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.