Avoid getting taken!

How single travelers can stay safe in other countries

Courtesy photo

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.

H-Town Run Tourist's Guide to Mental Health

Terry Hershey Park: My place of solace

Author's own.

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx


When I need a serious reset, I jump in the car and and go to that parking lot under Beltway 8 and Memorial. I get my headphones, and my phone and just start walking. I'm talking about Terry Hershey Park. This out and back trail of about 12.5 miles has been my place of solace. This is the place where I began my journey into fitness. This is the place that brought me out of depression. I have used the rolling hills of Terry Hershey Park to train for my races, and I still come here to chill the f*** out. This is why:

Breathe in the beauty.

Author's own

There is beauty all around.

Terry Hershey Park is situated along Buffalo Bayou. There are all these trees that are overgrown with vines. It looks like a rainforest. It's like the trees befriended a vine and the vine showed them up. I don't know who is winning in this relationship. I think we are because it is beautiful. See how I just had this weird conversation in my head. Guess what I wasn't thinking about. The bad breakup I went through 5 years ago. Terry Hershey is also great during bluebonnet season. Many people visit to strike a nature pose. You can also use one of the many dedicated benches to reflect on your beautiful surroundings.

Shh! Keep quiet or you will scare them.

Author's own

The wildlife is abundant.

I really get a kick out of counting the different wildlife that I encounter. While preparing for the article, I tried to find all the insects, birds, and mammals that you will see in Terry Hershey. Too many to name so I will tell you my favorite stories.

This week, I saw 5 rabbits, some squirrels, a cardinal, lots of butterflies, a turtle, egrets and herons. There have been many times that I have seen 30 turtles just sunbathing. They are really scared of people so you have to be quiet or they duck back into the water. One time, I was running and almost ran into a huge spider hanging from its silk. I stopped to take pictures, but it wasn't having it. I waved bye-bye as it crawled up it's silk. I have also encountered poisonous snakes, but luckily, I saw them before they saw me. I can't help it, I'm a wildlife voyeur.

Walking or running, you get a great workout.

Author's own.

You can train for challenging races.

Terry Hershey Park is a great place to train. As I stated before, you have 12.5 miles of trails to work with. Whether you are a walker, runner, biker, or canoeing is your thing, this is your place to train. There are some of the best hills in Houston here making it a challenge. There are different trails with different difficulty levels. If you are training for a trail race, you can take the more difficult unpaved trails which are great to work those supporting tendons. You can also get off the beaten path that is across the bayou that will really test you. Honestly, I still don't know how to get on it.

Worth the 4 mile run.

Author's own.

Personal Experience

You have probably gotten that this park is dear to me. Let me tell you about some of the fun times that I have had on it. I call it "fun with myself." Not like that. Brace yourself, This is silly. When you have moments like these, you just have to give yourself over to them. I was listening to classical music while running. All of a sudden a song from the Last of the Mohicans comes on. It was so dramatic, I felt like I was running across a meadow or the frontier. Every turn felt new. I really felt alive and guess what? I was actually running across a meadow because that is what Terry Hershey looks like. I never forgot it. But, you know what I did forget? The fact that my car needs yet a new tire and oil change.

If you are new to Houston, want some hill training, or just need to relax, do not hesitate to get on the Beltway. Exit Briar Forest and park in the parking lot just underneath. It will lead you to mental health heaven.

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