Travel & Safety Tips

by | Oct 19, 2001 | Archives

A friend who specializes in security shares some tips for safer travel with us here.

Dear International Friend,

One of the greatest gifts of my career is getting to meet so many wonderful people from every walk of life. So many global contacts are expanding and can be very helpful in difficult times like this. Yesterday's message from a friend showed us how to protect our health. Here we learn from another friend who specialized in anti-terrorism with the FBI how to protect ourselves when we travel. Here is what he wrote:

Dear Gary,The recent terrorist attack on our nation has produced unbelievable acts of heroism and sacrifice of life made by so many. As we begin to recover from this tragic experience, we will of necessity seek to resume our lives. Transportation has taken a serious blow, but when all is said and done the American spirit will prevail. Travel will resume under heightened security and new technology will allow us to restore this phase of our lives. With that said, I have put together what I feel are some important considerations for travelers. It is certain that conditions have changed for all of us; we need to be more aware of our surroundings, wherever we are. As you know, I spent almost twenty-five years as a Special Agent with the FBI. Much of my career was in the field of Counter-Espionage and Counter-Terrorism. These two areas of investigation ran pretty much hand in hand as most of the countries of interest had elements of both.Needless to say, terrorism is nothing new. What is new is the magnitude of destruction as demonstrated on September 11, with hijacked aircraft being used as missiles to destroy key American monuments and institutions. But more important than the destruction of buildings made of steel, concrete and glass, the greatest destruction were the dreams and hopes of all who perished for no reason other than intolerance and hatred. This can never be sanctioned and redress must be sought not only for the victims of this horrible occurrence but for families and loved ones who must forever bear the wounds of their loss.In preparing these thoughts, I recalled the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. You may remember, the destruction was extensive and lives were lost but the comparison of that attack to this most recent assault points to the incontrovertible seriousness on the part of the terrorist. These shadowy zealots have been able to integrate themselves into our open society with the goal of annihilation. Inherent to our makeup, we, the freedom loving Citizens of the World, are not about to let a band of assassins dictate our existence and our beliefs. Maybe our lives have changed but our will to live has not. As Americans, as Asians, as Europeans, as Africans, as all legitimate Citizens of the World we will incorporate and assimilate new ways of conduct. As we begin to rebuild we will struggle with change, which is only natural. Change is inevitable. We always change, though it's not generally brought to bear as forcefully as in recent days. Security, as of September 11, 2001, became a major industry. As we develop this industry and attendant technologies, solutions will come about to answer many of our concerns.For now, let me offer what I feel are some important considerations for the traveling public. I can assure you that like living, travel is also a natural state of mankind. As a Citizen of the World, I don't intend to stay in one place looking in the mirror each morning to affirm the fact that I'm still alive -- FEAR is not an option. At the same time I don't intend to foolishly throw caution to the wind and embark on a travel experience without knowledge and preparation. Please indulge me as I make the following suggestions for anyone's travel considerations. I am acutely aware that many of these recommendations will sound familiar and somewhat elementary, but by staying the course this reminder will begin to work on ones consciousness to bring about awareness.TRAVEL SMART1. INFORM YOURSELF. Many foreign travel destinations have English language newspapers. It may be worthwhile to check out the local news to familiarize yourself with the local conditions. A newspaper can be a good barometer of current political and social attitudes.2. TRANSPORTATION. Depending on where you are going it is advisable to prearrange your transportation from the airport to your hotel. Most hotels will accommodate this request.Note: I have made numerous trips to Mexico City and always made arrangements through the hotel for personal transportation from the airport. Unfortunately, Mexico City has become infamous for its kidnappings and extortions. Even the Mexicans are wary of the local taxi drivers who have been known to shake down their customers. While a traveler may never have a bad experience, why take the chance. Would I make the same recommendation for England or Australia? The answer is clearly, No.3. TRY NOT TO LOOK LIKE A TOURIST. Do not make a display of wealth when traveling to countries where there is economic stress. In some countries it is evident you are different from the local population and that you would not be there if you didn't have money (even though a traveler may have spent his last dollar to get there). The bottom line is simply this; there is no need to impress the local population of your uniqueness. You will gain the respect of the people by blending in and showing acceptance of their difference.4. ILLEGAL SUBSTANCES WARNING. When traveling abroad or anywhere else for that matter do not get involved with illegal substances. Some countries are not as forgiving as the U.S. for this infraction. The reality is that in many parts of the world there is zero tolerance for drug possession. In line with this very serious recommendation let me suggest that the traveler accept no packages from anyone to be delivered to a third party. Drug pushers have successfully used this ploy, especially on the young travelers who when caught by the authorities, have become entangled in an unbelievable nightmare.5. RESIST CONFRONTATION. Try to avoid confrontation especially with local authorities. We have all heard stories of payoffs. In Mexico they call it the Mordida (bite). Whatever the language, it's the same - it's a government official making life difficult until you figure out what he wants is some of your cash. Don't even think you can win. What you may consider, however, if conditions allow, is simply walk away and come back later. In the meantime, you may get lucky and another official who may have an entirely different attitude and moral constitution may assist you.6. STAY AWAY FROM TROUBLE. It is rather obvious that traveling in politically unstable countries is not advisable. Even countries contiguous with politically turbulent governments may not be any safer. Unsettled conditions in one country often spills over into neighboring sovereign states causing certain social and political dysfunction in the region. Save it for another day. There are other areas of the world to see and explore.7. PROTECT YOUR PASSPORT. Safeguard your most important document -your Passport. As a well-known advertisement says; "Don't Leave Home Without It," let me suggest you not leave your hotel with it. Again, depending on conditions of the country it is suggested you make a photocopy of your passport to have with you at all times. Your original passport can be safely locked away in the hotel safe. If for some reason you have to produce a passport away from the hotel most authorities will accept your reason for having a copy, and if needed, the original can be produced. In this installment I have used the phrase, Citizens of the World, to emphasize our rights as inhabitants of this earth to enjoy and partake of its wonders. This will become the mantra of those who, beyond nationality e.g. British, Columbian, Italian, Chinese or American, etc., begin to accept the whole world not only as their right to enjoy but their responsibility in promoting global prosperity. Never before in the history of the world has timing and need for people of all backgrounds and persuasion to come together as Citizens of the World.Paul

I hope to find you traveling with me to Orlando or Quito in November andJanuary, but if not I wish that all your travels areenjoyable and safe. If you have travel and security concerns, please passthem and I'll try to get them answered by our many eClub friends around theworld.

Have good global travels!