The Peaceful Warrior Guide to Safe Travel: 10 Crucial Tips

If you want to enjoy traveling, it’s important to stay safe – whether you’re exploring remote countrysides or big cities. If you talk to tourists anywhere, you’ll hear horror stories of people being mugged or worse. However, most times  mishaps can been prevented through simple safety precautions.
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Here’s an example from Rio De Janeiro:
Four young American guys rented a jeep and went on a mission to explore the dramatic countryside around Rio. On their way back, they used the car’s GPS system to find their hotel. The GPS system chose the shortest route – which was right through a favella (a poor area governed by drug barons).
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Suddenly a shot shattered the windscreen. The driver stood on the breaks and the car shuddered to a halt – just in front of a band of armed toughs.  They stole everything. After being beaten, the Americans finally managed to escape and limped back to the hotel – wearing nothing but their boxers. They later blamed their experience on the crime culture of the favellas. But these guys could have easily avoided the mishap – if they’d followed the safety tips below – especially no.10!
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I’ve traveled safely right around the globe. As a 4th Dan karate Blackbelt I’ve learnt to spot and avoid danger. Most of all, I’ve learned to be peaceful – which is the key to safe travels. Check out the following ten safety rules which will keep you safe – at least most of the time.
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1. Spot the good people


Travel guides often suggest keeping an eye out for the bad guys. But it’s actually much more important to spot the good ones! There are good people everywhere. You can find them in all walks of life. Good people respond to kindness and courtesy – human values that transcend culture and country.
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If you treat everyone with consideration, you’ll find that good people will protect you.
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Here’s an example:
A couple of days ago I was chatting to a stallholder in a local Buenos Aires crafts market. As I was about to walk away, she tipped me a wink that she had just spotted a well-known pickpocket nearby. (In South America, the sign for ‘watch out!’ is a forefinger under one eye.) She quickly pulled me into her stall until he had passed.
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2. Follow  local customs


Before you enter a country or an area, find out what the local customs are. Otherwise, you may inadvertently offend people. Here are some important questions:
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  • Do you take shoes off before entering a home?
  • Which hand to you eat with?
  • Which hand signs are inappropriate?
  • Which rules should guests observe?

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I once saw an English guest in a Moroccan home show his appreciation of the meal by holding up his hand and forming a ring with forefinger and thumb. Unfortunately the head of the family took this to mean, “You’re an a…hole!” The scene got ugly and the tourist was bundled out of the house in a hurry!
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Locals like travelers who respect local customs.
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When I first visited Fiji, I had read that it’s good manners to pay a visit to the Headman of a village and offer a gift of Kava roots. My partner David and I bought a sack of Kava roots before visiting outlying islands. Each time we came to a new village, we made our offering and the Headman would then prepare a ceremonial drink of Kava and call some of the other village elders to join us. (Kava makes your mouth go numb and your legs feel like rubber. It’s passed around the circle in a huge wooden bowl and tastes of boiled gym shoes.)
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Once we’d completed this ordeal, the villagers welcomed us with open arms!
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3. Share food


In Morocco it’s considered impolite to eat food without offering it to others. This is a great rule to use when traveling. If you want to eat on a bus or a train, make sure to offer some food to those sitting around you, before tucking in. If necessary, buy a store of biscuits to offer around – as you may not want everyone chomping on your sandwich before eating it yourself.
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4. Don’t flaunt your baubles

Leave jewelery behind when you travel, and wear only a simple watch. If you have a camera, try to keep it out of sight. Poverty can make people desperate, and your show of wealth may mark you as a possible victim.
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5. Allay fears


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In remote communities, strangers spell danger. Make sure that you allay any fears by introducing yourself. If you don’t speak the language, find a guide who can translate for you. I once traveled with my brother George to a remote village in the Darien, a huge jungle area between Columbia and Panama. The only strangers ever seen in the village were cocaine smugglers from Columbia who raped and killed at whim.
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To allay any fears, we went from hut to hut accompanied by the local teacher who could speak the tribal language. We stopped at each hut and greeted the family. The villagers then relaxed and even put on a feast in our honor. In preparation, the women took me aside and – with much giggling –  dressed me in one of their festive costumes. Then the villagers showed us their sacred dances by the light of a bonfire.
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6. Tell a good story


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Traveling is a luxury that most people can’t afford. The idea of tourism is foreign to people who lead simple lives. Explain your journey in a way that makes sense to the locals. For example, when I was traveling in Morocco with my son, we told people that Sebastian was accompanying me in order to chaperone and protect me. (In rural Morocco females are closely guarded by male relatives.)
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7. Avoid being mugged


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There are some very simple ways to avoid being mugged.
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  • Make sure you have local information about which areas are safe, and which are dangerous – and follow it. (This is were the American tourists who strayed into a favella went wrong).
  • Don’t walk through empty streets in the dark
  • Watch out for people showing anomalous behavior and avoid them.

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8. Carry a hold-up wallet

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Even if you follow the safety rules above, you may still get mugged. If you are faced with weapons, hand over your cash. The trick is to have a special “hold-up wallet” in your pocket with some money, but no credit cards. Hand over this special wallet immediately – but look gutted. Carry your credit cards and other money next to your skin in a money belt.
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9. Learn four crucial words


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If you are in a country that doesn’t speak your language, you need to learn four crucial word fast: “Hallo”, “Thank you”, “Please”, and “Help!”
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10. Don’t be an idiot


Before you travel to an unfamiliar place, do some research in advance. When you arrive, get advice from locals. They will tell you where it’s safe to go, and which areas to avoid. There are lots of people who hear such advice – but don’t listen to it because they think they know better.
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These ten tips are common-sense, but most travelers disregard them. The main reason tourists get into trouble is that they remain insulated within their own cultural bubble – without making contact with locals and without trying to see life through their eyes.
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Travel as a peaceful warrior: stay alert, but make courteous and friendly contact with everyone you meet.
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Mary Jaksch is an author, Zen Master, and psychotherapist who likes dancing tango in skimpy dresses. You can read more of her stuff on Goodlife Zen or on Write to Done or get her free Ebook Overcome Anything.

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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