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National Travel & Tourism Week is May 2-10, 2015. If you're putting on your tourist cap and exploring another culture, keep this travel advice from Jennifer Cassetta in mind.
Leaving the comfort of your own home, city, state and country is something everyone should experience at some point in their life. Travel gives us a broader perspective and can even increase our gratitude for the life that we live at home.
Traveling is one of my favorite activities and I’ve been blessed to have been able to incorporate it into my work. Last year, I traveled around the world with a client as his personal trainer and nutritionist. I also travel around the US to different colleges teaching safety and self-defense. During these trips I am usually staying in a hotel alone, dining alone and exploring the city alone. As much as I enjoy it all, I always have to have my safety top of mind.
Here’s how I keep myself safe on the road and ways you can too when you’re exploring the world by yourself, traveling abroad or away on business trips.
Do your research.
Before you get to your destination do some initial reccy during your planning phase. Head to the government’s US Department of State’s website to check out any travel warnings or alerts. A travel warning is when the US wants you to consider whether you should travel to that country at all. A travel alert is used for a short-term event that you should try to plan around, for example a major disease outbreak, a weather disaster, or an election that will disrupt the peace. I would especially keep these things in mind when planning on going to a country in which you do not speak the language. And with that…
Learn some language.
You should always learn some basics of the local language. Most importantly:
Even if many people speak English where you are headed, it shows respect for the culture if you at least try and speak their language.
On the plane ride there, pull up some maps of the overall country and city that you are staying in. Figure out the terrain and surrounding areas. If staying in a city, check out where your hotel or apartment is and memorize the street names around you so you can recognize them once you are there. Once arriving to your destination, study maps of your immediate neighborhood so you won’t have to pull out your phone every time you are returning home.
When traveling alone, you’ll most likely be eating out alone. If you’re like me, you no longer feel uncomfortable doing this and may actually enjoy it. I always opt to sit at the bar rather than at a table. The bar is usually a more social environment, better for people watching and you can always have someone to talk to (the bartender). The bartender can be a great source of local “insider” information. He or she can tell you what places you must visit, where you must eat, the local customs and you can always ask how safe or unsafe the city is. Just remember, like with anyone else you meet, don’t give away too much information about yourself. When strangers start to ask about where you are staying, how long you are in town for, etc., be very vague in your answers. “I’m staying up the street.” OR “I’m staying with a friend.” And don’t ever let anybody walk you home back to your hotel or apartment, especially after a glass of wine or two…
Don’t let your guard down.
If you do choose to drink alcohol, do it carefully. Watch who makes your drink and never leave it at the bar while you go to the bathroom. Finish it first or order a fresh drink when you get back from the bathroom. You never know who may have slipped something into your drink. Also, depending on what country you are in, don’t drink alcohol in public if it is considered unacceptable. For example, in Dubai, it is acceptable to drink alcohol at your resort or hotel as a woman, but not out in public. So be sure to…
Keep with the local customs.
You never want to stick out like a sore thumb. Dress like the people who are in your same age group. If women are required to cover their head in certain parts of the world, then cover your head, even if it goes against your philosophy. If nobody is wearing really short shorts, then don’t wear them. You don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. You may not have the same rights there as you do in the US and by no means do you want to test that out in a foreign legal system.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Then you can eat, drink, be merry and safe all at the same time!