We experience the unknown when we travel. Wandering unfamiliar streets. Seeing faces we don’t recognise. Sampling food we don’t get at home. Usually we come back with thrilling adventures to share.
But sometimes some of us come back with the odd horror story of getting pick-pocketed, getting lost and probably everyone’s worst nightmare, their passport stolen.
The onus is on us to survive trips in one piece. It could be a lengthy overseas holiday. It could be a quick trip back to our hometowns. Whenever we head back to Malaysia for a short getaway, my mum never fails to repeat common sense tips for us to stay physically safe over and over again.
For many of us, quite often our vacations are spent outdoors roaming streets and monuments – we never know when the locals might take advantage of us. Carrying a bag slung across our body or a back pack instead of a handbag in hand might deter snatch thieves from approaching us. Thieves have every chance of falling to the ground, unceremoniously wrestling us wrestling them trying to grab our cross-body bags.
Sometimes carrying no bag might be the way to go on holidays. When we’re in Malaysia, my mum insists we stuff our wallets, phones and tissues into bulging pants pockets and basically go bag-less. Some robbers here don’t hesitate to cut off body parts with parangs to get a hold of your belongings.
Dressing down abroad is usually a wise decision too. Wearing shiny jewelry and watches screams we are loaded with money. Likewise for the reason above, I wear my oldest pair of jeans and most faded shirts when I’m in Malaysia, be it in air-conditioned shopping centres or baking Petaling Street. As my relatives said, the more we look like beggars, the less likely robbers will glance at us.
Another way to stay safe is thinking twice about wandering down lonely hole in the wall paths and getting lost at our own risk. Going down a deserted laneway, we might set ourselves up for getting mugged in a secluded place with no one to turn to for help. On a number of occasions, I’ve visited suburban parts of Melbourne, took an unplanned turn down a random street that wasn’t marked on my map, got lost and couldn’t find a toilet when I was busting to go.
There are of course literally a million tips for safely getting around anywhere. Researching our destination, having maps on hand, learning key phrases in the local language, the list goes on. It almost seems we can never be fully prepared for every situation in a foreign place.
The night before this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge came out, I dreamt I was on holiday in Beijing for the first time, accompanied by a Chinese-Australian friend who knew the place well. In my dream, she handed me earthly-coloured clothes to wear so I blended in and looked like a local. We then visited a restaurant in a dodgy part of Beijing-town. My friend knew the eatery’s owners and so we had the privilege of dining in a tiny, secret room separated from the other patrons by a door that was patterned exactly like the outlet’s red flowery walls.
Suddenly, as we were chatting over tea, explosive gunfire and shouting in Chinese rang out from the main dining area. My friend and I ducked under the table. After five minutes of shooting sounds, all was quiet and we gingerly opened the door. Lifeless bodies and blood everywhere on the carpeted restaurant floor. Hastily, we made a beeline for the exit and jumped under the tarps at the back of our waiting truck. As our driver put the vehicle into motion, my friend spied a man with a rifle chasing after us and from the look on her face, she seemed to know him.
At this point, I woke up and unfortunately don’t know how this trip ended. I like to think we made it back to Australia alive. I suppose the moral of this story is that every trip can be unpredictable and having connections wherever you go can be a big help.
How do you travel safe?