Missing someone isn’t about how long it has been since you’ve seen them or the amount of time since you’ve talked. It’s about that very moment when you find yourself doing something and wishing they were right there by your side. – Author Unknown
고생 끝에 낙이 온다 (At the end of hardship comes happiness) – Korean Proverb
Tuesday, January 12, 2016 (DAYS 1,407 – 1414)
People often ask me what is the most dangerous situation I have found myself in throughout traveling to more than 30 countries, and/or what advice I could provide that may help them prior to traveling, whether short or long-term? Well, to keep things relatively short, I have three simple rules that I find to be helpful for both safety and ease, but before I get to that I'll share the most important, which is being self-aware is the BIGGEST key for any situation! This doesn't matter whether you are traveling or in your home city or town that you've been to a thousand times.
I'll never forget one time when I was in downtown Denver and frequented Lodos Bar and Grill –ok yeah for Denverites and Coloradans I know some consider it to be sort of a d-bag kinda place, but c'mon I was in my young twenties–with friends and I decided to leave a bit earlier than the rest of the crew and as I was making my way through the crowded bar, I noticed a group of about six white frat boys mean mugging me. I'd never seen these guys, nor did I have any interaction with them, but because I was quite aware that they were watching me and noticed I was leaving alone they began to start eyeing me and following me through the crowd at a slight distance. As I was approaching the front entrance I was thinking about the best course of action to avoid these major d-bags. It's like when you know you have that gut feeling of another person(s) true intentions and they aren't good. I wasn't sure if they were drunk or didn't like me because I was Asian or whatever, but I certainly will never forget the looks they gave me and the feeling I felt deep down of what their intentions were. Thankfully, as I reached the front entrance, two of my friends that are African-American and both nearly 6'3" and look like straight up thugs, walked in, noticed me and said, "Yo, Troy waddup kid!" As I gave them that traditional sorta 'pound hug' and looked over my shoulder I noticed this group of white frat boys immediately changed their minds about trying to mess with me. Yeah, so there's my thug life story! WHAT?! haha. Anyways, once again being self-aware is the most key to general safety regardless of setting and trusting your gut when you have that feeling something bad is about to happen. When it comes to travel, these are my three simple rules I've pretty much stuck to for the past four-years of continuous travel and knock on wood, they have been pretty key and helped significantly.
1. PUTTING ITEMS AWAY IN THE SAME LOCATION
When you're living out of a backpack and are often in a hurry to get in local buses, make flights last minute, or just need to grab something out of your bag in a hurry–whether that means being conspicuous for safety or trying to get out of the hostel after just arriving to join the invitation to go out with new friends–continuously, almost religiously placing your items away in the same pockets or drawstring bags can be a lifesaver and time-saver. This way not only will you know immediately if something IS missing, but you will also know where valuables or just that comfortable clothing item is, especially when you are trying to get ready in the darkness of a dorm because flipping on the light to dig through your bag just may get you shanked!
2. USING A FAKE BANK CARD (PROTECT FROM CARD SKIMMING)
I know I have written about this MANY times, but it still amazes me that people can be so very lazy or just ignorant to this simple procedure. We have all heard of card skimming–when people place items into ATM machines that can collect data from the previous and/or next card that is inserted into the machine–and one of the easiest ways to protect yourself I feel is by using a FAKE gift card. The three specifics about these cards is that:
#1. They CANNOT be tied to any bank, therefore a gift card with a ZERO balance is the best choice.
#2. It must be a VISA or MasterCard gift card. My suggestion is VISA because it is the most widely accepted and you can always tell based upon the first number designation of the card (i.e. VISA begins with 4 and MC begins with 5)
#3. The card MUST have a magnetic strip that HAS NOT been demagnetized. Therefore, do NOT place cards with magnetic strips side-by-side.
So, you're asking how to use this 'Fake Bank Card'. Simple, you insert the dummy card first, cancel out of the transaction, put in your real card and get your money, then place in the dummy card once more and cancel the transaction. Presto-blame-oh this adds a level of protection. Of course nothing is fully guaranteed, but I feel this certainly helps against card skimmers attempting to collect your data. Also, one last piece of advice is keeping your cards in RFID blocking wallets or money belts.
3. RULES FOR GOING OUT AT NIGHT
Once again I ave a pretty simple rule about going out in places after dark abroad, whether I have been there for longer periods of time or not. However, I will say a few places such as South Korea and the U.S. can be exceptions, because I know the laws and like my story, I've got mad connections yo! Whenever people insist on taking their smartphone, wallets, passports, or any other valuables out with them, I always stop and ask them, "I understand you want to take photos of the night, but would you rather wake up tomorrow without your phone just to get photos from the night before?" Of course, they say no and often insist I will be safe and my phone is ALWAYS in my hand at all times. Ok fine, not only does this make you a target, but then I've seen too many people crying later that night or the next day about how their valuables were stolen, lost, or something spilled on them and now they are broken!
So, my simple rules for going out after dark, because most times when things go down in shady areas it's under the cover of darkness. I have a mindset of leaving ALL valuables locked up and I usually only take a specific small amount of cash, and with this mindset I say; whether I spend this amount, lose it, or have it stolen, I am ok with taking this specific amount of money with me for the night, because guess what? Most times you can either go back to your hostel to get more money OR borrow money from another backpacker as long as you are a person of integrity and pay them back immediately. For myself, I hate borrowing money, and when I have the first thing I do is pay that person back immediately! Second, I have been burned myself by lending money to others for things like paying for a tuk-tuk and having another traveler tell me they don't have change and they'll pay me back later, only to never see them again or whatever. This I try to brush off, but as all budget travelers, this can be extremely frustrating, annoying, and down right rude. So sometimes, I've also learned to say no.
In conclusion, I hope these simple suggestions will help others save themselves from major disasters whether you are traveling abroad or not.
About the Author
My name is Troy and I gave up a promising 12-year career to travel the world! Now after more than 4-years of continuous global travel, I've lived an incredible life and my goal is to inspire others to achieve their dreams!
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