Summer Travel for Executive Women: 8 Safety Tips for Women When Traveling Alone Internationally

 

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Summer Travel for Executive Women: 8 Safety Tips for Women When Traveling Alone Internationally

I recently attended a wonderful event that was eye opening regarding the safety and security of journalists, particularly female journalists, when they are in Syria, Egypt and other hostile areas. Travelling alone to anywhere, however poses risks that everyone should be aware of especially as a woman traveling alone. Whether it business or pleasure, or business and pleasure, there are some precautions we should always take when traveling alone.

Traveling today in the digital age is scary. Odds are, if we are traveling in congested areas, like airports or malls, it is safe to assume we are on camera most of the time. Similarly, with large companies falling victim to cyber-attacks it’s easy to wonder if someone is tracking our footprint online and how we as individuals can protect ourselves from personal attacks physically and digitally.

Over the years I have completed research, interviewing  people, learning about their experiences when traveling internationally.  Here are some practical tips for anyone traveling overseas, or domestically, can adopt to help stay safe when in an unfamiliar area.

 

  1. Prevention basics– This is what I call the basics. These are things we all know we should do, we even tell our friends, daughters and other loved ones to do it, but we don’t always do it ourselves.
  • Tell someone if you are going for a night out alone and plan ahead. It could be a simple text or email to a friend telling her where you are going. Doing something is better than nothing.
  • Put away the bling – no dangling jewelry especially is areas where people are known to remove it from your body in a robbery especially important for earrings (research “crime” for the area in which you are traveling). Traveling internationally can be a great time to blend in with the locals. Even when purchasing a high end bag, like Chanel, its best to get a bag without logo print vs a plain solid color bag.
  • Do your research – have there been recent attacks on women, people of color, or LGBTI individuals where you are traveling. Even places we may generally deem safe could have flare ups of attacks or tensions.
  • Pay attention to weather and health alerts for a particular area. Currently the Zika virus is affecting international travelers. Zika, is a mosquito borne virus that causes neurological birth disorder. There is no vaccine for the Zika virus, which is disporptionately affecting the Latin American region. This mainly affects pregnant women, so if you are planning a trip to central or South America, especially Brazil or Columbia, it is recommended that you do not travel if you are pregnant. Male or female if you travel it is recommended you use a form of contraception for 2-4 week upon your return. Check the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, for the latest updates and most affected areas globally.
  • Have a purse with a zipper to prevent pickpockets. Purses with multiple compartments is what I always prefer.
  • Don’t tell people you are alone. I travelled to the Virgin Islands for vacation by myself for a week. Everywhere I went people asked me if I was alone. This was, of course, because they kept seeing me alone. To keep the conversation friendly, I would say “no” or say “I just left my friends,” or “I am meeting my friends now.” It’s always great to make friendly conversation with the locals, or others you meet while traveling, but they don’ certainly don’t need to you are traveling alone.
  1. Be confident: Though this could easily be part of the prevention basics section, I thought it was worthy of standing alone. Projecting confident while traveling is very important for anyone traveling alone. This includes not spending too much time looking at maps while walking down the street, making the occasional eye contact with people and not being afraid to ask someone to backup if they get to close to you. This includes sitting alone at a hotel bar or eating dinner alone. Final advice here, trust your instinct. Every satiation is different.
  2. Travel in groups: Even if this means acting like you are part of a larger group. This doesn’t to pertain to every situation, but can be very helpful, if you are in an area where you feel uncomfortable. Or you decide to go to a park, museum, or shopping alone. The perception you are with others may lower the risk of you being a target by someone who intends harm.
  3. Understand being an American can make you a target: This is important if you are traveling to a part of the world with political or social unrest, or with cultural sensitivities to westerners in general. Avoid large gathering of people, and make a to blend in as much as possible with local customs/clothing. I was talking to a woman who visited Abu Dabai and while doing some sightseeing, she was surprised she could not enter a holy place with a skirt on. These are the customs we want to respect. I suggest doing research before the trip.
  4. Hotel security:
  • When checking into a hotel, take out your ID but don’t say your name out loud. This will reduce the possibly of another guest, in hearing distance, from hearing your name. Someone with malicious intent could try to access your room at a later time.
  • I know people that have had IPADs and other things taken from their room. Most hotels insure up to $1,000; confirm with your hotel their dollar amount. I recommend using safes in the room, or, if necessary, the main hotel safe.
  1. Cell phones: I recommend satellite phones when traveling to a place you know has challenging communications. Meaning access to the internet is challenging if other communications are challenging as a result of the country infrastructure.
  2. Laptops and Wi-Fi: if using personal email – Google is best other than that use VPN for business. If traveling to China don’t taken your regular laptop, but a rented or temporary laptop.
  3. Insurance: People don’t always think of cyber liability, but in today’s world it is definitely necessary. It’s possible if you are traveling for business your already have insurance. If that the case, great! Learn what exactly you are covered for health and bodily harm, company property such as laptops. What about your personal loss of luggage?

Jessica Robinson is an International Safety & Security Adviser and speaker and frequently publishes on the topic. To learn more about her work and company please visit www.the-purepoint.com.

