Avoid getting taken!

How single travelers can stay safe in other countries

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

You know the scene in the blockbuster hit, Taken, when Liam Neeson travels to Europe to rescue his daughter who has been taken to be put into the sex trade. Once he finds the bad guy, he uses clever trickery to identify him. This is where Liam utters the iconic line, "I told you I would find you." This, of course, is followed by fighting. It made for great cinema, but most people don't have a kick-ass dad like Liam Neeson and most people definitely do not have time to get abducted and sold into the sex trade on their dream vacation? Little did they know that a good itinerary would have made everyone's life easier. (And for a very bad movie). Because I care, I'm going to tell you how to construct a good itinerary that will be your first line of defense while traveling abroad.

It is not a pleasant thought that bad people exist in this world and are waiting to take advantage of you, but the fact is bad people exist in this world and are waiting to take advantage of you. So, you have to be prepared. You also want to travel as efficiently as possible so it helps to have all the information you need in one spot. Your friends and family need to be able to track you wherever you have been and are going. Here are the tools you will need to start.

Your passport

Look at the expiration date. Is it valid? To be valid for travel, a passport has to have enough time on it for you to go on your trip, come back, and still be valid for six months after that. If this is not the case, then you need to renew it. You will also need at least two pages of blank pages for stamps. If you don't have a passport, then why are you still reading this? Go to your local post office and get one.


Give yourself plenty of time for thorough research.

Research

I'm not talking about the Lonely Planet/ Rick Steves research. I'm talking about travel advisory sites. Most countries have one. Ours is Travel.State.Gov. This site covers everything that you would need to know about the country you are traveling to from the population to climate and more. Do you need a visa to enter the country? What vaccines do you need and when do you need to get them? Recent terroist activity? Currency exchange? Crime rate? Natural disasters? And local laws? (Whatever happens in Bangkok, stays in Bangkok is not exactly true). Make notes of all these things.

Flight information

Once you have all your flight information finalized, gather it together. Start with the departure from your city. What airline are you using? What is your departure time? What gate? Where do you land next? What is your arrival time? What is your airline number? When do you return? Basically, every and any bit of information you can give, give it (Just in case you get taken).

Transportation and hotel information.

How are you getting to your hotel? Most times, hotels have a pickup and drop off service. This is good to use because the driver and times are easily tracked. Add your hotel information to your itinerary. While you are there, get the name of the person that you made the reservation with and the name of the person who will be checking you in when you arrive. Write the names of these people down. Be sure to include what their position is at the hotel.

Activities

List all the things that you plan to do on each day. List the mode of transportation that you will be using such as a train to hop from town to town. Include train or bus numbers and companies. If you are going on any tours or taking a cooking class, you should include all contact information.

Now it is time to make copies of your itinerary and the first two pages of your passport and give them to your closest friends and family and keep one for yourself. As a final touch, include the names and contact information of each person who received your itinerary so they can all communicate (just in case you get taken).

If you are jet setting around Europe or wherever and will be hopping from France to Spain to Italy for example, repeat all of these steps for every country you visit. Be sure to repeat these steps until every leg of your trip has been documented. I know it is a really tedious task, so don't wait until the day before you leave to start.

Be home before the street light comes on.Here are some final tips to remember.

  1. Talk to someone on your list everyday.
  2. Stick to your itinerary. Your people back home do not know your new plans unless you tell them.
  3. Plan your day carefully to blend in and look less like a tourist. In Croatia, I took an hour to plan my day the first day there for this exact reason and when I went out into the square, I was the only black person ever.
  4. Don't sow your wild oats while traveling alone.
  5. Don't accept help from anyone who offers it. Anyone who offers help has been watching you and knows that you are alone. Ask workers in uniform or law enforcement for help.
  6. And unlike on Taken, don't let strange men or women Know where you are staying.
  7. Come back alive.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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