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The Solo Traveler Blog

Solo Travel Safety: Six tips for common sense self defense.

angry man with megaphone

Tip #1 - Be noisy and demanding. I certainly was when I was groped on a train in Europe.

My usual posts about safety are all about prevention. It is far better to avoid a dangerous situation than to struggle your way out of one. So, first, I refer you to the Solo Travel Safety category where you can read lots about safe travel practices.

But, the fact is, sometimes we can end up in dicey situations. My worst was when I was Caught in a Con Game in Paris. With this in mind, I’ve done a little research on self defense.  Maybe some of these tips will stay with you and be available if ever needed.

  1. Be noisy and demanding: If someone is bothering you yet they seem relatively harmless,  draw attention to the situation. I was groped while sleeping on a train in Europe. When I woke up, I yelled at the man and demanded another compartment.
  2. Get Away: A person threatening you in some way is probably pumped up on adrenaline or possibly other substances. The best thing to do is try to get away.
  3. De-escalation: If it’s money that the attacker is after, give it to them. If they’re bullying, don’t challenge them, don’t give them any reason to attack, agree rather than argue, stay calm, and look for a logical opportunity to leave.
  4. Personal alarm: At up to 120 decibels, personal alarms distract and disorient attackers while attracting attention they don’t want.
  5. Diversion: If someone demands your wallet or purse, throw it away from you. If that’s what they really want, you’ll have time to run.
  6. Play to Your Strengths: If you can’t get away and it seems that you have to fight, what can I say but, yikes! What I have read is that you should forget the kick to the groin. They know that it’s coming plus, it places you on one foot and off balance for too long. Instead,
  7. -  Strike first for the element of surprise.
    -  Pepper spray may be an option. I have no experience with it and can’t imagine getting it out of my purse in time to do any good. It also can’t be taken on a plane and requires a license in some US states.
    -  If you’re close enough, use your elbow; it’s the strongest part of your body.
    -  If you do kick, use the side of your foot and go for your attacker’s knees to set them off balance.

I can’t claim to have tested any of the above (except number 1) so I offer them with caution. Travel safe. Please think prevention first.

Related posts:

  • Tony

    When I was in Lima, I got chatting with 3 locals on a random street (2 men, 1 woman). I knew things weren’t going well, when they asked if I had a camera. I said No, I didn’t. What’s that? Was one guy’s response, pointing at my pocket. The next thing, the guy had two fingers in my pocket.
    Now, I’m 1m 90, and weigh around 85Kg. I also do menacing very well. I just took hold of the man’s hand, exerting enough pressure on his fingers to let him know I could easily bend them right back, gave him back his hand, and calmly walked away. I never broke eye contact with him until his hand was by his side. Thankfully, they left it at that…

  • Jason

    Throwing the wallet can be dangerous too. If the robber says to “throw” it to them, thats different. I’ve heard stories of robbers forcing the victim to pick it up and then beat the crap out of them.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Thanks NannerGoes. It would take courage to do so but would likely be effective as well. For me, I think I would turn around, look at them clearly and say, “I’m just going to let you pass as I’m not comfortable with you behind me.” Assuming the best but being strong. I’ve done that before with people who meant me no ill-will and they have gladly passed understanding that it can be uncomfortable having someone following you.

  • NannerGoes

    I agree about not kicking them in the testicles – it rarely works when the man is adrenalized, and can also cause him to become even more infuriated, as another comment stated. Another tip I’d like to add: if you sense someone is following you, rather than glancing over your shoulder (as we all instinctively do), turn right around and look at him/her – now they know they’ve been seen, can be described to the authorities, and that you are aware of what’s happening. If you’re wrong and they are simply walking the same direction as you, you may appear lost, or at worst, a touch crazy…but if your instincts are right, you may have warded off a purse snatching attempt or attack. (this is of course one of the proactive tips, so I apologize if it’s been covered before).

  • Liaw_ching

    if they are very2 close, you can poke their throat. around 1 inch below Adam’s apple. try palpate that part yourself and it is very uncomfortable right. next time, use index and middle finger and poke very2 hard on that bad guys. then elbow their head if they r still do not let go of you.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    The psycho screaming act, can work in some situations. After all, civil society is managed, for the most part, by people watching each other.

    However, trying to kick someone in the balls is a mistake. I’ve spoken to self-defense experts and they say that the kick to the groin is predictable, requires you to strike high which puts you off balance and will infuriate them when it doesn’t work. If you go that route, the best kick is to the knee with the side of the foot wihch keeps you on balance and might put them off balance.

  • solotraveler

    The psycho screaming act, can work in some situations. After all, civil society is managed, for the most part, by people watching each other.

    However, trying to kick someone in the balls is a mistake. I’ve spoken to self-defense experts and they say that the kick to the groin is predictable, requires you to strike high which puts you off balance and will infuriate them when it doesn’t work. If you go that route, the best kick is to the knee with the side of the foot wihch keeps you on balance and might put them off balance.

  • Kevin S Hawley

    Spray’s are for the most part ineffective if someone is that aggressive, that means they are close. You will not have time to dig around for a spray bottle, these things happen fast.  In that case you get physical, screw spraying the dude it will just piss him off or bring his friends out. If he’s that agressive and close enough to spray, then kick him in the balls….That’s Basic Training 101.
    If it’s just a petty pocket picker, your valubles should be secured anyway, but just pull the psycho screaming act on him…It will work most definietly if you anywhere near other people.

  • Kevin S Hawley

    De-Escalation can be a dangerous game to play since you did not escalate the problem to begin with.  You better know damn well what your doing.  Presentation of confidence and if necessary a provacitve response
    can end a confrontation.  Being seen weak is being seen as prey, present yourself as strong and you are the hunter.  Many here will disagree, I speak from experience and professional training.

  • volunteer abroad

    Thanks for the tips. Hopefully I’ll never have to use them. De-escalation is a good one, but alot of my friends are too proud to use it and feel they should not back down. I try to tell them sometimes its better to live to fight another day.
    Anyways thanks for the advice.
    Laura

  • http://www.wanderingeducators.com/marketplace/apparel/do-mbt-shoes-really-work.html jessiev

    excellent tips. we hope that we won’t run into anything like this, but best to be prepared.

  • Pamm at OnlyACarryon

    With pepper spray or mace, you have to be close to use it. With wasp spray, it is designed to be sprayed from a distance, which is what you really want. Unfortunately, it comes in a big can instead of something smaller.

    Also, aim for the outside of the leg, just above the knee – there is a large nerve bundle there and if kicked there, both legs will collapse.

  • http://migrationology.com Migrationology

    Great tips, I’ve also used #1 a few times but I’ve never really had to run. I like the diversion tip, it’s not expected and could free some space to make an escape.

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.52.44 PMI'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>
Tracey NesbittI’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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