Travel Safely

How to Travel Safely ❤

What happened in Los Angeles over the Lunar New Year “holiday” (unfortunately it’s not recognized as one) made me reflect about traveling safely.

I’ve walked in sketchy areas, flew on a plane that had to take an emergency landing and was coasting down without the engine, been in a tornado, been close to a flooded area, been close to a snowed-in area, and drove through a thunderstorm that was so bad that a truck could have hit me. Our family dinner started with a heavy subject. Everyone in Los Angeles was talking about Kobe Bryant’s helicopter. This time, we’re thinking twice about air travel.

While traveling is fun, safety crosses my mind several times (as it should). There are a few rules to go by that are almost common sense. It doesn’t matter if you have traveled once or many times, safety should always come first. Here are a few things on safety and my personal stories.

1. Get to know the area well.

We all know that Google and Google maps have a lot of information, but reaching out to real people in the area, such as hosts or locals can also be helpful. One of my hosts had once told me she carried a pepper spray, but haven’t had to use it yet. In Paris, one of the travelers on the cruise had someone almost rob him! For traveling in the US, there are crime websites that provide information and track this history. And thanks to Google, we can also look at a place before going.

2. Know the season and the weather

If we’re traveling, of course, we want to be in the right season. This is too soon to bring up, but we are now pretty aware that we can’t control the weather. Was it dangerous being near a tornado in Maryland and on the flooded plains of Iowa? Yes, but it wasn’t a choice. I didn’t expect tornados or storms. It was almost summer, and I thought the weather would be fine for my destinations.

3. Be alert even if you know the area

I was in downtown LA once when I suddenly heard what sounded like a gunshot. I felt liquid hit my leg, and I couldn’t move. “Come on, run–” yelled my friend, and only then I remembered to move. Luckily, it was one incident, but it broke his car’s windshield. That could have been anything, and it could have hurt someone. I’ve been in downtown LA many times,  and finally, in my mid-twenties, I realized how unsafe big cities can be.

4. Break your routine

Since that night in Los Angeles, I was reminded of another tip: don’t have a trackable routine. Routines can be great, but don’t be an easy target.

5. Post on social media when you have left or about to leave

They say to post after your trip, but in reality, most people don’t. What ends up happening is that you’d be so tired after the trip that you wouldn’t want to go over the photos or you’re busy catching up on work. After struggling to find time to blog, I realized I should just make it a routine to post right after I leave the location. Anyone who’s tracking will need at least thirty minutes or a flight.

6. Only allow selected family members or friends to access your schedule and location

Let a few family members and friends know where you’ll be. For those who are spontaneous–well, for most people, it’s probably better to have a GPS tracker with you.

7. Be wary of staying out late (after 9pm)

Some places are more dangerous at night after everyone has left. Parks and some places have low visibility. Travel in well-lit places or make sure you walk with a purpose–not too slow, but not necessarily running. I’ve walked through LA at night before… it’s a risky maneuver but possible.

8. Present yourself as a difficult target.

Watch your belongings, have pepper spray if you need it (unfortunately, you can’t take it on planes), have a doorstop or prop a chair against the door at night, keep your wallet hidden, and take all of the safety measures. Don’t hop into a stranger’s car at night. If you’re bold, somewhat athletic, positive, have somewhere to go, and look like you know what to do, you’re better off than looking like you’re new to the area.

9. Take cues from the locals

It’s interesting that you don’t really need to know the language well to understand what’s happening. In LA where we’re constantly exposed to different people, we become good at “knowing” what to do based on everyone else. There was a time when someone spoke in Cantonese, and because the audience was mostly Asian Americans who knew the language, even the handful of Caucasian Americans who didn’t speak Chinese knew what to do. How? They read the situation. In Maryland, for example, I wouldn’t have known how to survive the tornado. I’d have to buddy up with some people and figure out on the spot.

10. Do what you can and enjoy the rest

Being well-rested, alert, and knowing how to handle emergency situations is usually the best you can do and say sayonara to the rest. Safe traveling is a happy travel.