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Staying Safe While Traveling, Part 6: simplicity as self defense

Staying Safe While Traveling, Part 6: simplicity as self defense


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The Amish, as you probably know, revel in simplicity. They find advantages in not being weighed down with possessions, and there is a lesson for us there too.

In the discussion about tools, you’ll notice that I recommended very few. Why? Because there is a defensive advantage in not being weighed down!

Pretend, for a moment, that you’re a criminal. You’re looking for a new victim, and there are two tourists arriving at the local hotel. Jackpot!

Potential Victim #1 is carrying a huge, overstuffed roll-on suitcase with a slightly smaller suitcase attached to the top of the handle. In addition she has a large yet stylish bag with poorly configured straps, which she’s trying to keep on her shoulder as she’s walking down the street to the hotel. The tiny wheels on the rolling case keep getting stuck in the cracks and grates of the sidewalk and she’s constantly having to divert her attention to dislodge her cart or looking down to avoid the traps. When she gets to the wide, impressive stairs going up to the entrance she struggles to pull the heavy rolling suitcase and its accessory load up the steps — while her shoulder bag keeps slipping down to immobilize her arm.

Potential Victim #2 comes striding down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. She has a small pack that fit in the overhead compartment of her airliner, and when she got off the plane she took a moment to deploy the bag’s hidden backpack straps and sling it onto her back. In that one carry-on bag she has a soft day bag that serves as her purse when she’s out enjoying her destination. She’s not paying attention to the problems with her bags because she has none, but rather is looking around and taking in the sights — which include you, her potential attacker. She reaches the entrance and quickly scales the steps as she looks behind to see if anyone is following her.

Which woman are you going to pick for your victim?

Yeah, I thought so.

There is a security value in packing (and traveling) lightly. Aside from simply being more maneuverable and able to avoid danger, taking less stuff means that you have less to keep track of (which means less to lose and less to leave behind, too!) Less stuff enables you to reduce the time spent in areas where crowds gather — like the baggage check-in and pick-up areas at the airport. You also have lower exposure time in transitional situations, such as getting in and out of vehicles; this is especially important in sketchy areas like parking garages.

Carrying lots of heavy luggage also leaves you physically compromised. An exhausted traveler is a traveler less likely to be able to defend himself and more likely to be easily distracted due to fatigue. Simply the appearance of vulnerability is in itself a security risk; carrying less means that you’re not as tired and more able to resist (or recognize) an attack, and that shows in the way you carry yourself. Remember how the tired stragglers in those nature shows always get eaten? Big suitcases can do that to you!

Can you really carry less? Certainly! If you’re like me, when you sit down and analyze the stuff you’re taking you might just find that you don’t really need everything you’re now packing. Instead take things that do double duty (like the flashlight I talked about in a previous installment); take less clothing (seriously, how many pairs of pants and shoes do you really need on the road?); think about each and every item, and how it can be replaced or jettisoned for a lighter load. Spend some time on the websites devoted to light travel, like my favorite OneBag.com.

After going on a luggage diet I discovered that I can take everything I need for a 5-day trip in a compact non-wheeled carry-on that fits into even the tightest of overhead bins, plus a small camera bag (which doubles as a first aid kit, drink carrier, and lunch repository.) If I ever give up my interchangeable lenses and accept that my iPhone does most of what I need on a business trip, I expect to be able to downsize the already compact camera bag to an even smaller satchel!

Again: personal safety and security are holistic concepts; you have to look at the totality of the circumstances and the totality of your preparations. Part of that totality is remaining mobile while having the essentials with you.

Next time we’ll look at tools which weight nothing and take up no space. Yes, they exist: your knowledge and attitude are in fact defensive weapons.

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On May 27, 2014

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