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How to Prevent Against Travel Dangers

FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- Two young English girls were dropped off at the dock of the Finca Tatin by a public boat that ran outside of scheduled times. I became interested: why did a boat from Livingston drop two passengers off after 5 PM when the last run usually comes in around two? I questioned the [...]

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FINCA TATIN, Guatemala- Two young English girls were dropped off at the dock of the Finca Tatin by a public boat that ran outside of scheduled times. I became interested: why did a boat from Livingston drop two passengers off after 5 PM when the last run usually comes in around two?

I questioned the girls. They giggled and smiled.

“Well, we had a bit of an interesting time coming here.”

I looked at them:

They were both young and thin, nearly attractive for English women. One was blonde, one was wearing a sun dress that looked like a night gown which just passed the curb of her undercarriage by a few threads. The dress was bright yellow, fit loosely, terminated at the top of her thighs, she wore black panties underneath.

The latter fact I can attest to because the dress was, firstly, translucent, secondly, it was so short that whenever the girl moved or sat down her undergarments jumped into full view. The other girl kept herself covered at least to the standards of acceptability, she heeded the fact that her business parts may have been worth safeguarding.

Later on that night, the girl with the short dress — now with the modest addition of a pair of stretch pants beneath — thought it prudent to pull up her dress, pull down her pants, and show me a bruise that was strategically placed at the frontal apex of her upper thigh.

For added emphasis, perhaps, she did this not once, but twice.

I must add that I caught a glimpse of a German guy on the other side of the room enjoying the show much more than I.

These girls continued giggling as they told me their story. They rode the boat from Rio Dulce to Livingston like regular tourists. When they arrived the boat driver asked them what they wanted to do. The girls answered that they wanted to go swimming. The boat driver said OK, I will show you a good place. The girls said OK, let us put on our bikinis.

Before the girls could comprehend what was going on, they were out at sea. Two young English girls in bikinis and a fat boat driver were now alone, with the anchor put down somewhere in Livingston’s bay — out of hearing or seeing range of anybody. The fat boat driver then proceeded, in due order, to remove his white shirt with blue lettering, his shorts, and his underwear. He was naked.

“We were out there with this fat man with his willie sticking out,” the girls laughed as they spoke, “He was touching us as we tried to get back into the boat.”

Though the boat man was not as abrasive as he probably could have been. He read the signals that were before him and took advantage: two hot white chicks got into their bikinis and wanted to go swimming with him. He took them swimming, exposed himself, copped a couple feels. Though it is not my impression that he did not really do anything overtly harmful. When the English girls finally got too weirded out by being marooned in the middle of the bay with a strange, naked, fat boat man in Guatemala, they asked to be taken back to Livingston. The boat man then sheathed his willie and complied.

The boat man also did not charge the girls for the ride back up river to the Finca Tatin. Apparently, the stories that he could tell his buddies that night was payment enough.

As the girls recounted the tale, they did not seem traumatized — the event seemed to have humored them. But I am afraid that they again reaffirmed the reputation that surrounds them: white girls = easy sex in most of the world (a not wholly untrue assumption either).

But moralizing is not my objective, I don’t care if a girl wants to show her legs and nether regions off while traveling abroad — this has nothing to do with me. What I am interested in is looking at the situation that the English girls found themselves in and devise ways that I and others could circumvent similar situations.

Life is a learning experience — these English girls are not foolish, just inexperienced. Learning experiences are very often hard earned. Every traveler has been in similar circumstances as these English girls. If a long term travelers tries to tell you that they have never stupidly put themselves at the mercy of people with malicious intents, then they are either lying, have forgotten, or have missed one of the most pertinent lessons of travel.

There is no story without a lesson, without something to learn. The English girls were given a prime opportunity to learn how to travel better, and this is what I intend to share.


We may look at this story and call the two English girls air heads, idiots, a couple of permissive tourists who were out of touch with their surroundings and ignorantly put themselves in a compromising situation. But the fact of the matter is that these girls did not intend to be taken out to sea with a fat man who wished to air out his willie, it was something that just happened.

They got on a wave and could not figure out how to get off it until they were already out at sea, in a bad situation.

