As I write this, there are reports that Ignacio Echeverria, the Spanish man last seen defending a woman in the London terrorist attack, has been confirmed dead. He was using his skateboard to fend off a man who was stabbing a woman.
Should You Cancel Your International Travel Plans – or Not?
Recent terrorist attacks have reinforced the resolve of many of my friends and acquaintances to forgo travel anywhere but within the United States. Some are even remaining at home due to concerns and fears over possible attacks occurring again. The reality is that we know that a terrorist attack will occur again – although the chances that we will lose our life or be injured by one are mathematically very small.
However, staying at home due to fear results in missed opportunities – and a loss to, well, our freedom. There are many who are more travelled than I but, for me travel provides the opportunity to learn, explore and grow. I am an inveterate traveler – if I can swing it financially. I am “in,” regardless of locale. This summer, I am set to cruise the Baltic Sea, beginning in Stockholm with a St. Petersburg port of call. My travel companions are concerned about whether we should still go after earlier attacks in both cities. My answer? “Of course!” Otherwise, “they” win and our world, and our lives, become so much more narrow.
Practical Travel Security: If You Elect to Travel, Do So Wisely
As a former law enforcement officer and now working within the law enforcement and security ecosystems, I am an enthusiastic but informed and observant traveler. I check both the U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings website and – because a second opinion is always valuable – the UK Foreign Travel Advice website for travel advisories and issues of concern. The State Department now provides an app for continuous updates.
Whether at home or abroad, I always plan with my travel companions where to meet if we get separated in large crowds or a city. In fact, as many Americans plan for the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations, this is practical advice for even those of us remaining at home this holiday. The rendezvous location should be outside the event venue, in an open and accessible area. If you are a parent travelling with children, using color-coordinated clothing – especially bright colors – makes the family easy to spot. While we do not color-coordinate, I am always aware of what my travel companions are wearing.
At plays, museums and other entertainment venues, identify your ingress and egress options. Again, whether at home or abroad, I am always aware of how to get out of a location in the event of an emergency.
Key Travel Safety Tips to Know – and Follow
Make it harder to be a target – for criminals and terrorists. That requires awareness of your surroundings. Look for the unusual, particularly if crowds are growing or decreasing. I was jogging solo one early Sunday morning in Jordan, when hundreds of men began to pour onto the streets. I was not aware of any ill intent – but that behavior was unusual. I can tell you I ran, not jogged, out of there.
Additionally, observe basic dress codes. Secure your valuables rather than wear them. Keep additional identification and money in a second location on your person (jacket pocket and a purse, for example).
Let contacts at home know where you are and when you plan on going. While the allure of wandering without an agenda has its draw, reality is that someone should have knowledge of where you are. Send a daily email or text (now incredibly easy and cheap to do through the use of Wi-Fi and various apps). These will help your loved ones know your general plans and locations in the event of an emergency.
See You Out There!
It is easier to let fear control and to find reasons not to travel. Terrorist attacks are but one reason. I have had friends who are fearful of becoming a crime victim in Rome, based upon reports they have read. They and I live in Chicago – what do you think the Italians hear about this town? On my end, I am trying to overcome my concerns to explore the richness of the ‘Stans’.
What I do know, is that life is much more vibrant when opportunities are explored. Giving into fear limits your life and experiences. The opportunity to meet a person like Ignacio Echeverria, the Spanish man who died defending a woman he did not know, and to share the experiences of different cultures, reaffirms my confidence in our collective humanity as stronger than the violent acts of a few.
If you’re interested in learning more, tune into WGN tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. to listen to me chat with anchors Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten. Or shoot me an email. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.