How to stay safe in a foreign city

Gehue1099 asks: I am terrified about going to another country without my parents. I’ve never been that far away before and it’s for 3 days so I’m wondering if I should go or not. We are going to see a Taylor Swift concert in Detroit, and I looked it up online and it doesn’t seem that safe.

Hi Gehue1099 –



I have to admit, I’ve never been on an airplane, or ever traveled across any international border.  My idea of scary travel is getting into a car and wondering if we’re going to the veterinarian’s office!  So I really relate to your question.


Having said that, there are two big truths here – and both are good news.  Firstly, the vast majority of international travel today is very very safe.  The nations of the world have a strong interest in keeping on friendly terms with each other, and keeping tourists coming to visit them, so you’re in good shape overall.  The second is that modern media just LOVES to exaggerate how dangerous places are.


There are, and have been, places in the world that are torn up by war or revolution, making them so dangerous that no one should go there without taking very special care.  But most places aren’t like that.  The vast majority of people in Iraq, Iran, Russia, China, and the other places you hear troubles about, are just fine.  Remember a few weeks ago when all the talk was about the protests in Baltimore, in the U.S.?  Watching the stories on television would scare anyone into thinking that no one could safely step into this huge violent riot?  And then a teenager’s mother walked out into the middle of the street because she’d seen her son on TV, grabbed him, gave him a smack, and took him home?  Yes, the most dangerous thing in those streets was how angry mothers get when their kids disobey them!


Detroit is a wonderful city, with a great history that includes the cool stylish cars America is known for, and some of the most beloved music of the last 60 years.  It took a huge hit when the economy went down about eight years ago, though, and it hasn’t recovered nearly as much as anyone would hope.  So what does this mean for you?


Well, a lot of things.  Number one, it means they really want you there.  They want you having a great time, buying food and souvenirs and hotel stays, and telling all your friends at home how great it is.  Number two, it means they are also thrilled to have the biggest pop star in the world coming to visit, for all the same reasons.  And number three, they are going to go all out to make sure the city is safe and attractive, to win you over.


Now, does this mean I’m saying you should walk alone at night down unlit streets with money sticking out of your pocket?!  Of course not.  Poor people can get desperate, and do bad things.  But that’s not particular to Detroit; I wouldn’t suggest anyone do that anywhere!


Nope, my suggestion is that you behave in Detroit, or London, or Beijing, Moscow, Teheran, or Kingston, exactly the way you would in the big city closest to you.  Which mainly consists of a few rules

–       Try to be where there are lots of other people

–       Whenever possible, have a friend or family member with you

–       Don’t go into unlit areas; and at night, if you’re feeling unsafe at all, take cars instead of walking.

–       Don’t show off your money (i.e. stick to simple jewelry, clothing, etc., as much as you can; and keep your wallet, phone, and anything else valuable in a place where pickpockets can’t get to them)

–       If you’re in a place that speaks a different language than yours, know enough of their words to be able to get help when you need it (especially words for police and toilets!)


If you can just do these things, Gehue1099, I think you’ll be fine.  Again, don’t let sensationalistic television convince you that places are worse than they are.  As long as you don’t let your brain be a Blank Space, you should be safe enough to feel Fearless, and Shake It Off enough to avoid any Bad Blood!





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