I have seldom been nervous or afraid of my surroundings or environment while on my own. I have often been uneasy or concerned about them when responsible for others, in particular my family. I suppose it all boils down to the question of fight or flight. When one is alone, that question is more easily answered, than when they have others to think about. No person worth their salt would abandon a friend or family member to save their own skin.
When the World Trade Center towers were burning, there were numerous stories of people who refused to abandon helpless strangers. Such heroics exemplify what is best in the human spirit. The choice is not always that easy. If the would-be heroes had the responsibility of getting their own family members to safety, the prudent person would have to fall back on the greater good for the greater number philosophy. I personally would find it difficult to pause or delay saving my own children’s lives for the life of a stranger. I’m sure that would open me up to criticism in some circles but we all have to make choices.
My point? Children will get into enough trouble by themselves. They don’t need a parent placing them in additional danger out of ignorance or thoughtlessness. When one is responsible for others, it becomes time to pay particular attention to that 6th sense we refer to as a “hunch.” If you don’t get hunches, you need to develop some survival instincts on your own. They can be developed.
If you find yourself in a high-crime area, your “victimization” odds increase. If you are on foot, you are in the hyena’s hunting ground and the only thing that stands between you and potential disaster is often mere chance. Are the hyenas awake? Are they hunting the patch of ground you are occupying, or are they a block or two over? How many other potential victims are on the street with you? The fewer there are, the more you will stand out, because most of them will be regular residents while you are not.
When I lived in Europe, I loved walking the empty streets at night and I always felt comfortable and safe when I was doing it. In my home town now, I can do the same thing if I want and never feel uneasy. There are places where that is not the case. Recognizing that is important to the security minded individual.
If you are staying at a hotel and there is a restaurant just down the street and you’d like to walk there with your family, you would do well to investigate the neighborhood. Asking the desk clerk may not be the best route to take. A representative of the hotel is not going to want to tell their guests that the establishment is in an unsafe neighborhood. A simple call to the non-emergency line of the local police department will put you in touch with someone who can give you an overall impression of the safety of the area where you are staying. It’s a good idea to do this in advance of your travel, before you decide on a hotel. Getting the green light should not cause you to lower your defenses however.
For that matter, some areas have two distinct characteristics. During the daylight hours, the streets may be teeming with activity. Many cities have shopping districts with dedicated pedestrian areas and a multitude of bars and restaurants. After darkness falls, circumstances may appear decidedly different to the observant person. If there is a moment’s hesitation, an instant of uneasiness, pay attention! Turn around and go back to the room and make other arrangements!
Circumstances can change dramatically from one street to the next. One moment the street may be inviting and busy, while just around the corner, things become bleak and run down. Brave and adventurous souls might walk down a refuse-strewn alley just to see where it goes. Go for it! But if those souls are responsible for companions particularly if they are children, they are brave and adventurous fools!
We have already talked about victimization and what to look for, so I won’t dwell on that. But I want to stress that one’s environment offers the greatest immediate feedback as to whether or not you are walking the wild side. If people are looking at you like you are out of place, then you are bloody-well out of place! If you are noticing you’ve left behind the activity and bustle and excitement that first drew you to an area and now you find yourself clearly in a different environment which leaves you feeling mildly uneasy, you have made a wrong turn! There is no shame in admitting you are not the master of your universe. Stay on the beaten path unless you enjoy tempting fate.
If you are in a car, your safety zone is a great deal broader, but while you are encased in two thousand pounds of steel, it is still somewhat akin to an aquarium. You are still visible to the people around you. While you are moving, you are relatively safe. When you are stopped, you are vulnerable. The secret is understanding when it is safe to stop, or what to do when it is not.
One last thing. Remember, the most deadly predators hunt at night and they are less concerned with boundaries when darkness falls. A popular tourist attraction during the day, can become the hyena’s hunting ground when darkness falls. Do your homework in advance and enjoy your family time.