It is easy to find yourself on these waves when traveling — the more so when you do not understand the language that everyone else is speaking. These waves start simply and safely — maybe a person asks you what you want to do in their town — they get a little more sketchy, but the circumstances are often easy to justify — maybe the boat driver is just taking us to a popular beach and being a nice guy — but soon they get bad — a willie is exposed and you realize that you are a young white girl alone with a horny guy who is in full control of YOUR circumstances.

These waves can carry you out to sea quickly. It is one of the arts of traveling to determine how to stop these waves before they start, or to allow them to pass you by without effect.

It is too easy to enter into compromising situations by trying to justify what you see before you. This situations are even easier to enter into when a person is pushing you — a guy chattering in your ear and leading you somewhere is often enough to get you do something that you normally would not if you were able to stop and think for a moment. But the modus operandi of people wanting to take advantage of you is to remove any time for you to think, they will talk at you incessantly, get your thoughts to flow in the direction of their choosing, all while they lead your feet into a bad situation.

In the moment, it seems easier to just follow along and act cool then it is to tell someone stop, to take an active role in getting yourself off the wave.

In these moments in travel, when your mind is overly occupied to the point that you cannot fully evaluate your circumstances but your feet are moving along at the direction of a another person is when you are rolling into a bad circumstance. It is easy to make stupid choices when you are not able to evaluate where you stand, when you are being pushed, overly stimulated, and are at the direction of a person telling you that they are your friend, who is telling you that they are helping you.

It is often easier to just believe them, it is all too easy to get stuck in the waves of travel until you find yourself out at sea in a bad situation.

In regards to devising defensive mechanisms, I try to identify and remember feelings — emotional bookmarks — not situations. The world is a vast place, there are far too many potential situations to have experienced a precedent for in travel: I know that there is simply not enough time for me to experience every scam, every hustle, and every

There are a few tell tale signs, but mostly I follow feeling:

When I feel as if I am not in control of my situation is the moment I stop the wheels, it is the moment I jump off the wave. If I am being pushed by someone, I automatically push back in the opposite direction. If someone tries to make me get in one taxi, I get into another; if someone tries to talk me into going to one hotel, I avoid it on principle; if a guy comes up to me in the street and tells me that he is my friend, I automatically regard him as an enemy; if I want to go swimming, I confirm the exact location of a place where I can do so and go there by myself, on my own volition.

I try to never follow blindly, I try to not ever be lead into an unknown circumstance, I try to not to ever offer my self autonomy to another person. I want to know exactly where I am and were I am going. If I find myself feeling as if I am on a wave, in a situation where I have no control, I remove myself from the circumstance: I say no, I walk away.
Sometimes I know that I miss out on what could be a good experience, sometimes I save my hide.

When pushed in travel, I push back. Sometimes it is not clear why I am pushing back, but doing often neutralizes the situation, doing so gives me some space to think, to observe, and to make a good decision. If I am told to go, I stay; if told to stay, I go.

It is my impression that a large part of the romance of traveling is the feeling of self autonomy, the feeling of absolute self determination — there is no better feeling than knowing that I can go anywhere, stay for as long as I want, choose my acquaintances, say what I wish without lasting repercussion, not having an audience for my blunders, being able to leave the scene of embarrassment without it following you.

One of the most precious aspects of traveling is the feeling of being in control of yourself, do not let anybody rob you of this feeling — you owe nobody anything, travel is about doing what you want to do, no compromises, no explanations are ever necessary.

The moment that you feel as if you are not in control of your situation is the moment that you need to grind the gears to a halt, get off the bus, jump off the wave.

Related articles: Be a Big Man Travel Tip | Smile and Say Hello Travel Tip

Guatemala Travelogue Entries | Guatemala Travel Guide | Guatemala Photos


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Filed under: Adventure, Travel Safe, Travel Tips

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

6 comments… add one

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  • Bob L June 25, 2010, 5:51 pm

    Great post. Yes, I suppose everyone has been caught in a wave, if not a dangerous situation, then one that could have been dangerous had the people not ended up being just opportunists.

