When you meet new people as often as I do with the type of Industry I am in, you get to be a pretty good judge of character. I travel a lot, and although there are cultural differences even in the United States, for the most part, I have run into some fantastic people. However, you do have to learn to ‘size up’ people quickly to understand if you are safe or not with that person. Sometimes, you have to trust the person, especially when they are in charge of your safety with a ride-share service, etc. But, there are tips to keep yourself safe with an Uber, Lyft, or other transportation. More to come on the transportation topic.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I have probably been fortunate when keeping safe while traveling, so I am certainly recommending you be aware of your surroundings and when something doesn’t feel right, you are probably right-on with your instincts. A lot of understanding of how to protect yourself comes from learning to become ‘street-wise.’
So, what does ‘street-wise’ really mean? It means not taking undue risk. For example, I sometimes travel by myself, and other times, I am fortunate when I have a coworker with me at least through part of the trip. However, when walking in a dark area by yourself, be aware of your surroundings.
I will venture out of the hotel or working environment to go to eat only when I feel comfortable in the city or town I am visiting. When alone in an unfamiliar place, I will either order up or call-in food.
If I am staying in a nice hotel, I will eat by myself in the hotel restaurant. Some people do not like to eat alone, but most of the people in the hotels are like me, business travelers, or families enjoying a vacation. For the most part, I feel that booking a hotel in a safe area is extremely important when traveling alone.
Decisions also need to be made about transportation. If booking a rental car, you will need a GPS or use one on your cell phone. Oh, how I wished I had those in the earlier years.
I used to get directions from clients, and seriously, the instructions would be as simple as: “When you see a big oak tree on the left, then take the next right. I don’t remember the name of the street, but it will be right after that tree. You can’t miss it because it is the biggest tree on that road. Then you go through 3 or 4 stoplights. I can’t remember how many stoplights, but when seeing an Exxon Station on the left. That is the road you turn on. After you come down a little, you should see our building on the right.”
Well, I certainly got lost a lot of the time, and I would do my best using MapQuest to help me along, but even with that navigation system that you had to print out directions in advance, and many times, it gave me the wrong instructions.
I remember one time, I was in San Francisco looking for my hotel for the night. I did have a coworker in the rental car with me. We were lost, and I had to get out of the car and ask for directions. The poor guy about jumped out of his skin scared of me. I thought that was pretty cool, but did not understand I was on the most dangerous street in downtown San Francisco. That particular road had a significant murder rate, and I had no idea. After that experience, I stopped to ask directions unless I went to a secure place and went into a store.
We finally got to our hotel in San Francisco and when we went to our respective hotel rooms. My coworker came to my place and announced she would sleep in a chair but was not staying in her room alone. It was pretty creepy in that area, to be honest. But then when we looked in my bathroom and saw blood everywhere, we quickly packed up and went to the hotel lobby and told them we could not stay there.
The hotel clerk did apologize and did not charge our cards for the hotel stay, and off we went at 1 am to find another hotel. Long story short, we ended up another hour away, but closer to our destination and a much safer hotel.
Here are some tips to help you get through your trip safely:
- Learn more about your destination and get recommendations from people who have stayed in the area, or a client you may be visiting
- Look at the hotel reviews. Please look at the safety record of the hotel
- Rental car – get a car if you know where you are going or at least ensure you can use a GPS
- Ride-shares – when ordering a car – look at the rating on the driver and reviews.
- Use the ‘share your trip with a friend’ feature.
- You can now set up to receive a code when you order a driver. That driver has to be given a code before they know where they are taking you. And that code can ensure you are connecting with the right person and that person knows he has the right person in their vehicle
- Get extra recommendations with other former travelers on-line. Reviews are extremely important for hotels, great places to eat (I like to go where the locals go) and suggestions for great hotels at fair prices
When walking in a dark parking deck or any other place that feels uncomfortable, I was trained at one point to get the ‘Hilary’ look. Walkout confident with your head held high and you are less likely to appear an easy target
Always be aware of your surroundings. Your instincts are your best line of defense. If you feel uncomfortable, get to a safe place, look for an officer or go into a public place.
Travel can be fun, but also make your journey a safe trip. Happy Trails!