More specifically, if you have teens, young adults, or college-aged kids who are traveling in exotic and fun places like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Thailand, Mexico, etc. Please pay attention for a quick moment because this tip is fundamental to keeping them safe.
Those are the predilections and impulses of young adults so there’s no use fighting it (and don’t pretend we didn’t do the same things - or worse.) But aside from the obvious, common sense stuff – like don’t get caught with drugs and don’t walk around loaded in dark alleys at 4am, there’s one thing you should implore them, no – plead with them, to understand. Following this advice could be the difference between life and death, as this is where the vast majority of assaults, murders, and even rapes of travelers take place:
Stay off the beaches late at night.
Why? From what I’ve seen, (and I’ve traveled a fair bit) the vast majority of serious harm towards foreigners occurs late at night on the beaches. This isn’t the kind of harm you can put a Band Aid on – this is the stuff that keeps you up at night worrying, the phone call in the middle of the night that shatters your world, your worst nightmare. Travelers – especially young travelers – are too often naïve and oblivious to their surroundings. They’re drunk and having the time of their lives with their friends, swept away in the perfect moment. They think they’re in a tropical paradise where everything is beautiful and fun, but too often completely oblivious to what’s really happening.
There are people waiting for them on the beach. Thieves and muggers and violent gangs and bad people ready to do bad things. And your kids are such easy targets, stumbling around drunk and alone in the dark. These gangs of people with bad intentions – impoverished, wild, and probably on drugs themselves – go to those area specifically because they know they’ll be drunk tourists stumbling around. They’re hunting your children. Or sometimes, robberies or attacks aren’t that orchestrated. But either way, on the beach it’s pitch black, there’s no one around, and the police or anyone who can help are so far away they might as well not exist. The romantic moonlight walk on the beach by a couple of travelers can very quickly turn into something that will ruin their lives.
Now I’m not saying that all people are bad in these countries or something will always happen on the beach late at night. Not at all. Most people have wonderful experiences when traveling without any incident. And I’d caution people to stay aware and be safe in their home countries of United States or Canada or Australia or England as well, where these kinds of things happen nightly. I’m only compelling people to be aware of their surroundings and exercise common sense, because for some reason, travelers view the beach at night as beautiful safe havens, not dark alleys.
Of course there are times it’s perfectly safe to go onto the beach at night – when they stay within sight of the established hotels, bars, and tourist areas. And they should always go out at night or to the beach in a large group. Befriend locals. Tell people where you are going before you head out there. Leave a copy of your passport with your hotel and tell them every night where you are headed and with whom.
Maybe I’m just being over cautious. I certainly hope so. Your kids will probably roll their eyes and dismiss your warnings as nagging parental paranoia. But show them this newspaper write up about the British kids who were just brutally slain on the beach at night in Thailand. And let them read this article I wrote about staying safe while traveling abroad. And if you think they’re still going to be reckless and foolhardy, I’ll forward you the horrific and graphic photos of those two kids. Unfortunately, someone emailed them to me. They made me sick to my stomach and kept me up all last night.
Please hit me up if you have any other questions about traveling, as it’s definitely something I encourage that will also change their lives for the better.