Monthly Archives: June 2016

Safety Tips for the Skittish Traveler


Be safe wherever you go.

The world is a crazy, unsafe place. At times I too wish I could just bury myself in a hole in the ground and shut out all the insanity and insecurity. But the inherent problem with holes in the ground – the Grand Canyon not withstanding – is that they usually don’t offer a very good view. For that, it requires the courage to get out there and explore. Below I’ve listed 8 steps on how to travel safely and still maintain relative peace of mind.

1) The World is Just as Crazy Where You Live

Crime, terrorism and natural disasters are not limited to those on vacation. Sadly, such risks are part of the global human experience. This goes for visiting popular tourist attractions and traveling by air just as much as going to and from your job or school. Yes, it is possible something bad might happen while traveling, but statistically it is far more likely that you’ll have a car accident on the way home from the store than experience a terrorist attack while traveling abroad. By gaining some perspective on the risks involved, you can ease your worries and take comfort in knowing that you’re likely not at any greater risk than you are in your own hometown. That is, unless you’re visiting Falluja.

2) Be Shrewd, Dude

Taking practical precautions before embarking on your trip can do much to allay anxiety. Travel insurance is an increasingly good idea, not just for its practicality but also for the peace of mind. Thoroughly researching your intended destination can alert you to potential threats or dangers, both health and safety-wise, and buying a money belt or similar products can help lessen the your odds of being a victim.

3) Here’s Looking At You, Punk

Imagine for a second that you’re a pickpocket or any other variation of street criminal. Would you rather target the oblivious tourist that’s so engrossed in looking at the sights that they don’t even notice you’re there, or the wary tourist with the shifty eyes that are constantly scanning the surroundings? If you didn’t choose the former, then maybe you’re just not cut out for a life of petty crime. Yes, criminals prey on the easiest targets, and nothing says “I see you, punk. Try someone else” better than being aware of those around you and making eye contact. Sure, you might come off as paranoid but at least your message won’t be missed.

4) You’ve Got A Brain. Use It.

What you wear, bring, do and say can all have a direct bearing on your safety. Wearing expensive jewelry in poor cities is an invitation to potential muggers. Flashing costly electronics and camera equipment at inappropriate places and times can have the same effect as well. Even traveling through relatively safe areas and neighborhoods after nightfall may increase your risk, as might talking loudly in your native tongue, as nothing screams “tourist!” more than asking for directions. This is not to say that you should stay in your hotel room and not speak to anyone. Just use your head and the risks will be much lower.

5) If You’ve Got It, Don’t Flaunt It

Standards of dress and conduct vary wildly worldwide and to keep things on the up and up with the local populous it’s a good idea to learn what they are and then follow them. In many places in Latin America and India for example, women will at times draw unwanted male attention in direct proportion to the amount of skin they show. So ladies, be prepared to cover up if you don’t feel like being stared at by often not-too-subtle men. And don’t get me started on the Italians….

6) Make Friends, Not Mistakes

One of the best things about travel is the possibility of interacting with so many different people. While I heartily encourage all to mingle with the locals, this doesn’t mean drop your guard. Be mindful that some in bars and restaurants frequented by tourists may have their own agenda and be wary about what it is in (and how much) you drink. And sometimes (not all) that friendly local that just happens to strike up a conversation with you will eventually reveal that they want to take you to a “friend’s” shop where you can get bargains unheard of elsewhere. Again, you’ve got a brain, and don’t be afraid to say no. Most of all, don’t let the few bad eggs ruin the joys of cultural exchange.

7) Don’t Forget What Your Mommy Told You

As it turns out, your mom was right about a lot of things. While traveling, many of her adages still hold true if you want to come home safely: Look both ways before crossing the street (especially in London), be careful after dark, don’t walk through the woods by yourself and many more I’m sure. About the only one I would openly contest is the prohibition on going swimming for at least an hour after eating (An hour. A good hour).

8) Face Your Fears & Get Out There

With all the rampant insecurity in today’s society, it may be hard to overcome your fears to get out there and explore. But identifying your fears is a necessary step if you’re to experience peace of mind in travel or anything else. As I said in my 2015 humor/travel guide You Can Keep Your Adventure, Just Leave Me the Toilet Paper, “finding the root of your fears is like giving a prostate exam–uncomfortable even if you do manage to put your finger on it.” But once you do, and you’re willing to challenge yourself, enjoying the world – risks and all – will become a whole lot easier.


Of course, despite taking all these precautions you can still get hit by a bus, but hey, a meteor strike is a possibility as well. My point is that it is impossible to eliminate all risk in this world, so you’ll just have to do your best and relax. By taking practical steps you can lower your risk of danger while traveling, and I say that  if you have to accept a level of risk, it might as well be on vacation.

Do you have any safety tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!

Categories: Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , ,

Straight Lines are Overrated in Punta del Este


Check your straight-edge at the door at Casapueblo

You know how most buildings have a lot of those straight lines everywhere? If there’s a wall, it’s straight. Windows – same thing. Sure, every once and a while you’ll run across a diagonal line, or the occasional rounded edge of a curve, but by and large straight lines and right angles make up the bulk of modern architecture. But in the sun-kissed region of Uruguay’s resort haven of Punta del Este, there’s a building that mocks such vertical/horizontal symmetry with every fiber of its construction. You can even spend the night there, too. It’s called Casapueblo, and if you’re a lover of all things non-conformist you’ll find yourself right at home.

About Casapueblo

Built by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró as a summer home, this sprawling whitewashed structure of anything but straight lines now serves as a hotel, art gallery and point of interest for visitors to the area. A maze of lopsided and dream-like walkways evoke images of Santorini – that is, if you visited the Greek Island and decided to immediately drop acid. I’m pretty sure my three-year-old niece drew a picture that now hangs on the fridge which closely resembles its architecture. And if The Lorax ever decided to visit Uruguay, you can be sure that this is where he’d stay.

The Casapueblo, for all it’s quirkiness, is highly rated as a hotel. With unique rooms that each bear a different name and commanding views of the South Atlantic, it has plenty of appeal beyond just the surreal aesthetics. While my visit there was strictly for the architecture, I can’t deny that I lamented not being about to fully explore every abstract nook and cranny at the more leisurely pace of a paying guest. It was here that I truly appreciated that straight lines are highly overrated, and its a lesson I haven’t forgotten.

Getting There

Casapueblo is just a few miles outside the resort town of Punta del Este, situated on a high bluff called Punta Ballena. Punta del Este is a happening beach town, and if there were a such thing as the Uruguayan Riviera, I suppose this would be it. The inviting green water attracts locals and jet-setters alike, and the silhouette of smaller-class cruise ships frequently surround the peninsula. Punta del Este is also about a 1.5 hour drive east from the capital Montevideo, and is the most famous of numerous beach towns that line the Rio de la Plata to where it meets the Atlantic.

Curves Ahead

One of the basic precepts of leisure travel is the desire to see something different; something you can’t experience at home. I can sincerely assure you that unless you live in a Dr. Seuss book, you are unlikely to see any building even remotely resembling Casapueblo. That splash of diversity along with a world-class beach destination nearby is enough to inspire anyone to leave the straight and narrow. So bring your camera, swimsuit and leave your protractors at home. There be curves ahead, and that is what makes it worth visiting.


The halls of Casapueblo, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Categories: Destinations | Tags: , , , , , ,

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