Posts Tagged travel safety tips

Travel Safety and Security Awareness: What is Blending In?

                                      Travel Safety and Security Awareness

                  What is Blending In? What do I do when I cannot Blend In?

One of the cornerstones to personal safety is what experts refer to as “blending in.” Better stated, this is not attempting to “fit in,” especially in an environment that is clearly foreign to you, it’s just not drawing unwanted attention.

This may apply to social workers, home health providers and other lone workers when doing business in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

It also applies when abroad, and in general, a good practice to engage in whether in a group or traveling solo.

The basics on blending in are common sense.

Dress down. Don’t wear bright colors that catch the eye, and keep your phone out of sight. Jewelry and other valuables also attract attention.

Footwear: Shoes that are comfortable and that you can move quickly in are a plus. Inmates participating in a victim selection study said they always factor in whether a prospective target is wearing shoes that will slow them down or allow them nimble movement.

Body language is also key. Projecting a relaxed, yet confident and friendly presence is ideal. Walking “heads up” and “shoulders back” are the cornerstones of a relaxed and confident person.

But what to do when you CANNOT blend in?

For instance, when you’re somewhere that you don’t look at all like the local folks? I experience this a lot traveling in Southern Africa and Central America.

In this case, the “script is flipped,” as it were.

If you’re going to be somewhere for a while and cannot blend in, it is now time to “develop assets,” as the military likes to say.

In other words, it’s time to start getting to know people. For instance, I’m sure to get to know store owners, the fellows running the bicycle rental shop I walk by every day, the pharmacist, several produce vendors, and security guards outside banks and other businesses.

My goal: I want as many friendly sets of eyes on me as I go about my day as possible. Locals know who’s who and word travels fast. If I’m somewhere more than a week, I also get to know several cab drivers.

With eyes on you, people who are up to no good know you are seen and recognized by the solid citizens and are less likely to victimize you. Locals know who they are and can report very easily. Locals will more readily step in to help, if they see you are in a difficult position.

Build relationships over time. I try and remain vague on where we’re staying and for how long. As President Reagan once said, “Trust but verify.”

I am always cognizant that I am a guest in this neighborhood or country.  Always show respect and honor the culture. Warm and friendly eye contact goes a long way, as does showing gratitude and kindness. Learning a few courtesy phrases always helps.

When abroad, I am sure to keep the contacts of locals I get to know, such as cab drivers, pharmacists, an Airbnb owner, etc., in my WhatsApp (the free international text and voice app most of us are familiar with.)

As always, know where to go in an emergency. Find out where the closest medical facility and police station are. Have your country’s embassy phone number in your speed dial list.  Regardless of how comfortable we become in any environment, including our own “back yards”, maintaining situational awareness is always key.

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