Archive for September, 2011

September 21, 2011

Please, my love, come home in one piece!

by Ashe Vagabond of the Vagabond Express

Oooh! The Bahamas! Or Rome! Paris? Cathedrals or ancient ruins, strange cultures, interesting people, different customs, fantastic nature scenes! Wow wow wow! Get your sunscreen!

Terrorists, criminals, sadists, womanizers, sociopaths, killers. Get your pepper spray.

The last thing anyone wants to think about when running out the door for a dream vacation are the realities of dangers to be found on the open road. And believe me. These dangers ARE REAL, not just something you hear about in the evening news.

I am not an overly-paranoid person. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. That is why, perhaps, I’ve BEEN THERE and narrowly survived that on a few occasions while traveling. Let me start by telling some true stories, some of which you will not believe. Then I will give a token of advice for each story.

At the very end of this post, I will tell you how each of these stories ended.

Tricksters

While in Turkey, I was at work one day when a Danish man came bursting through the front door, panting and in a state of panic. He was shaking. Right away, he asked for money. The other workers around me were ready to throw him out when he started explaining what had happened in utter desperation. He said that he’d woken up in the middle of the street with no money, no passport, no keys. He had met a woman the night before. She was sweet, and they went out for drinks. That’s the last thing he remembered.

Advice #1: Do not trust people you randomly meet in the streets. This may sound harsh, but it could save your life. I cannot emphasize this one enough. When your out of your own homeland, you are dealing with people who may have a very different idea of “right” and “wrong” or are so impoverished that they would do anything to survive. If you look Western, then you have “meal ticket” written across your forehead.

Harassment in Patriarchal Countries

A friend of mine was standing in front of the library when a man came up behind her and put his hand—and fingers—into a very intimate region of her body. On many other occasions, she was followed, touched, grabbed, and shouted at just for walking down the street in everyday clothing.

Advice #2: Carry weapons, specifically mace or pepper spray. Again, this sounds paranoid, but if you have never been in a country where men rule the streets, then you really do not know what you’re about to walk into. First of all, men rule the streets (and the homes and the government and the military, basically everything) in many countries. Second of all, you look different, almost no matter how you look or where you’re going. Third of all, you probably made a BIG mistake and dared to even glance at a man. Countries to be careful in include all of the ones south of the equator, along the Mediterranean, and in the Middle East. Do NOT make eye contact in these regions. DO NOT talk to men in these regions. And for the love of GOD do not ever, ever smile at anyone male.

Kidnapped

This story is hard to write about. A friend of a friend of mine went on vacation with her family. It was the husband, wife, and two children, both under the age of 10. They went to Columbia. While out shopping in a market one day, they lost track of their children. They stayed in the country for another 6 months looking for their children.

Advice #3: WATCH YOUR KIDS. Actually, can I be even more blunt here? DO NOT TAKE YOUR KIDS TO A COUNTRY WITH A HIGH FREQUENCY OF KIDNAPPING. Period. I don’t care if you think you’re being close minded or that you will just stay in the safe neighborhoods. I’d strongly suggest going without the kids and taking them along when you’re traveling somewhere safer. If you MUST for some reason take your kids to a country where this often happens, get them cell phone, pagers, heck even tracking devices!

Sex Trafficking

I do not have just one story for this one. There are millions. There is absolutely no single country in the world that is immune to this terrible occurrence. Sex trafficking is the kidnapping of pretty young women and children and forcing them into prostitution. Usually, the woman is first seduced by a “boyfriend” who then hands her over to a pimp. Another way this happens could be blatant kidnapping. She is then raped and drugged and beaten. When they are finished with her, after a few years of being raped, they often kill her. Not everyone is in danger of this happening. If you are young and attractive, you are at high risk. When I was in my young 20s, I was very keen to be careful who I trust in my travels, because I was at a prime age to be trafficked. Be careful, especially, if you are a blond in a darker region.

Advice #4: READ the Human Trafficking in Persons Report. There is information about individual countries in it and a new one is published every year. Look up your destination country on in the report and learn about the specific dangers in that location. If you happen to be going to a high risk country (the report will tell you this) then Google the country independently and learn more about the nature of trafficking in this particular country. Again, I advise carrying mace. I recommend never going out at night alone, ever. I don’t care how independent you are back home. There is a difference between independence and stupidity. You’re not in Kansas anymore, darling.

Dating the Locals

I know a girl who fell madly in love with a local man in a patriarchal country. He was charming and sweet. He spoke fluent English. He was a feminist, he said. He was attentive and, unlike the men back home, he never forgot her birthday, or what she wore yesterday, or where she was, who she was with, when she was supposed to be home, where she worked, what all her weaknesses were and how to exploit them. He was a smooth talker who played an innocent puppy dog as she opened her home, her heart, and her wallet to take care of the man who claimed to love her so much. Then he destroyed her home, hospitalized her, spent all her money, and stole her cat.

Advice #5: Learn the language. Learn it well. And by this, I mean the local language of love. I have heard too many stories like this to even count. Women get in over their heads with smooth-talking foreign (exotic) men and they barely get out alive. If I could be truly honest, I’d say never date a man in a patriarchal country, but I have seen 1 or 2 success stories…1 or 2. The problem is that knowing how dangerous they can be and truly understanding this is one of those “hindsight is 20/20” kind of things. I’d stick to people you have met through a trusted friend, only. By the way, MEN should be careful of local women, too. Remember the first guy who woke up in the middle of the street?

How these stories ended:

Tricksters: The only ending I know is that we did give this man enough money for food and to get back to his hotel room, when I hope he was able to get more help.

Harassment: My friend learned to make homemade mace. I  should post the recipe sometime. She also carried an ice-pick that she did hit men with when they bothered her. Finally, she left the country, Georgia, because she’d just had enough.

Kidnapped: I am sorry to say, but these people never saw their kids again. It’s been 2 years now. Likely, these children were sold into the sex trafficking industry. I know that makes this story even harder to hear, but this is why I want to tell it. I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.

Sex Trafficking: This story will never end, not until more people know about it. Please help spread the world so that others can protect themselves in their travels. There are thousands of people held in sexual slavery right this moment, most of them women and children.

Dating the Locals: I escaped. Yes, you guessed it. That was my own story there. I still don’t know the fate of my cat, but I am recovering. The irony here is that I knew better than to date a local. That’s why I am so concerned for other women easily falling into this same trap in a patriarchal country. Please, please, be careful!

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