To say I am paranoid when I travel would be an understatement. To say I am pleased when I find some justification for my paranoia would also be an understatement.
Let me explain.
When I travel, I am on constant guard for two things. One, getting sick. And two, getting ripped off. Last year I put in well over 100,000 actual miles on one airline (and countless additional miles on other airlines) and I never had a thing ripped off nor did I ever get sick enough to miss a thing. I am pretty sure I can say the same thing for every year going back at least five years.
I attribute my physical and fiscal health to my paranoia, which involves me constantly doing the following:
1. Absolutely never relinquishing my one carry-on bag (I usually put my tiny briefcase with my MacBook Air in that one bag) to anyone. Not to the cab driver who wants to put it in the trunk (I always take it into the cab with me because I can always imagine either the cab driver or me forgetting it in the trunk and then the cab driver driving off without either of us having any method for reaching the other). Not to the porter at the hotel (I am constantly reminded of a friend who once who got the wrong bag delivered to his room by a porter in Seoul and then did not discover it until a few days later when he opened the bag in the United States to see that it contained the clothes of someone of the opposite sex.) And not to the airline stewards who want to shove it who knows where. No, dammit, my luggage always stays with me. And now I have further proof of why this should be the case. Lost Laowai Blog recently did a post, entitled, Warning to watch your carry-on luggage, thieves take to the air, detailing how common it has become on China flights for gangs to steal luggage on planes that are in the overhead bins too far away from their owners. Fortunately, I never sleep on airplanes.
2. Always keeping enough money in two different places on my person (one hidden) whenever I leave the hotel.
3. Not going to brothels or anything that might be a brothel. And avoiding any neighborhood at night that might look sketchy. I also always travel with the address card and phone number of my hotel, usually in multiple places on my person. It also never hurts to have a few local friends on quick dial on your cell phone in the event you get lost.
4. On the health front, I drink bottled water wherever I travel, no matter how safe the water supply. Call me nutty, but I am of the view that all water contains bacteria (true fact) and that anything but my home water contains bacteria to which my body is not accustomed. I also never ever ever eat at a buffet. And though I am well aware that most street food is perfectly safe (and that Anthony Bourdain and others insist that it can be the safest food of all), I avoid it entirely. I do that simply because my not being a local means that I do not know enough to know which stalls are good and which are not. The same is, of course true of restaurants, but with those I go where my local friends tell me to go or I simply go to those that are clearly popular and thus have a rapid turnover of food. I also make it a point to exercise every day while traveling (I try to depart mid-morning so as to get a work-out in before flying) and I also make it a point to get a full night’s sleep and to eat three full meals a day.
Having said all this, I don’t want anyone to think I’m a stick in the mud because I always make an effort to enjoy myself wherever I go. I just find that doing the above enhances my enjoyment, rather than detracting from it.
What do you do to stay safe and healthy on the road?