It is unfortunately a sad fact of life that we are all at risk from theft, mugging, kidnapping and violence when we travel; whether you are male, female, young or old you are at risk to a greater or lesser extent; however, there are a number of things we can do to reduce the risks substantially. It’s always sad to hear of incidents of any kind but incidents involving the elderly and females that have curtailed their future travels because of an attempted robbery or threat of violence are particularly distasteful. Females tend to attract more attention because they are seen as ‘weak, easy pickings’. This is generally brought about by a reluctance to cause injury in retaliation due to their caring and gentle nature along with their clothing, shoes and hair. With the elderly it’s often their reduced agility and mobility that attracts attention; with the young it’s their innocence.
The following information is no more than common sense really and needs no special training although courses are available to cover what to do in an actual attack, although 99% of attacks result from lack of awareness. A good bodyguard almost never has to deal with a threat physically, good advance work all but removes this threat.
I mentioned earlier that a female’s clothing, shoes and hair are all major deciding factors when being singled out for a robbery/attack; let’s take a closer look at why females become a prime target.
Females: Generally, females are seen as physically weaker, giving the male attacker an advantage.
Shoes: High heels substantially reduce agility, speed and balance; giving the attacker another advantage.
Hair: Long hair will be used to pull you over; remember, if you control the head you control the body… Giving the attacker another advantage.
Clothes: Tight skirts look great but they reduce movement and flexibility, yet another advantage in favour of the attacker.
The Handbag: Handbags are where you keep everything… Money, credit/debit cards, passport, identification cards, mobile phone etc. How convenient. Your whole life in one place! Another advantage?
An attacker will have noticed all these things in the 10 minutes he’s been watching you, these attacks are very rarely random. We have much the same things with older people; their weakness is often a reduction in agility. With the young it’s often the inexperience of having stuff everywhere and being disorganised that stands out. The ways in which we deal with all these things will reduce the chance of attack to almost zero, let’s see how.
Female: Don’t bother booking a sex change. This perceived physical disadvantage is low on the list for an attacker.
Shoes: You are travelling, comfort is more important than looking stunning; go for something like a Merrell outdoor shoe such as a Chameleon Slam or similar. They look tidy, give exceptional traction, promote agility and are comfortable.
Hair: If you have long hair tie it in a ‘bob’ or clip it out of easy reach.
Clothes: Comfort is again the important factor, whether male or female, casual outdoor gear like Craghopper stuff is ideal. Light, quick drying, lots of zipped pockets etc. A shooting vest with all the different pockets is ideal for the traveller and looks good as well. Keep all your stuff in zipped pockets; keep your passport in one, your wallet in another, a small amount of currency for the country you are in to buy coffee or a sandwich in another and so on. Put your mobile phone on a lanyard attached to the jacket in plain view when in use. The idea of keeping just one thing in each pocket is that other things don’t have to come out (or fall out) to get at what you need; this fumbling about displays disorganisation, an important weakness to the would be attacker.
The handbag: A small good quality rucksack like the Berghaus Bladdered are absolutely ideal for keeping your gear in… Ditch the handbag!
The way you look and act:This goes a good way in keeping you safe. Don’t wander about looking lost or unsure or with your hands in your pockets; be deliberate and certain. Airports, train stations and bus stations are the main danger areas. Whenever possible gain information first from the internet or friends if required. When you are sitting reading or having a coffee try to find a table where you can sit with your back to the wall or better still in a corner so everything is in front of you. Some say that you will be trapped in a corner if you do this, let’s break it down and see! You cannot be surprised and you will have a table and possibly chairs in front of you eliminating the attackers immediate access, the attacker is unlikely to pursue the attack further as he will be in the corner also but facing the wall… Not a place he wants to be! You will need to remove your small sack to sit down, when you do this immediately fasten it around the table leg or chair to prevent the possibility of a quick snatch. When you want to leave put the rucksack back on and adjust before leaving your position… Don’t carry it and put it on later. Always keep the rucksack tight, never walk around with it hanging off your back to look cool!
Toilets: When going to the toilet be extra vigilant; if you are a male always use a cubicle, never a urinal. Male or female, always fully adjust your clothing and rucksack before unlocking the cubicle door. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t wash your hands… Go straight out, this is a dangerous area. Keep a small bottle of anti-bacterial gel in your pocket for this purpose. If you are travelling with a friend of the same sex go to the toilet one at a time, not together. If your travelling companion is of the opposite sex, again one at a time.
On entering an airport, train station or bus station always know where to locate the exits and where they lead to; you may need to leave quickly for a number of reasons. Be suspicious of anyone requiring help, it’s an old ploy. In these places help will be provided quickly if needed. If you feel compelled to help, locate security and they will deal with it.
All this sounds like ‘cloak & dagger’ stuff but an attacker will be aware of the way you handle yourself and will dismiss you in favour of an easier target. With a little practice all these things will become second nature and take up little effort.
We have covered the basics of making yourself an undesirable target for an attacker. Should you be confronted there are a number of simple things you can do to neutralise the threat in order to assist your exit. If there is enough interest I will cover these in a second article.
Safe and happy travelling.