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

10 Reasons why we love Buffalo Bayou Park

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

Aside from our hospitality and our restaurant scene, I truly believe that Houston's parks are the city's pride and joy. Let' say it together with pride, "HOUSTON PARKS ARE BADASS!" One park that stands out is Buffalo Bayou Park. It is that 160 acres of green space between Shepherd Dr. and the Mosbacher Bridge. It is An amazing networkof hike and bike trails and the best natural tourism of Houston. So many reasons to love Buffalo Bayou Park. Here are mine!

Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership

1. It is a great place to train.

I have used Buffalo Bayou Park to train for all of my marathons. It is a great connector to other parts of the city like Downtown, the Heights and Montrose. It keeps your run interesting with hills, flowers, and wildlife. It is also a great place to add mileage to your runs.

2. So Many Awesome Events.

Buffalo Bayou is home to some of Houston's best events. These are held at resident venues such as the Bud Lite Amphitheater, Eleanor Tinsley Park, and the Water Works at Buffalo Bayou. Enjoy weekly 45 minute session of Sunrise Yoga at the Water Works. All ages and fitness levels welcome. Mark your calendar for the upcoming Houston Margarita Festival, the Houston Press Tacolandia, and Octoberfest Houston 2019.

3. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities.

It takes a lot of donations to make a place like Buffalo Bayou Park possible. $58 million in fact. Not all of us have that kind of cash lying around, but we still have two valuable resources to offer: time and energy. Buffalo Bayou Park has plenty of ways to put your good time and energy to. You can volunteer to restore and protect the lovely trails of Buffalo Bayou. You can do this by weeding and picking up debris. Every third Saturday is designated as Volunteer Day where groups and individuals are welcome to join.

Violet Coneflower

Arthor's own

4. Houston's best place for natural views, wildlife, and foliage.

One of my favorite things about running and walking in Houston, is taking pictures of trees, flowers, and natural settings. There are plenty of opportunities to do so in Buffalo Bayou Park. You have your pick: Live oak trees, wildflowers, jumping fish, even the occasional alligator. Nothing compares to the bat colony on Waugh Bridge. Whenever you are running and you smell this overwhelming stench, don't look at your running partner, its actually 250,000 Mexican bats that live under Waugh Bridge. You can see these bats emerge most nights at dusk to feast on the many bite size insects that drive us crazy.

the Kitchen at Dunlavy

Arthor's own

5. Home to the Kitchen at Dunlavy

Look past the Lost Lake and you will find a fantastical tree house restaurant called the Dunlavy. The restaurant, brought to you by Clark Cooper Concepts, serves breakfast and lunch everyday. It was voted "One of the World's Most Romantic Restaurants by CNN. To Houstonians, its the best place for weddings and Super Bowl Parties. During the day, it is counter restaurant service for breakfast and lunch. It is a go to for smoothies, breakfast bowls, croquet madame, cheese and charcuterie boards, and of course, the Dunlavy burger. But on the weekends, get there quick, because it fills up fast and you will be out there with the lily pads.

Beautiful downtown view

Arthor's own

6. The Best Downtown Views

My tourists really love taking pictures of the Downtown Skyline. Buffalo Bayou Park is home to some of my favorite views. For the best views, stop at Sabine Promenade and smaller bridges towards downtown. When you are about to walk into Downtown, don't forget to take in the amazing view from Mosbacher Bridge.

Police Officer's Memorial

Arthor's own

7. Let's honor our Fallen at the Police Officer's Memorial.

The Police Officer's Memorial. If you are traveling into Downtown from Memorial Drive, chances are you have passed this amazing structure. This memorial serves as a public recognition of sacrifices that have been made by police officers to carry out their duties. This is especially for the officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial, including the names of over 100 fallen police officers, is made of pink granite in the shape of a Greek Cross with a pyramid for the center. You can honor these officers on the annual wreath laying ceremony.


inside the Cistern

​Katy’s Horner/Slight Clutter Photography 

8. Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

This structure, the size of one and a half football fields, lay dormant as one of Houston's best kept secrets. That was until 2015 after the reopening of Buffalo Bayou Park. The Cistern, built in 1926, was used as the city's water reservoir for drinking water storage and fire suppression. Due to a leak, it was decommissioned in 2007. Today, you can enjoy tours and photography sessions inside. It has been home to art exhibits as well like Chromointerference by Carlos Cruz Diez.

The Seven Wonders

Arthor's own

9. Oh! the Spectacular Artwork of Buffalo Bayou.

I hope you have enjoyed all of my pictures of the art in Buffalo Bayou. Here are some of my favorites that you need to look out for.

Gus S. Wortham Fountain. Also nicknamed Dandelion near Waugh Bridge. At night, this fountain lights up with alluring colors like pink, purple, and blue. It doesn't take much to see why it is called the Dandelion.

Seven Wonders. This exhibition by Mel Chin, used the art from grade school students to depict the seven pillars of Houston civilization. Agriculture. Energy. Manufacturing. Medicine. Philantropy. Technology. and Transportation.

Tolerance. This is a seven piece constellation at Montrose and Memorial. It stands for equality of all religions and nationalities of the seven continents.

The Big Bubble. This installation by Dean Ruck is a big bubble that occurs in Buffalo Bayou that is activated by a "secret button." I would say that you have to be in the know, but it has been turned off since Hurricane Harvey. Maybe one day.

10. It is resilient!

Houston was so proud at the unveiling of the park aafter its $58 million renovation. Then came Hurricane Harvey. We all saw the pictures online and on social media. They were horrible. Just like I would expect from Houstonians, we all came together and after 2300 volunteers donated 7000 man hours, 60 million pounds of sediment, 500 trail lights, 5 dump trucks full of trash and debris were removed or repaired. Over 400 native trees and 1100 flowers were planted to restore the park.

You can definitely see why we all love Buffalo Bayou Park. I can't help but think this every time I run, walk, host, or drive anywhere in or around our pride and joy!

If you want more information or have questions about Buffalo Bayou Park, email info@buffalobayou.org. BBP Instagram handle is @buffalobayou.

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