“I first hitched around Europe for ten weeks… on my own… when I was 18”
I contacted Annie Holden, the inventor, and owner of The Travel Bra, a company I had an eye on since last year, which had recently started a line of men’s ‘travel trunks’. I had given my (empty) money belt to a homeless man in Houston, TX during a layover on a flight home from Nicaragua and was looking for another option to stash cash for my next trip.
Turns out, Annie is a serial travel; at one point, she worked in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, a very restrictive location, touting one of the world’s highest murder rates. Her goal there as part of AUS-AID was creating a resource kit for community members who wanted to address gender-based violence in their communities. The security situation made the work rewarding, yet difficult. It also provided the inspiration for her concealed, travel safety line of clothing.
Annie has a passion for travel safety and was happy to dish on her own travel history and tips:
When did you start traveling?
“I first hitched around Europe for ten weeks, on my own, when I was 18. I now realize how crazy that was, but when you are young, you are very naïve about personal safety. Also, hitching was a much more acceptable thing to do in the mid-1970s so I actually met some fantastic people and had a wonderful, wonderful time. But I was very lucky it didn’t turn out badly.”
What is your favorite place to travel?
“That’s not fair! Everywhere! …I think the USA. I lived in Washington, DC for six months, teaching at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. Every weekend I visited places all around and hiked in The Appalachians. Later, a girlfriend and I toured California in an RV and then a year later we toured Alaska in an RV. The United States is so diverse – it would take more than one lifetime to explore all the places I want to visit.”
Annie is not one to waste a trip; she is also an advocate for doing research before taking any trip:
“I did a 120km (75 mile) stretch of the Camino de Santiago ten years ago which was one of the most fantastic hikes I’ve ever done. I returned a few years later to do another leg but didn’t do my research and ended up hiking long stretches of noisy highway to reach very boring stops. Eventually, I cut my trip short and took a bus to the nearest city and went shopping and sightseeing instead.”
All this travel was the foundation for The Travel Bra?
“I work as an anthropologist which takes me to remote places all over the world. Frequently I would travel to places with no ATMs and so I would need to carry cash – which made me very uncomfortable. Money belts are ugly, uncomfortable and very obvious – so I needed a better solution.”
Her #1 piece of advice? Always have an escape plan.
She also contributed some additional safety gems from her travel repertoire:
- Always have an escape plan.
- Never go down an alley where you cannot see a way out the other end.
- Never get in a car with strangers.
- Never let someone take you somewhere that you do not know where you are going.