Setting up a Safer Travels Plan
The cornerstone of the Safer Travels Curriculum is the Safer Travels Plan. It is a template for a personalized assessment that the traveler can utilize in preparation for their trip. By understanding personal expectations and conditions, travelers are able to make healthy and informed decisions while abroad and mitigate risk factors.
Before the Flight
- Develop a method for recording all vital information. We suggest a small and durable notebook, as technology is not always reliable. Record any information you will need in the worst case scenario, such as contact information for the American embassy, local authorities, a medical center, and the University you are studying with. Also write down information you may lose, such as your own address, contact information to your support network, and the address of the place you are staying. Do not carry hard copies of your passport, ID, or other important documents.
Acquire hard and digital copies of maps. Google maps and maps.me will allow for downloads when away from wifi, and compact paper copies are always great to have in case tech breaks down or there is no internet access
Perform some basic research about the destinations that you are traveling to. This is a fun and key way to better understand cultural norms.
Self reflect. Although it does not seem important, taking time to reflect upon personal expectations is key to having a safe and positive experience abroad. Download our workshop handout for guided reflection.
Self-reflection questions can include: Do I want to be sexually active when I am abroad? Do I want to go on dates? Am I going to use Tinder/other apps? Do I want to drink? Am I going to party or casually drink? Am I going to maintain my at-home relationships abroad? How will I contact home? Do I want to go out late? Do I want to do more on my own or stay with a group? How can I manage stress away from home? Maybe I will run or journal a couple days a week? Who will I check in with from home and how will we do it?
When you Find your Bed
- Locate local facilities such as the nearest medical center, authorities/ police, psychiatric center, reproductive clinic, and rendezvous point. The rendezvous point can be an agreed-upon location to meet up with friends or meet for dates within walking distance from home.
- Is your new home safe and comfortable? Find a safe place to store your belongings, and consider purchasing locks if it’s a shared space. Do you have access to all amenities, including wifi? Where can you acquire these if needed?
- Take note of the neighborhood and ask for safety suggestions. If it is a place of high theft rates or higher crime rates, consider always walking with a buddy or not walking around at night.
Before Leaving the Door
- Have transportation to and from the destination planned. Pack the notebook with your home address and a map.
- Designate a buddy for the trip. If you are going out alone, designate a buddy from back home to check in with remotely, allowing them access to your location possibly. In either case, decide on a time to rendezvous or check in during the excursion and after so that safety is assured.
- Share your expectations with the buddy, particularly dating and drinking experiences, so that they know whether or not to intervene.
- Reflect on why you are going out. For instance, if you are planning to go to a bar and “get wasted” because you are homesick, it may be a good idea to reconsider or talk to a friend. Reflecting on motivations for certain actions and integrating this with a self-assessment on mental health is an important piece in preventing dangerous circumstances.