Money Issues while travelling

If you’re walking around with a bunch of expensive cameras be sure to make eye contact with the bad guys so that they know that you see them.

Keep your head on a swivel, as you walk around; always have an “escape route”. In crowded market places “make friends” as you walk along. Talk to people, especially the vendors, smile and make personal contact with folks. If you end up in a bind, your “new friends” are more likely to intervene on your behalf than people who either never saw you before or who you never took the time to acknowledge. Keep track of where you are and where the exits are. If you think you are being followed, or set up for some bump and run scam, take a photo of the person who you think is following you. If you raise your camera to take a photo of someone that you think is following you, and they run away, you can be pretty sure that you were correct in your assumption that they were up to no good. In Mexico a few years back several guys pretending that they were interested in photography asked to “see” one of my cameras…I said sure, but let’s go into the lobby of my hotel first….at that point they tried to take my camera, so I took off and ran in the back door of the kitchen of a hotel, amazingly they followed…I got to the front desk and quickly handed my camera to the (surprised) clerk and said…keep this I’ll be right back. I then returned to the street and with my tiny point and shoot camera (which was in my pocket) I approached thewould be robbers and snapped off a picture before they could run away. Next I contacted the police. I spent the next few days in the same town and never saw the “robbers” again.

Another time, in Laos (and let me clarify this….I have encountered hundreds of Laotians, without a doubt they are among the most honest people on earth….in all my years only ONE Laotian guy tried to scam me) anyway, I had hired a boat to take me from Zieng Kok (north) to the Thai border at Chang Khong…My boatman tried to drop me off 10 miles upriver of town, saying that we had arrived in Chiang Khong…I knew we were nowhere near Chiang Khong, so I refused to get out of the boat. Ten miles later, he pulled over to the river bank and tried to drop me off again….now, about a kilometer north of town, saying that his boat was not allowed any further. I told a friend of mine to stay in the boat while I went and asked a local guy in a bamboo hut nearby. It turned out that the boat guy didn’t have the paperwork needed to dock his boat in town. The guy in the hut had a motorbike and agreed to drive me the rest of the way into town. Anyway, I went back to the boat, where my buddy was waiting with the boat guy, grabbed my luggage, and as I left I took several photos of the dishonest boat guy. When I got to town I showed the customs people his photo…they recognized him! Hopefully he was reprimanded enough that he doesn’t try and take advantage of other travelers in the future.

I guess the moral of these two stories is that your camera can be used as protection…robbers are generally opportunists who don’t want confrontation any more than you do… they want to be anonymous…they don’t want any evidence left behind, and a photograph is darn good evidence!

Well, it seems with that little story that I have gotten off of track……back to the topic….

When driving around (if you are driving yourself), when you pull behind someone at a stop, never pull really close, leave yourself enough room to make a quick u turn, or go around on the shoulder or the oncoming traffic lane (don’t get boxed in by two cars working together…one in front, one behind). When driving be aware of “roadblocks” and obstructions in the road ahead…if it looks fishy, turn around, take a different route or go back the way you came and come back later.

Don’t wear flashy jewelry and watches, or if you must, move that stuff to your pockets when you enter dubious situations.

Keep a small amount of cash in your breast pocket or in a zippered leg pocket, keep the money belt in a “leg stash” around your ankle. (Eagle Creeks makes one, I have two, which I alternate throughout my trip…unfortunately the Velcro straps that keep them attached to your leg wear out fast…I keep returning them to Eagle Creek, they keep sending me new ones (free of charge due to their satisfaction guarantee)…some day they will fix the problem, probably because they are losing so much money on me). Meanwhile I supplement the cheap Velcro with an additional elastic strap of my own, fitted with good Velcro.

The Eagle Creek Leg Stash is fairly “unknown” to thieves as compared to the “around your waist” style. Although, I have been “patted down in airports hundreds of times…officials (even in the US) only notice the “ankle stash” about 5% of the time.

If you get held up, and they are bigger and meaner than you (or if they have a weapon) give them the cash in your pocket…it’s not worth getting injured or killed over… besides, you still have bulk of your cash hidden in your leg stash.

If you have small cameras put them in a bag.

When you are standing in line step through the straps of any luggage you have set down on the foor.

When eating at restaurants put your camera strap or back-pack strap around your leg..

…it might be a good idea to take Karate classes…my friend Theresa Vernetti a fellow photographer who often writes for me, is a black belt in Karate. As a single female traveling alone in strange cities across the world she feels more comfortable knowing she can protect herself if need be…but of course she would rather avoid conflict.

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