Stranger Danger: How To Stay Safe While Traveling

One of the things I love most about traveling is how it opens your eyes and broadens your horizons. The sense of freedom you get when you’re discovering someplace new is exhilarating. But sometimes that exhilaration can blind you (or make you temporarily forget) the safety precautions you’d normally take when you’re at home on your own turf.

Think about it; you’re strolling down unfamiliar streets, maybe with a guidebook or map out, hopefully taking lots of pics and exclaiming excitedly at each cool new thing you see. But one wrong turn and you could end up in a not-so-great neighborhood. It helps to take a look at a map before you set out, so you know not only where your destination is, but what neighborhoods you’ll be going through to get there. Ask someone at the hotel if there are any areas you should avoid; they’re usually eager to help guests and, as locals, they’ll know the immediate area.

Now, I don’t think you should limit picture taking to only tourist hotspots, or keep your head down and powerwalk through the streets or take a cab wherever you go. You really get the flavor of a place by walking along and happening onto a beautiful little park not mentioned in the guidebooks. But you should make it a point to stop, look, and listen to what’s going on around you at all times. Keep one eye on the beautiful sights and the other eye at street level; always be aware of your surroundings.

Another great thing about traveling is meeting new people. When you’re on a trip, you probably feel more free and open, more willing to share information in an attempt to connect with the people you meet (I know I do). And you should embrace the locals (and your fellow travelers); they’ll be able to recommend the best restaurants to grab a bite and the cool spots that might be off the beaten (tourist) track.

But again, would you just volunteer personal information, like your home address, to someone you met on the street in your hometown? Probably not. So just be wary of providing too many details. After all, maintaining an air of mystery is a good thing. On my last trip to Paris, a cute guy approached my friend and me as we were standing outside the Louvre. We were just hanging out, planning our next move for the day, and he struck up a conversation. After chatting for a minute, something seemed off. Looking past the cute French accent, he just seemed too pushy, too eager to know where we were staying and what our plans were. We avoided giving any specifics, and finally just said goodbye and walked away. He was probably harmless, but you never know. It’s better to appear rude than to take chances with your personal safety.

So when that little voice inside starts nagging at you, when that personal alarm bell starts to ring signaling that something is not ok, don’t ignore it. You don’t need to apologize to anyone or worry about hurting someone’s feelings; just listen to your intuition. Your only responsibility is to yourself, and to keep yourself safe to travel another day.

What are your best travel safety tips?

(Image via Shutterstock).