Staying Safe While Traveling, Part 7: knowledge and attitude are weapons, too

Staying Safe While Traveling, Part 7: knowledge and attitude are weapons, too


Why the picture of Sir Francis Bacon? Because he once said “ipsa scientia potestas est” (“knowledge itself is power”), which is particularly fitting when we’re talking about travel safety.

People tend to fixate on the things they can (or can’t) carry with them whilst traveling. A better approach might be to spend some of that energy and time on increasing what you know, and then resolve to figure out what you can use in your environment to implement that knowledge.

In reality, any weapon is useless without both the knowledge to run it and the will to employ it. That’s why I refer to weapons as tools — because they are simply devices that we use as a way to project the decisions we’ve made in our heads.

It’s been said that the mind is the ultimate weapon, but apparently most of the people in the self defense world missed that memo. As a group we tend to focus instead on the gun (and whether/where we can carry it) or the knife, and perhaps the pepper spray or the taser, and so on down the line. Very rarely do we talk about the knowledge and will to use those things, what they really mean to our safety, and how to employ that knowledge and will when we can’t have our favorite tools with us.

Understanding the types of crimes that happen both at your destination and in the transportation system which gets you there are a good start. Knowing ahead of time what kinds of attacks or scams are most prevalent gives you a head start in identifying (and avoiding) bad situations before they occur. While this is most important when traveling out of the country (it’s useful to know that kidnappings from cabs are a revenue source in some countries, for instance), there are also places in the United States where that type of information might prove useful.

Knowing that crowds are draws for both pickpockets and mass casualty attacks, as an example, is an indication that you might need to carry your wallet and ID in a non-traditional place and also have some idea about the telltale signs of a bomb being planted.

As I’ve mentioned before, medical knowledge — specifically how to deal with life-threatening trauma — is vital no matter who you are or where you’re going. Knowing how to treat a bullet or blade wound that results in massive blood loss isn’t just important for being shot or stabbed, but for surviving car crashes and building collapses. (In fact, this kind of knowledge is so important that I’ve been known to tell people that they shouldn’t be stepping out of their homes without it!)

A grounding in empty hands defensive tactics is an important part of your knowledge and skill base as well, and along with that should come some awareness of improvised weapons. So you can’t have a gun or a knife on an airliner, but you can have your iPad — which, thrust edge-first against an attacker’s trachea or corner-first into the area just below the sternum — might prove effective in thwarting an attack. Learn to look around and think in terms of things you can use against another person; here are probably dozens of items within view, not counting the dual-purpose items you brought with you (like that empty stainless water bottle you brought through security and filled afterwards with clean, cold water. Think “bludgeon”.)

While I’m not big on the idea of generalized awareness as it’s typically sold in the defensive world, understanding how to apportion your awareness is as valuable when you’re away from home as it is when you’re in familiar surroundings. Knowing that controlling your awareness is all about managing distraction, and then doing so, is a powerful tool in the detection and avoidance phases of personal security, and can have a deterrent effect on a potential attacker. It too costs and weighs nothing!

Finally, your attitude plays a huge part in your safety. Being willing to put in the time and effort to preplan and train; being prepared to use whatever means available to escape, evade, and if necessary respond to an attack; all of these spring forth from the attitude that you can truly protect yourself and stay safe even when you can’t carry a firearm.

In the beginning of this series I talked about understanding travel safety as a concept, about how that this discussion would be about how to stay safe and protect ourselves when we couldn’t carry a firearm. Part of the reason I started that way was because I’d run into people who were actually fearful about going anywhere they couldn’t have a gun on their hip, who avoided places where they couldn’t be armed simply because they couldn’t be armed. That attitude leaves one culturally isolated, and I think that’s a crying shame!

Remember that the gun you were forced to leave behind isn’t the only thing in this world keeping you safe. There are lots of other tools and options, but you have to look at the bigger picture to utilize them. Knowledge and attitude are how you do so.

Next time we’ll look at another aspect of safety: you, yourself.

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On May 29, 2014