    As usual, gotta put up my story. I was with my Sister and GF at a Caribbean resort (my sister got it through her timeshare 8^( My sister works with the criminally insane, drug addicts, pedophiles, etc in her job. She tends to distrust everyone. BUT, as you know can happen, she was in Vacation mode, and let her guard down. A man was showing her pictures of his “Farm” and of his fishing boat that he charters out. She tells me that she is going out fishing with him the next day, alone. I asked if she recognized the potential danger? She say’s “But he owns a farm and works for the hotel”. I asked how she knew that. That is about the time her instincts finally kicked in. She realized the only thing she “knew” about him were the things he was saying. That she was about to go out to sea alone with a large strong man who had been chatting her up.

    She took my advice and backed out. We never saw the man again,even though he supposedly worked there. Easy to drop your guard when on holiday.

    Bob L

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 26, 2010, 5:20 pm

      It is easy to get caught in these waves when traveling — especially when on vacation. I suppose part of the fun of a vacation is doing things you normally would not do, letting loose, riding the waves of happenstance. It is so easy to forget you sense of safety when on a new environment doing new things.

      Thanks for sharing this story, it is another good example of how an otherwise intelligent and cautious person can be pulled out to sea when traveling. I can’t blame anyone who has had these things happen to them. I only write these entries to serve as a mental bookmark of sorts that say that it is better to feel rude than to put yourself in danger.

      It is so easy to get caught like the English girls did. The boatman got them with a classic lock in prop:

      “What do you want to do?”

      “Go swimming.”

      “Ok, let’s go.”

      Then all of a sudden the girls are put in a situation where they need to say, “We want to go swimming but not with you.”

      This feels rude to say, and lots of people hesitate for a few moments too long, they go with the flow, indecisive, and find themselves wash out to sea.

      These things have happened to nearly all travelers. I should publish a short entry about giving ambiguous answers to break out of this lock in prop. This is probably a travel skill that is worthy of discussion, and one that everybody can learn how to do better.



      Link Reply
  • Caitlin June 28, 2010, 11:03 am

    Great post.

    The thing is, while we can take preventative measures, the following things will always be true, whether traveling or not:

    1. Unless one has a broomstick stuck way up where the sun don’t shine, everyone makes stupid decisions sometime. Making a stupid decision, like those girls, can be silly but ultimately does not give permission for someone to expose their willy.

    2. Even beyond “making stupid decisions,” in life we will always have times when control is with someone else. Pretty much any taxi driver could rob and kill you without getting caught. A hotel worker can break into your room and take your stuff. Even a pretty girl you go out on a date with? She might have a boyfriend who’s a gangbanger and pretty soon you’re kidnapped.

    I don’t mean to say this as fear-mongering, of course. Just to illustrate that anywhere we are things are often out of our control, sometimes because we naturally make bad decisions and sometimes just cause that’s life. In the end, the only person who makes the decision to do something bad (rob, assault, etc) is the person that does something bad.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com June 29, 2010, 8:29 pm

      Right on, Caitlin,

      Risks are an acceptable part of the traveling experience. Sometimes you need to drop your guard a little to really get the most out of people and places.

      There is also a certain amount of autonomy that is always going to be lost in travel. You are right, you can’t always safeguard you circumstances.

      But I think there is a difference between fully engaging your circumstances, accepting a certain amount of variables, and allowing yourself to be bullied. These girls seemed to have been bullied into doing something they did not fully feel comfortable doing.

      I don’t think that these girls did something stupid — if given the chance to make a clear decision they probably would not have gone swimming with the fat boat driver, they probably did not ask to see his willie and then complain when it was out flapping in the breeze. They seemed to have been railroaded into the situation. As you probably know, it is tough when you are in a situation where it seems as if you need to be rude to maintain your sense of well being.

      This is just something that is learned through experience. I learned, I still learn. I know have no problem with being rude to someone if the matter has to do with my own personal space or determination. A real friend would not try to pressure me to do anything.

      I learned this the hard way, too.

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  • Da Nuck September 8, 2011, 7:11 pm

    When things happen to you, you really need to step back and ask yourself,

    Am I the victim or the crime ?

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    • Wade Shepard September 9, 2011, 10:30 am

      Or “Did I victimize myself?”

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