Travel safety tip: Be aware of your surroundings!

safety firstThis week I was in LA for a conference. The first night after a lovely dinner I had a drink in the hotel bar with a few attendees. We called a relatively early night since we all  had to be in meetings in the morning, and headed off to our rooms.

The elevator reached my floor, and I bid farewell to my friends as I stepped off. As I was walking down the  hallway, rummaging through my purse for my key, I heard a voice behind me. “Excuse me, ma’am?” I turned, surprised since I hadn’t noticed anyone get  off the elevator at my floor. A guy was standing there, about ten steps behind me. “I just wanted to  tell  you that you are really beautiful. Are you married?”

At first, I was flummoxed. This has literally never  happened to me. Not the guy hitting on me part, but the guy following me off the elevator part. It was surreal. And even after  I said, yes, I’m married and a mother of three, but thanks, he said, “I saw you downstairs and didn’t come  over because you were with all of those people. Is there any way I can get to know more about you?” I was like nope, sorry, and walked away. I looked behind me a few times to make sure he wasn’t following me and locked my door as soon as I was in my room. In the moment, it seemed really odd, but I didn’t start to get scared until I was walking away and  realized how easily he could follow me.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I could have done differently other than be more aware as I was getting off the elevator. But even if he had gotten off at the same time as me, would I have been able to do anything differently? In this case the guy appeared to be harmless. But it was unnerving how fully I was taken off guard. What if he hadn’t been harmless? In parking lots I’m good about being aware of my surroundings and having my keys ready. In this nice hotel, though, I was very relaxed and took none of my normal safety precautions.

There are two lessons I want people to take away from here. First, just because you’re in a nice hotel  doesn’t mean you can stop paying attention to what’s around you. Second, don’t ever, ever follow someone just to hit on them. It will likely have the opposite effect from what you are hoping!

Readers, have you been in a scary situation on a trip? What travel safety precautions do you normally take?

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  1. Whoa – that is a scary story and I’m glad it worked out for you. Good that the guy did not wait until you were at your room, that would have been even scarier.

    One thing I do in hotels is I don’t get off the elevator first on my floor before a man or men. Most people are friendly and gentle but you never know. If I’m on the elevator with one man I try to wait for him to push the elevator button first. I might pick a different floor if I feel uncomfortable. Then if we are getting off on the same floor and the man politely suggests I go first, I sometimes smile and explain that the rule is reversed in hotels and for safety it’s better if he gets off first. Overall it is very awkward at times but the risk is real. Be careful out there.

  2. Totally agree on notifying the front desk. At minimum they can send a staff person up to make sure the guy is out of hallway/off your floor.

    If alone in a hotel elevator with a man, I let them hit their floor first, then select mine, or one higher than them. Much easier to watch them get off the elevator first…even if I have to take a round trip to my room.

    Also, always always have your cell phone with you and charged. A quick call to the 1st person on your list makes it clear to a creep that someone knows where you are…use it all the time in parking lots.

  3. It’s possible he knew what room you were in as well…. here lately I have had the distinct DISPLEASURE of having the desk announce what room I am staying in as I check in… I immediately give them the key back and request another room MINUS the announcement if other people are standing with earshot. Also carry a alarming door stop with you… shove it under your door and it will keep people, even with a key, from entering without you know. If the door shakes, it hollers!!

  4. I wouldn’t go as far as to not get off the elevator before a man – I like to think that MOST men are not going to cause problems! But faced with a situation like yours where the guy was definitely a creep, I would have gone back to the elevator and either gone to the floor above and walked back down after a few minutes, or possibly gone to the front desk and requested an escort to my room (if he was REALLY creepy). I wouldn’t have immediately walked to my room and therefore alerted him to exactly where I was.

  5. Let’s see… He put you in a vulnerable position before asking about you. Then he continued after you told him you were married? You were being far too nice.
    I never get on elevators with strangers – I’ll wait for the next empty elevator. Then I push multiple buttons so you can’t tell which floor I really want. I’ll also get my key out when I’m in the lobby.

  6. The elevator incident sounded scary. I’m glad that all turned out well in the end.

    As a traveler and a womens self defense instructor I’d like to share a tip of my own which I hope your female readers will read, remember and share with other women.

    I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over 5 years and we teach a very effective technique which I feel should should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and there is an extremely effective technique what we teach to women of all ages, which I feel we should all share as far and wide as possible.

    The technique is the “groin grab” self defense technique which is to be used against a male attacker, which is now taught in many womens self defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…

    To execute this technique, you’re going to take your hand and quickly grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Quickly grab hold of, or snatch the testicles and dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.

    Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. DO NOT LET GO OF THEM. This is very important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. DON’T. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. If he initially starts to fight back then you tuck your head in and keep squeezing his testicles until he faints. This only takes a matter of seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help.

    It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.

    If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. We, as women have no part of our bodies as vulnerable as a mans testicles. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack by a woman. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men who are very uncomfortable with thoughts of women beating them in combat) try to convince you otherwise.

    I once worked with a group of Somali women who informed me that grandmothers, mothers, and daughters between generations shared this powerful method of fighting off men. They even have a name for it in Somalia and they call the move “Qworegoys”. They were surprised that women in the West didn’t seem to share this information as much as they expected, and even more surprised that most women didn’t even seem aware of this technique.

    I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many Women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepared to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls in any way you can. It could one day be a life saver.

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