Traveling is important. It feeds the soul, changes perspectives, and challenges beliefs. And while I advocate for sustainable travel, and recommend it to anyone who’s blessed with its opportunity, I understand that traveling can be dangerous.
Things happen – people get robbed and assaulted every day, whether you’re in your hometown or a foreign country. But when you’re traveling, you don’t always have access to a private living environment or method of transportation, and you’re constantly being subjected to brand new, challenging situations. If you’re not vigilant, it’s easy to find yourself in a situation you don’t want to be in.
I’ve put together a few self-defense tips that I personally use on my trips, and I hope they’ll be as useful to you as they are to me.
1. Carry a Flashlight
Most robberies and assaults occur at night. Streets are less crowded, leaving fewer witnesses, and less of a hassle for your assailant. This can work in your favor, though.
Using a bright flashlight is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself while traveling. A powerful beam of light will blind an attacker without causing harm, making it very hard for them to spot you, giving you time to get the heck outta Dodge. It also won’t cause permanent harm, meaning you more than likely won’t get into any legal trouble for carrying or using one.
2. Don’t Flaunt Valuables
Avoid showing off expensive things. Jewelry, electronics, designer apparel, anything that will draw attention from a potential robber. Keep your wardrobe and accessories minimal and average. When not using electronics (drones, phones, cameras, laptops) conceal them. Things like leaving a camera strapped around your neck for longer than necessary are bound to draw attention, which is the last thing you want.
This isn’t really a self-defense method, but it is a fantastic way of preventing the need for a self-defense method.
3. Situational Awareness
Be aware of your surroundings. The only time you shouldn’t be is when you’re in an entirely safe environment, like your home, or the home of someone you trust.
When getting to know your destination, find out the safe and unsafe areas. Search online, talk to locals, and ask your accommodation hosts. They’ll be more than happy to share with you the dangerous parts of town and let you know which areas to avoid.
Even when you’re in a safe environment such as your shared hostel room, keep your eyes out for odd behavior. If you feel like an individual is acting sketchy, make note of it. Keep it in mind when you see them or interact with them. Be friendly – most odd behavior is explainable and non-threatening – but at the same time, don’t let yourself get too comfortable without knowing you can trust the individual.
4. Be Rational
Rationality – have some. This is a commonly used phrase, but in most situations, I find to be true – don’t be a hero. If someone is mugging you, whether it’s an armed robbery or not, just give them the money and run. I can almost guarantee you that whatever is in your wallet is not worth your life and acting in a defiant/threatening way towards your robber is a sure way to increase your odds of getting severely injured.
5. Take Care of Your Body & Wear Comfy Shoes
The best scenario during a fight is not to have to fight at all.
If someone is attempting to assault you, run away. This helps if you are in shape and are wearing running-friendly shoes. Maintain your stamina before, during, and after your trip, so you’ll be able to outrun any potential pursuer you come across. It’s also good for you, which is a definite plus.
6. Trekking Pole
This one might not be for all types of travelers. It works best for those who regularly backpack or hike, as it’ll look more natural and be more useful for you to carry around trekking poles.
A trekking pole has some very practical uses, other than keeping you from falling or rolling your ankle during a long hike. They’re great at helping you stay at range against a knife-wielding attacker, and will put off many would-be robbers. The more non-threatening you look, the more likely someone will try to take advantage of you. A trekking pole can easily be used as a makeshift weapon, and robbers know that, so most will go for easy looking prey, and avoid the backpacker with a large metal stick.
7. Self Defense Discipline
It’s never too late to learn how to defend yourself. Find a self-defense discipline that interests you and go for it. Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Judo, boxing, any martial art/self-defense course will do the trick.
And just to be clear, when I encourage you to learn self-defense, I do NOT encourage you to retaliate against armed robbers or assailants. If at all possible, it’s still best for you to run. It’s just nice knowing that, if push comes to shove, you’ll be able to handle yourself in a fight.
If you’re on a tight budget, and can’t afford classes, there are some great YouTube videos that’ll show you basic self-defense moves, that with practice, can be applied in the real world with ease.
8. Leave Your Weapons at Home
Weapons. There’s two big reasons to leave them at home.
1. They’re illegal in a big chunk of the world, and will cost you a heck of a lot of trouble if you’re found to have them, or to have used them. It can lead to serious jail time.
2. Drawing a weapon instantly makes the situation more dangerous for yourself, and everyone involved. By doing so, you have elevated the encounter from a simple assault or robbery, to a potential loss of life. Robbers and assailants will treat this as such, and become defensive and much more willing to harm you. When in doubt, throw your wallet in one direction, and run the opposite way.
Don’t let the potential for dangerous encounters stop you from enjoying the many benefits of traveling!
Hopefully this list has helped you prepare for your future trips. Stay safe!
Hi, I'm Ash!
I’m a travel blogger who loves experiencing new things and deeply connecting with people. My missions are to help others around the world realize their travel dreams, and to spread the word about sustainable travel. Feel free to send me a message here.