There’s something about the cover of night that lends a sinister air to, well, just about anything. Like when I’m out for an evening run and the sun sets faster than I expected, I find myself picking up the pace just a little, hoping to beat darkness home.
A few weeks before we left for our trip, I was walking through downtown at night. I saw a swarthy, scruffy looking guy approach a young girl at the bus stop. I was walking past at the time, but I slowed down and kept looking over my shoulder to see what was happening, relaxing only once he walked away. I don’t know what I would’ve done if he’d tried anything – screamed? Rushed back to confront him? – but I felt somewhat obligated to keep an eye on that particular encounter.
In KL I was urged not to make the 5-10 minute walk to Times Square from our hotel alone by my friend. My parents, who still keep up with headlines back in Malaysia, always seem to be relaying news of some stabbing, kidnapping or home invasion.
In Bangkok, and Naples, and Athens, I always heeded my aunt’s warning to hold my bag close to my body. Busy spots like Times Square and the Trevi Fountain always seemed like prime spots for pick pocketers to haunt. I never went as far as to carry a fake wallet to deter any would-be muggers, though.
In six months away, however, I never once felt actively uneasy about my personal safety. That may have had something to do with the fact I almost always had T with me, who cuts a reasonably imposing figure. I definitely looked like a tourist, with my camera, day pack, and often, my trusty zipoff travel pants. It’s probably worth noting that we didn’t venture into any ‘dangerous’ territory, sticking to stable, fairly popular destinations. Safe travel is much easier when you follow well worn trails.
I have to admit that we took a few risks, getting more and more lax towards the end. The more cautious traveller might lug a laptop around all day in tropical heat; we almost always left ours back in our hotel rooms, many of which didn’t have safety deposit boxes. In the US, I stopped wearing my passport pouch under my clothes, leaving it in my bag instead (I did have digital and paper backups of the important pages, though).
You always think that these are things that happen to other people. Even to experienced travellers, sometimes! In hindsight, there really was no excuse for my slacking off. I am immensely grateful that we had such good luck with weather, political stability (no riots, uprisings, and no real impact from the US government shutdown) and safety. The closest we got to any whiff of crime was Sunday brunch at a restaurant about a block away from this shooting in San Francisco.
So when I’m asked about any mishaps we had along the way, really, the worst I have to point to is the infamous ceiling fan incident. It could be worse.
Aah so that’s what happened! I’m clearly not too phased by crimes as I didn’t even search for the story on the news after our lunch lol. I typically don’t carry any valuables when I’m traveling and stay alert about my surroundings. I’ll do research before booking a hotel to make sure it’s in a decent area, but generally the travel warnings we hear about are blown out of proportion. I’ve never used a fake wallet either. We can’t live in fear, especially of things that are out of our control.
No horror stories and hopefully will have none in the future. The safest big city I’ve been in is London – felt really safe walking around at night (midnight) and early in the morning (4:30am). It’s important to have common sense and know what’s going on in your travel destinations (protests, gang activity, etc.) but sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When we went for a vacation in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines you should be very attentive while carrying your things because pick pocketers are everywhere! There’s an instance my aunt just bump a guy and then it was so late that she found out that her wallet was already gone.
No horror stories so far. At least not the getting mugged type. My best advice is to stay out of bad areas. For example, not going to South Dallas at night.
I was mugged a couple of times in Guatemala, one was really scary because they mugged the whole bus, but thankfully they did not deviate the road to take us somewhere and take all our things, it lasted a couple of minutes and they only got cellphones and money. The two times were when I relaxed and was less vigilant, you have to stay aware at all times.
I’ve been pretty lucky – never had anything bad happen while travelling, nothing lost and nothing stolen. I am pretty wary of people in general so I do tend to keep my valuables close and my eyes on the surroundings.
I’m the same way! I’ve heard all the horror stories, but I’m still not super cautious. In reality though bad things can happen to anyone anywhere. It’s always good to be aware of your surroundings.
We got robbed in Rome… Our hotel room was completely ransacked and we were SO LUCKY we had all three cameras and our passports on us. After that experience I don’t think I will ever be able to be a casual traveler again!
YIKES that is horrifying! So glad you had your valuables with you.
I don’t have any travelling horror stories – but mind you – I don’t travel much! When we were in Vegas I wasn’t overly cautious, but I made sure to keep my purse zipped up to prevent someone from reaching in and grabbing my wallet. (At home I never zip it up.)
I’ve always had good luck traveling as well. I’ve never had anything stolen from me or felt intimidated!
Yes. My first trip to NYC in the mid-1980’s was a disaster. I think everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Our car was badly damaged by a delivery truck, our luggage was stolen out of the back of the car, and it seemed like every person on the street was trying to rip us off in some way.
It took me about 13 years to give NYC another try. Midtown was completely different: no more sleazy cinemas and prostitutes, and the people were much more friendly. I’ve been to NYC several times in the past 12 years for both business and pleasure. It’s a much better place now and I understand the attraction!
Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker, but I almost always feel safe in NYC. There’s always people around to look out for me (hopefully). I was visiting my boyfriend on tour in DC last week and Schenectady a few weeks before, and whenever I would walk to the theatre at night I’d be terrified. There was no one around, it creeped me out.
DC IS creepily empty at night! We went there straight from NYC so it was a real change in pace.
My only travel horror stories have to do with extreme sickness (my boyfriend at the time, not me). My purse was stolen once at the train station in Philly (but that was my fault for sticking it in a bigger bag and not paying enough attention to the bigger bag).
I am glad you are liking your North American travels. I planned to go to DC in Oct but then the Government Shutdown scrapped my plans.