What should be playing in the background as you read this:
Alright – Kendrick Lamar
First things first. I’m speaking from the vantage point of a Black man, so my limited experience is probably different from that of a woman.
One of the first things that is said to me when I tell people I’m going somewhere out of the country is “*Gasp!* Be safe out there!” It’s coming from a good place. Me being me, though, my initial response is usually something like “Be safe out there? We got Bloods and Crips right here!” I’m being facetious. The picture I’m trying to paint is that the world isn’t some hellscape in which the United States is the ultimate safe zone. In fact, there are dangers in the U.S. that in some ways don’t exist in many other parts of the world, or at least aren’t as prevalent. Sometimes, I even feel safer in other parts of the world than I do here. You have to take care everywhere.
On the other hand, though, I don’t want to downplay the question because they make a really good point. It’s important to be aware that there are risks involved anytime you walk into an unfamiliar environment, and it’s true that this is definitely the case for an American citizen traveling to a different country, especially if you don’t speak the language or are unfamiliar with the culture. Safety is always my main priority. My point here, though, is just that there are misconceptions and overestimations about how hostile and predatory the rest of the world is, relative to the U.S.
The good news is there’s measures you can take to up your safety, and most of them are probably things you do all the time here at home. I’m not here to get too deep into it, but I’m talking about the basics: don’t walk around with a stack of cash in your hand and all of your valuables in a massive backpack; pay attention to your surroundings; don’t follow a complete stranger down some dark alley or deserted sideroad; trust your gut. In my experience, the most common thing I’ve had to watch for is theft, so I’m particularly keen on keeping an eye out for that sort of thing. Of course, there are a number of other tried and true hacks and tips I employ particularly for when I’m abroad, but all of these things hold true when you’re visiting another country and will likely go a long way in upping your defensive game.
One other point I want to touch on is this: There are people who cook up scams to prey on tourists. In my experience, that subset of people is a minority. Most people are not interested in actually harming or robbing you. Now, have I had the experience of feeling like a store owner, vendor, etc. just sensed a payday as soon as they saw me or heard me speaking in my Californian accent? Yup, absolutely. But most of them probably weren’t harboring any intentions of robbing, fighting, or even cheating me. Show respect, and chances are you’ll receive it in return.
Okay time to wrap this up and circle back to that question in the title. Generally speaking, my short answer is yes, but you have to prepare appropriately. Do your research ahead of time and take stock of your surroundings. Remember your basic safety principles and check online for some safety tips from fellow travelers. But don’t be afraid of the world. It’s out there and it’s worth seeing.
We gon’ be alright.