CARTAGENA, Colombia- Crossing the street is the most dangerous thing a traveler can do. Forget thugs, cops, thieves, the military, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, meteorites, sharks, lepers, street mobs with sticks, dudes with mustaches, it is cars and trucks that are the biggest obstacle to safe travel. It is a good thing that most all travelers who have wandered outside of the USA/ European fringe know this and take due caution. All but the self-proclaimed invincible look both ways before crossing the street. The care that travelers pay towards traffic rises above all else, and most are not run over.
If you treat every interchange in travel as you do crossing the street you can travel through any country as safe as you can possibly be. Look both ways when you see a group of potential thugs on the horizon, look both ways as you walk through the streets at night, look both ways when approached by a friendly stranger, look both ways before going into private circumstances with someone you’ve just met, look both ways before walking into a deserted part of town, look both ways before you let that smiling rasta man put his arm around you in the street, look both ways before moving into a hotel, look both ways before using an ATM, look both ways when exchanging money, look both ways every time you do anything in travel, wait for the cars to pass or find a safer place to cross the street, and you will usually be alright.
This does not mean that I am squeamish when crossing the street. No way — hesitating will get me run over just as readily as not looking both ways. But this means that each action I take should be calculated, assessed, and then acted upon completely, with full confidence. I must assess my surroundings, think fast, decide, and act as though I have a pair.
Approaching every exchange in travel with due mindfulness makes the road easy to navigate. I think of myself as more a rabbit than a wolf in travel. I look up ahead while also looking behind. If the road is not clear, I choose another way. I may be a tough guy in my hometown but holding on to this same self image anywhere else in the world is to get a knife to my throat. It is my job to take care of myself: not society’s, not the guy with the knife waiting under the cover of the dark to take my money, not my buddies, not the police, self preservation is my job alone — and this is not something I’m going to outsource.
The word “trust” is often used as an efficient euphamism for “putting responibility for myself in the hands of another.” Trusting is inevitable in travel, as in most facets of life, but I try to keep myself in my own charge as much as possible. I don’t like the feeling of being vulnerable, of sitting in the palm of another, and I will do everything in my power to prevent this feeling. I know that I can be run over out here, so I look both ways before crossing every street.