The dangers of (solo) travel

 

You learn when you travel.  I have read many articles and blogs about the things we have learned while venturing out of our comfort zone to experience the world around us.  Some lessons that we learn are educational – like the history of a city or country that we didn’t know that much about.  Some lessons are hard, real life lessons, lessons we don’t necessarily want to learn, but lessons learned in any event.

 

I learned a valuable lesson this week about safety.  One lesson that I will take with me forever on this journey I am on.

 

I have been travelling now for three years, in Europe and Asia, and of course just recently I made it to South America.  I have always been vigilant in the cities I lived in when I first got there.  This week, I was not.  I had an air of confidence in me as I stepped out of my hostel, thinking I know where I’m going, I have made it this far, and I can do anything.  My over-confidence almost got the best of me.

 

As I went in search of the supermarket, I came to a beautiful church.  And I did something that I have read countless times NOT to do.  I went up to it by myself, with no other people around, got out my cell phone to take some pictures, and did not pay attention to my surroundings.  As I turned to go back down the stairs, I put my phone back into my backpack purse (which I ALWAYS carry in front) and saw two young men come up the stairs.  Again, not really paying attention to what was going on, I casually walked towards the stairs, and that’s when they ran at me, and tried to grab my purse.  They pulled at me, and pulled at my bag, managing to break the one strap and continued to try to take the bag.  I fought back, held on to my purse with every bit of strength I could muster up, and tried to pull away.  Thankfully a store owner saw what was happening and came running and yelling.  The young men took off, without my bag.

 

Was I scared?  Terrified is a better word.  Was I proud of myself?  Yes and no.   I was proud that I managed to keep my wits about me while fending off TWO would be muggers.  I was not proud of myself for having put myself into such a vulnerable situation, when I know better.  Is this something I want to happen again?  Absolutely not.  Did I learn a lesson from this?  YES!

 

The lessons I learned were that  1) ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings; 2) if you sense trouble, then walk away immediately; 3) do NOT carry too much with you – strictly cash and a copy of your passport; 4) get a money belt; and 5) NEVER fight out a mugger – simply give them your bag and leave safely.  I am ever so grateful for that man who came and helped me.  I don’t even want to imagine what could have happened if he hadn’t.  I am so very thankful that I managed to keep my bag, and I am very thankful for the friends on the internet who consoled me later and helped me calm down.

 

I am not in Europe or Asia anymoe, and I have very quickly learned that I need to be much more aware of what is going on.  Will this stop me from travelling?  Absolutely not.  I will continue to travel and enjoy myself and see all the sights that I want to see.  I will definitely be more careful and be more aware of where I am.  And I will continue to see this amazing world.

 

Despite this eye-opening event, I love Valparaiso and its grittiness.  I feel comfortable here, walking around and taking in the everyday life of the Chilean people and their culture.  Santiago was beautiful, but Valparaiso, in my opinion, feels like a real Chilean city.  Santiago is a city for tourism.  Valparaiso is a city that makes me feel like I am experiencing the real ways of life that Chileans work in.  It’s a gritty, graffiti filled city with its own uniqueness to it.  I really enjoyed Santiago, but Valparaiso has a certain draw for me.  Despite the incidents of the week, I would love to stay for a while here.  I love this city!!

 

I also learned just how strong I am.  While not the smartest thing to have done, I am very glad that I did and managed to keep all my belongings with me.

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