Safety advice for living overseas and vacationing tend to overlap; when you arrive in country everything around you is new and unfamiliar… and what do people fear most? The unknown. Re-calibrate your body’s natural fear signals (Gift of Fear book review) and get back to enjoying your new digs. Pull back the curtain and establish what normal looks like.
Step one; Do your homework: Learn about the country and specifically the area you’ll be staying in. Blogs and keyword searches like ‘Ecuador Safety’ can reveal treasure troves of personal accounts.
Take a tour: A hop-on/hop-off tour can be a great way to see the city. A bus ride (provided the transit system is safe) or hiring cab for the day can do the same. Walking tours and hiring guides for the day are also great options.
Things to note and ask yourself as you’re checking out your neighborhood:
- Is this normal? Are there always cars parked in front of my house/apartment? Could someone hide behind one? What about doorways that would provide cover for someone? Make a note to avoid areas like these at night.
- Is there another way into my house in case I can’t use the main entrance? Have a backup plan to get home or have a safety location you can go to in case of emergency.
- Is there another exit to the metro that I could take in an emergency?
- Take a note of local restaurants open late in case you need to get to a populated area with people who can help you.
- If you’re out late, count the number of people on both sides of the street. Did someone disappear? Is someone following you? Be aware and if necessary, get to the safe place you’ve already found.
Two golden rules to make life overseas safer:
Don’t commit: Avoid committing to the street before you know what’s out there. Especially true if you have a door that requires a key code or that automatically locks behind you. Do not eliminate your easiest path back to safety before you have established what waits for you outside. This holds true for hotels, apartments, taxis, or anywhere that puts you out in the open and away from a quick exit.
Be unpredictable: If you’re living overseas for more than a few weeks, you can be pinpointed at least twice a day at your front door (or your car if you’re mobile). This is our most vulnerable location during the day because it’s the most predictable. We are creatures of habit – gym at 6, shower and coffee by 7:30, out the door at 8, etc. This makes us vulnerable to anyone who might be watching because it allows them to quickly figure out when we’ll be coming or going. Varying your times in and out the door makes you unpredictable and thus harder to pin down. Don’t make it easy – be a hard target.
Living overseas can present two issues:
- It’s daunting and unfamiliar at first
- If you’re overseas for a long period it’s easy to relax and slip into bad behaviors
Doing some area familiarization, finding safe zones and alternate routes when you show up, then avoiding getting too comfortable after you’ve been in country for a while will maximize your experience and keep you safer in the long run while living overseas.