A Small Q&A

I have two questions from readers that I think you’ll all find useful. These are all related mostly to traveling, but I think they could also apply to the daily commute.

Do you have any tips for someone going to a city that is not the friendliest? What can I do to minimize my exposure, maybe blend in better, and prevent someone noticing and targeting me?

Well, first of all start by collecting information about the city you are going to travel to. The Internet is your friend. Start wide, focusing on the city as a whole, then begin to zoom in more closely in the area you’ll be frequenting, the place you are staying in (a hotel, etc), and finally on what to bring and, more importantly, what not to bring.

Search for things like whether foreigners are targeted, whether crime is the area you are staying in is an issue (sometimes the local government keeps touristic or business areas more secured, so they don’t impact bringing money to the country), and what are the biggest threats. Are foreigners targeted for kidnapping? Are they victings of opportunistic crime? Is the local government interested in collecting on all foreigners? Make sure you check your government’s own travel advisories on those countries or locations.

Then try to find out ahead of time what the local customs, dress code, and general look and feel of the location is. This will allow you to select your wardrobe better, so you can blend in with your “peers” and attract less attention to yourself. It will also allow you, if you need to, rent a car that blends in with what the locals drive (if most people drive small hatchbacks, and you rent a big SUV, you’ll get notice). Finally, it will give you the understanding of what times are more dangerous to be outside.

The above will give you a sense of the threat level before you arrive, and some information that can help you blend in, but once you arrive, you need to build a baseline of what normal is, factoring in what you’ve learned during your search, and performs a risk assessment.

After this, apply common sense: wear toned down clothing, don’t bring flashy jewelry or watches, use a backpack or satchel that is low key and resembles those of the local people, sprinkle some randomness to your routine so it’s harder to anticipate and create profile about you, and don’t wander alone.

If you find yourself in the middle of a situation, say a sudden demonstration or the beginning of violence in the street, what are the immediate things you can do to remain safe and get out?

First of all, try to find your way out of the area. Start walking towards the perimeter of the crowd, always keeping a relaxed posture, sending a message to everyone around you that you are not a threat, and just passing through. Appear uninterested in the issue at hand, however, if someone shows too much interest in you, give them a quick glance, and show them you are aware and that you are not a target of opportunity.

Once you reach the periphery of the demonstration, quickly walk away from the crowd. If this is not possible, find a location when you can find cover and may be relatively safe to wait the chaos out. If there is a cafe, a store, or a shopping mall, use those places, but be aware that if the mob turns violent, they may target those areas as a way of sending a message, so always have a way out of any place you hide in.

I wrote several more tips that may apply this particular question in Dealing with an Emergency, Situational Awareness, and Public Places in Cities. Grant Rayner at Spartan9 has some awesome tips too in his Dangerous Travels Substack.