I am excited!
I leave for Hong Kong and Yangon, Myanmar in a few hours.
Now I've been to Hong Kong once before but it was a very short visit. I only covered the standards. This time I want to dig further into the city and then I'll go to Yangon where I've never been but I've identified a number of things I want to do. I'm clear on the ‘whats' of this trip but I'm still a little shaky on the ‘how'.
While wishing me a bon voyage, a friend said “stay safe”.
“I always do,” was my reply. And then we got to talking about how knowing the logic of a destination helps with safety.
The Fundamentals of Solo Travel Safety
I equate the fear of travel to a fear of the dark. It's about uncertainty. It comes from being unsure about such basics as how to get from one place to another, how to find food that won't cause stomach problems and how to know what areas are safe and which ones are not.
The ‘how' of travel is a challenging issue and that last one, how to know what areas are safe, is a biggie. Much of solo travel safety is about being in safe places – not putting yourself in situations that could put you in harm’s way. In my experience, this is achieved three ways:
- by understanding the logic of your destination
- by having a healthy sense of what you don't know
- by asking questions to fill in the gaps
Knowing – and Not Knowing – the Logic of a Location.
I have traveled extensively in North America and Europe. I've traveled a bit in Asia and South America. I haven't traveled at all in Africa. It's only natural that I would have a good sense of the logic of North American and European destinations and a poor sense of how Asia, South America and Africa work. For me, these latter three are blank slates. I'm uncertain of the logic behind their cultures and how they function. For safety reasons, I have to be a little more careful, allow myself a little more time, as I navigate these less familiar destinations.
So as I prepare to go to Hong Kong and Myanmar I have a healthy sense of what I don't know. What I do know is that I'll be asking a lot of questions. And that, as I travel there I will learn more about the logic so that next time I travel in Asia I have a slightly better idea of how things run.
The Logic of Three Locations
As I mentioned, I have a fairly good sense of how North America and Europe work so I thought I should share. Please remember that these are very broad generalizations but I hope they point to some ways for you to develop your own sense of logic on how the places you visit operate.
Europe – The centers of major cities in Europe are generally alive night and day. Wandering the centres of Paris or London and other European cities, even at night, is usually no problem. The cities are so busy with locals who live in the city centers and tourists that want to be in on the action that you will typically be safe. For more on how Europe works I suggest Solo Travel Europe: 32+ Tips You Need To Know.
United States – Uptown Manhattan is safe just about any time of day or night however the movement to the suburbs in America has turned some cities' downtowns into ghost towns after the business crowd goes home. This can make safety questionable. Look around. Are there condos in the downtown? Are people living there? Is it expensive to do so? If yes, it's likely safe. Always ask at your hotel, hostel, B&B… to confirm the safe areas. For more on how the US works I suggest Solo Travel to America: 32 Tips.
Canada – Most centers of Canadian cities are alive and safe as the movement to the suburbs was not quite as complete as it was in the US. However, still, before heading out, especially in the evening, confirm that your destination is safe.
My trip to Hong Kong and Myanmar
I have Cathy Pacific to thank for my trip to Hong Kong and Myanmar. I'm flying their premium economy class on a direct flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, non-stop. Hong Kong is Cathay Pacific's hub and a gateway to the rest of Asia.