Once again the world is in shock over the pointless deaths of people involved in a terrorist attack. The latest event happened in Sri Lanka over the weekend. More than 250 people are reported to have lost their lives in this tragedy that targeted churches and hotels. Once again the world is mourning and many of us left wondering how can something like this happen. Why are people so awful to each other? How can people purposely take the lives of others in such a dreadful manner? Why is there so much hate towards others who are different from us? Why can’t we live peacefully? I just don’t understand and am saddened by the current state of the world.
Keeping safe as a solo traveller
As a solo female traveller, I’ve been to a number of places considered as being a higher risk for travel than others. In many countries a higher level of alert also means a higher level of security. In Istanbul I was surprised when my taxi was bomb checked before entering the grounds of my hotel. In Paris, you’ll see armed personnel everywhere you go. The recent terrorist attack in Christchurch New Zealand, highlighted that no place is really immune to attack. Travelling alone has given me the skills to sense trouble, to make sure I portray a sense of confidence, to be aware of my surroundings and to not put myself into situations that would be dangerous even at home. I do know however, that although I can’t guarantee my own safety, that there are many things I can do to make sure I don’t purposely put myself in harms way. You can read my tips to keep yourself safe here.
On my last trip to Paris, although I’d always wanted to experience the Bastille celebrations, I purposely took off to Rome the day before so not to be in France for Bastille. Terrorists often attack on nationally significant days. Whilst in Rome I learned of the Nice attack. Use your intuition, it’s there for a reason.
Check your country’s alerts
#travel update: Travel advisories are advising against travel to Sri Lanka due to the high risk of terrorist activity
Most countries have services to warn their citizens of travel dangers in certain countries. In Australia we have Smart Traveller. These websites/services give you information on areas to avoid, places where they advise you not to go and information on how to register your travel just in case you do get into trouble. Make use of them.
Just in case
When your out and about on your solo travels make sure you have a copy of your passport, drivers licence or identification, and your travel insurance certificate with you at all times. Make sure you are fully insured before you go. Let people at home know where you’ll be and where you are staying. Keep away from demonstrations and protests. Do not enter war zones.
If something happens when you’re away
If something happens near where you’re staying let people at home know you’re safe if you can. Mark yourself safe on Facebook. Make sure you take advice from local authorities and stay away from incidents. If you’re country advises you to leave, do so.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I am not frightened of the world. The majority of people are good and many countries rely on tourism for their economies. Even though at times the world seems messed up, if you are sensible you can still keep yourself as safe as possible.
My thoughts are with our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka.
This article really resonates with me on many levels. First of all, Sri Lanka is one of my favourite countries and I found the people so lovely and so happy to have the war behind them. So, along with many others, the news broke my heart. I have followed those same tips for staying safe as a solo traveller. Except, last summer when I went with the throngs of others to the Champs Elysées to celebrate the World Cup win. I stayed a while but my intuition was telling me to leave, so I did. Probably not the smartest decision to go but I learned from it and will avoid huge crowds in the future!
I always say if I die while traveling I died doing something I love as opposed to sitting at a desk in an office or in a car in traffic.
I live in a high risk region, which most first world visitors don’t even realise that it is: Southeast Asia.
For work, my company requires a travel risk assessment to be filled out, and when I go to somewhere in my own region aside from Malaysia or Singapore, I have to review planned strikes, criminal gang activity, terrorist activity updates, multiple separatist group updates, disease outbreak updates, and natural disaster updates, and consider it into my travel accordingly (one country in the region has all of this at once – I won’t say which).
Our world has always been high risk, and that is why solo travel is still culturally seen as not a terribly good idea. We know that if something were to go wrong, global news media and embassies would not mobilise to organise rescues and ransoms for us. This is why Asians typically travel in a group – safety in numbers.
History and human psychology is where I would point you to, if you really want to understand. It’s not ‘differences’ that’s the root cause. It is having being traumatically hurt, as a people. The rest of it, to simplify, comes from the human mind’s need to rationalise and respond to that existential insecurity. Terrorist groups, whether founded by such people themselves, or by those seeking to profit from it, exploit – or even induce – this situation. The former generally have a psychological need to make real a dream worldview where they’re not the weak, abused and discarded people which is otherwise the harsh reality they have to come to terms with. The latter generally needs the situation to persist to continue profiting from it in some way – whether by arms deals, political legitimacy, etc.
We can’t easily roll back the events of the world to fix this problem quickly, anymore. It’s too late. But the reason why people are so ‘awful’ to others (aside from white nationalism which I confess I don’t understand), is that (1) once upon a time, something so awful and traumatic was done to a people, that they were unable to even hope to recover their dignity and self-determination thereafter (2) *and* the people of the world knew about it – (3) *and* didn’t care (or the impression was that this is so). In my region anyway, every single group can be understood by this history of trauma + rejection. And it’s also why every government in the region, and every counter-terrorism expert approaches terrorism by focusing on creating alternative routes for self-determination.
Great info for both solo and non solo travelers. Thanks for an inspirational post.
I generally don’t think of myself as a solo traveler, but I travel alone for work all the time. And because I like to enjoy a place as much as possible, I often sightsee, explore, or just go out to dinner on my own. Great reminder and tips on remaining alert. Oh, I’m saddened by the state of the world as well but I truly believe there is more good than bad.
Great tips here for solo travellers & anyone planning an overseas trip. I agree that one thing that has changed is that nowhere can now be seen as completely safe. But that shouldn’t stop us. I agree with all your advice. Don’t put yourself at any unnecessary risk but don’t be scared to do things either. Trust your gut – it’s rarely wrong!
Necessary advice in a world where, unfortunately, no spot is 100% guaranteed to be safe.
So many good tips Julie. I think when Australians (in particular) travel, it is a bit of a shock to see police with machine guns and the like. I know my last trip to Paris I was shocked by the higher than normal police presence, especially with the Gilets Jaunes (yellow vest) protests happening at the moment.
I am glad you mentioned the importance of intuition; it’s something that more of us should probably pay attention to.
I was saddened to hear about the attacks while we were away. We were in Spain where religion and Easter and processions are continuous from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Thousands of people crammed into tiny cobblestone streets. Our hotel was right in the middle of it all and it backed onto the Cathedral. Some of our tours had to be changed around but we still got to see everything.
However, it was only upon arrival in Madrid on the Easter Monday did we learn that Madrid was on level 4 High Alert of Terriost Attack. We went about our business as usual. We did notice all the tunnels under the main roads were closed to pedestrians, was this because of the High Alert or the heavy rains.
Thinking of everyone that was caught up in the attack and love to those families who lost loved ones.