Travel Safety …….. Death in Istanbul

Security Conscious? / bwb-images

Security Conscious? / bwb-images

Travel Safety Reminder –

You have probably heard that recently a young mother of two was killed while traveling in Istanbul, Turkey (related Washington Post Article and NBC). At this time the details are sketchy, the investigation is on-going. But we do know that this was her first trip overseas and she was traveling alone. Why was she there? Among other things, her mother reported that she loved photography and was there “to take pictures.”

This all serves as a sobering reminder that, while travel can be wonderful in so many awesome ways, it can also be dangerous. I’ve written previously of related issues ( here and here) but we can all use a reminder from time to time. We need to be aware of travel safety issues.

Of course, bad things can happen anywhere, but a traveler is always a bit more vulnerable. One of the great things about travel is that it takes you out of your normal routine and environment, and exposes you to a wealth of new places, people, activities, and customs. Yet, in a paradoxical way, these same qualities place the traveler at higher risk for bad things happening.

Let’s face it, a traveler is in a new place and is not acquainted with this new environment – with it’s potential risks to safety, either by accident or intent. At home you know where you can travel safely – when traveling you don’t. At home you are more likely to realize when things are happening in an out-of-the-ordinary fashion. Not so when traveling. At home , you are an experienced expert – when traveling, you are a rank amateur. You can prepare yourself for some of this “newness” by doing your research before your travels. Read up on the customs, activities and features of where you will be traveling. And by all means research safety issues – search the internet for information on travel safety. Learn what areas pose potential risks to the traveler.

St. Peter's Basilica

Night view of St. Peter’s Basilica & Vatican Square / bwb-images

Travelers are also at higher risk for accident and / or criminal activity because they can frequently become distracted and preoccupied. They are looking maps, trying to translate a street sign, taking in a gorgeous view, or trying to capture a remarkable photograph. Bad things can happen to the distracted traveler. It can happen to anyone. I consider myself to be a fairly savvy traveler. I’ve avoided many difficulties on past journeys and fended off potential pick pockets in a number of cities. But I had my wallet stolen. Where? Right in St.Peter’s Basilica. How? I got preoccupied with my photography. I was too caught up looking through the viewfinder and didn’t attend to the crowd bustling around me. I knew better. I forgot. I paid the price. It’s really important for a traveler to maintain “situational awareness.”

I’ve joked with other travelers that on my journeys I generally find that “a touch of paranoia can be a good thing.” Most agree. This is especially true for the solo traveler. Actually, this is just good common sense. If it seems too good to be true – remind yourself that it probably is. If a good looking local Chinese person walks up to you in Tiananmen Square, strikes up a conversation, and invites you to a “tea ceremony” which is “just around the corner” you might feel flattered. But honestly, would you head off with a total stranger in your hometown? Why would you do it in Beijing? Use your head. Of course you can meet and talk with people (it’s part of the travel experience) but remain in totally public areas.

As a traveler you need to be concerned about Travel Safety. Be Aware of your surroundings. Be alert, be attentive, and use common sense. A traveler I met once gave me a simple phrase which has served me well – Be Vigilant or be a Victim.

Travel Safely ……………….. And Enjoy The Adventure!

Dr.B, The Photo Trekker

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© 2013, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D. All rights reserved.