 

United Nations

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United Nations

I was honored to speak at the United Nations, Power of Collaboration Conference with IMPACT Leadership 21 with Ambassador Flores of Honduras, and Ambassador Chowdhury, former UN Ambassador from Bangladesh. My life’s work, mission, vision and soul purpose is in advancing peace and security for ALL human beings. It was an honor to share my insight on the featured panel Conversations With Men: Accelerating the Role of Women in Peace, Safety, and Security for Sustainable Economies.
I was able to champion for safety, security and equal participation of women globally for women who, perhaps, have not yet found their voice or are not in a position to influence the actions of private sector or political leaders.This panel specifically asked for insights from men on how to help advance the role of women globally, so it was an honor to be on the panel. My call to action for all men was to tell your daughter, sister, niece, wife, friend, that you support equal participation and self determination for her and her continued existence in this world.
Jessica Robinson

6 Practical Safety & Security Tips When Traveling Alone Internationally

As an International Safety & Security Advisor, I have completed a lot of research on international travel, including polls and focus groups to learn what is most important to people, especially women when traveling. I am often asked for advice as someone is preparing for an international trip. Here are some practical key learnings anyone traveling overseas can adopt to help stay safe when in an unfamiliar area. Remember the goal is always prevention!

1. Be aware of your surroundings: Paying attention to your environment, not texting and walking (yes!), or walking and looking at a map (looking like a tourist or a target). Don’t get so caught up in a conversation, reading, etc, that if someone took your wallet off the table, or brushed against you, you wouldn’t notice. Choose well-lit area, populated areas, and be careful of deserted areas or ridiculously loud areas.

2. Travel in groups: This may seem very basic, but when traveling alone it can be very noticeable to others. When in line at a store have “small talk” with the person next to you. It’s a great way to learn the local area, meet new people and to learn about the culture. If someone you don’t know asks you if you are traveling alone always say “no.” State you are “meeting someone” or “waiting for a friend”. This is especially important for women. I did this while vacationing by myself in the US Virgin Islands and it was very helpful. I was amazed how often I was asked if I was alone.

3. Intuition: You know that feeling you get when you know you should make a left instead of a right?  How about when you think there is someone behind you yet you don’t hear anything? Yes, that’s your intuition, your inner knowing or reasoning that causes you to take a specific action. Pay attention to it while traveling alone. In many cases, it will help steer you out of a challenging situation.

4. Visa: Always make sure your visa is updated and that you have all the necessary information via the US Embassy to not violate country entrance or exit laws. If your visa is going to expire before you leave the country you are residing in, let the local embassy or consulate know as soon as possible so they can help you resolve concern with the host country.

5. Understand being an American can make you a target: Not always, of course, but this is a fact that can’t be escaped. It is part of the politics of today’s world. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s nothing to fear; taking precautions are important. Review the US State Department warnings for the country in which you are traveling. Use sound judgment, avoids large crowds of unknown origins, minimize your profile when in public, and always have a cell phone. Yes, this is tricky because perhaps you don’t plan on taking your phone to avoid accruing international charges. You can always change your phone plan for the duration of your trip, or purchase a temporary phone prior your trip or when you arrive to the country.

6. Have insurance: About 30% of Americans travelers get travel insurance. Insurance is just that – a very important backup plan in case something BAD happens. General reasons to get insurance are if your flight gets cancelled, your passport or wallet is stolen and you need money (or emergency plan), natural disaster, you are involved in an accident, you can to cancel your trip because of an illness, or you have a medical emergency while traveling. In the digital, post 9/11 world, I could go on and on.

Jessica Robinson is an International Safety & Security Advisor for PurePoint International and speaker and frequently publishes on the topic. To learn more about her work and company please visit www.the-purepoint.com.
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Culture of Peace: What it Means to Me

I was recently asked to write an article on what a culture of peace means to me for UNITY, a Chinese publication. Below was my reflection.

When I dream about a culture of peace I immediately reflect on a black and white image of people marching down a street with signs in their hand. I also think about 7.5 billion individuals adhering to the principle of non-violence and living in a world as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. Gandhi and King would ask us to be blind to differences and see ourselves in each human being we meet. Living in a world where everyday each human strives to live up to those expectations is my personal vision of a culture of peace. I instinctually understand having a culture of peace means different things to different people: it’s generational, it varies by age, geographical location, family history, cultural history, and one’s own personal set of experiences.

To have a culture of peace, that in itself implies a collaborative effort. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, as a noun, culture is defined as a way of thinking, behaving and working that exists in a place or organization. As a verb, culture is described as the maintenance of (cells, bacteria, tissue) in conditions suitable for growth and/or to grow something in controlled conditions. What is needed is the collective establishment of conditions for cultural growth to occur as defined by all parties involved – whether it is in a family, a society, organization, or country.

Above all, patience is needed. As all humans are different in their each individual growth process, similarly, so are societies and communities different in their growth and evolution. We cannot expect a man or woman to suddenly change or evolve, nor can we commit that expectation to a society.

As the eternal optimist, I think there continues to be much progress in this area, however, I think a culture of peace can be much further developed through education of differences, love, tolerance and compassion. Similar to Dr. King and Gandhi, people have to be motivated by something beyond themselves to move forward. For me, having a culture of peace is a continued awakening of human beings to a higher level of consciousness, and that there is a continual awakening with each successive generation.

A culture of peace, doesn’t mean something as utopian as the end of crime or hatred. It does mean that with each new generation there is a collective intelligence that is used to help our children to think and act differently to fear and power so we see progress with war, crime against women, the use of our natural resources, capital punishment and even how people treat themselves.

More importantly, a culture of peace embodies within each generation an increased sense of humanism to find more innovative ways to handle conflict and that people, collectively, are indeed committed to strive to live up to their own expectations of non-violence.