Common Traveller Safety Mistakes

Listen to episode #18 of NAVIGATE to find out if you’re making these common safety mistakes when travelling

Common Traveller Safety Mistakes transcript:



Paul Trotter

0:00:04 – 0:00:57

Welcome to the Navigate podcast. I’m your host, Paul Trotter, and today I sit down with an expert in international security risk management to learn more about how she sees the current global security situation in the post pandemic environment, as well as the common mistakes travellers make and the misconceptions they hold about safety when traveling internationally. We also discussed how engaging with a professional and seeking intelligent support can often save a lot of hassle when things go wrong. Joining me is Molly Sweeney. Molly is a highly regarded Security Risk Management Professional with extensive experience traveling across the globe as a solo female traveller. With her background and travel to some of the most high threat environments. Molly knows what it takes to remain safe and secure in those environments where security needs to be a first priority. Molly was kind enough to share insights as a woman who knows what to do, what not to do, and how to react when it all goes wrong. Our first conversation was focused on the biggest mistakes Molly sees that travellers make when it comes to organising their safety and security planning.
Molly Sweeney

0:00:58 – 0:01:54

I think travellers oftentimes get hung up in, in planning their itinerary and planning, where they’re going to eat and reading their guidebooks to figure out where where the best place to dine is, or, or where the best hotels are. Or if they’re backpackers, where to do laundry, but they never really stop to think at the time how they are planning on maintaining their own personal safety throughout their trip. And, and I think that’s, that can become incredibly problematic. Because if you don’t go in with a plan, then you’re having to make it up on the fly. You’re hoping that nothing goes wrong. And as we all know, hope is not a COA, it’s not a course of action, you have to you have to go in with with some sort of idea of what threats you might face and and how you intend to respond to those threats.
Paul Trotter

0:01:54 – 0:02:03

Molly also made some great observations on the different approaches taken by business and leisure travellers, and why it’s important for both to take a more detailed approach to investigating their destination.
Molly Sweeney

0:02:04 – 0:04:29

You have two different types of travelers primarily you have business travellers, who go in with a set schedule and a very absolute course of events and where they’re going to go and who they’re going to speak to. And, and they have their own security implications. And then you have travellers for tourism, who go in usually with a far less structured approach, that that have a completely different set of security needs. I think both come with assumptions. I’ll speak to the tourism travel first, the the assumptions that people make prior to tourism is they read the guidebooks, they, they Google it, and they see all of the pretty pictures and, and read about all of the great places they can go and the historical sites and, and that’s great, you should definitely do that. Because otherwise, you’re never going to get inspired to go anywhere. But what they don’t post on your tour website. And what they don’t put in the guidebooks are different sides to the places that you’re visiting. So you need to then take it upon yourself to inform yourself and your family or whomever you’re traveling with, of of the potential pitfalls of the potential dangers. For business travellers, I think the assumption that they make is that everything’s gonna go according to schedule, right? That the people that they are set up to meet are going to be the people that that are helpful and who say they are who they are. And, and while, that is usually the case, you have to be extra aware when you travel and you have to be a little bit extra skeptical to be able to ascertain when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. And so business travellers get into this routine where ‘oh another flight, I’m gonna pack’ and it just becomes so kind of automatic and so robotic, that I think they they lose their situational awareness. And that can become really problematic and it can make you a target.
Paul Trotter

0:04:29 – 0:04:44

The next thing we discussed was the importance of travellers making informed decisions in the post-pandemic world. It’s often discussed that everything has changed, but there’s often little discussion around what this actually means for the individual or the traveller abroad. Molly shared her thoughts on why remaining informed is so important.
Molly Sweeney

0:04:45 – 0:07:33

I think COVID has changed everything in the world. I think it’s changed the way that people interact on it on an interpersonal level. It’s changed the way countries are interacting with both their own citizens as well as travellers, and it’s changed the way that countries have acted with each other internationally with with alliances and such. I think that, that certainly it’s changed the security parameters dramatically. And I don’t necessarily think that well, that will change back anytime soon. In rich countries, in traditionally first world countries – which is a term I hate, but one that people understand – the only people who aren’t vaccinated are people who have chosen not to be vaccinated. And I think that that is not at all the case in in less fortunate areas. And so, those places not only don’t have safety, because they aren’t afforded that safety because of their socio-economic status. But also, for places that relied on tourism, they have been stripped of their livelihoods as well, which can mean a few different things. It can mean that they’ll be thrilled to see you and fall all over themselves to be gracious and be hospitable. And I like to think that that is very much the case. But it – there’s the other side of the coin as well. Right. So people around the world are in desperate and destitute situations now. And unfortunately, that makes people vulnerable. It makes people act in ways that they wouldn’t have necessarily done in pre-pandemic times. They need the money. So does your risk of getting robbed go up? Yeah, it probably does, depending on where you’re going. Does the risk of social unrest happening? Yeah, it probably does. And not just in low income income countries. I mean, we’ve seen in in places like Canada, that that there’s significant political unrest because of vaccine mandates, because of quarantine mandates. And you need to be aware of not just the individual level security, you need to be aware of a broader regional and international security, before you go to to be able to create some plans, and go in eyes wide open so that you can make the best decisions while you’re there.
Paul Trotter

0:07:34 – 0:07:51

Molly raised some fantastic points, and really highlighted that there is a significant disparity between wealthy developed nations and those underdeveloped nations currently suffering from vaccine inequality, that’s certainly going to shift the security picture in those environments. But what about non-COVID related security and a little day to day things a traveller might not consider?
Molly Sweeney

0:07:51 – 0:09:51

You need to know the scams that happen in different parts of the world, whether it’s, you go to Thailand, and they tell you the temple is closed that day, and they can totally take you to a different temple. It’s happened to me five or six times in several trips to Thailand where they try and convince me that something is closed. And generally what happens is that you get taken to a different place where you pay an exorbitant price and all the money goes to the mob. If you’re less lucky, you get taken to the mob, and they take all of your money and leave you in the middle of a destitute area. So, so the assumptions that people make, whether they are tourists or business travellers, is that everything is going to go well, everything is going to be the pretty pictures that they see. And they don’t stop to consider the things that can go wrong. I hesitate to say that just because I think so many people don’t travel because they’re terrified of the things that could go wrong. And and I would never want to encourage people to let that get in the way of going somewhere. I certainly haven’t. Even if maybe I should have sometimes. But but it is very necessary to be aware of, of not just the rosy parts before you go so that so that you can have a great time so that you can have the beautiful pictures and not end up in a mob basement somewhere. And I say that tongue in cheek but but going in with that knowledge going in having done something as simple as a Google search for the tourist traps Thailand goes a long way.
Paul Trotter

0:09:51 – 0:10:19

So with this ever-changing environment around us and ever-present threats, how can travellers possibly hope to maintain situational awareness of both existing threats and how respond, but also new and emerging threats. Whilst destinations like London or Los Angeles might not present a significant range of threats, traveling to a less developed nation or a war torn country can present challenges that can be difficult for travellers to overcome on their own. Molly understands this and highlights the importance of utilizing intelligence, not just information to make informed, timely decisions.
Molly Sweeney

0:10:20 – 0:12:42

The average individual does not have enough knowledge of the global, regional or local context, that they can accurately put that information to good use. So I think by reaching out to an expert, and by reaching out to a trusted expert, not just someone who who says that they know everything, but but a verifiable intelligence assessment service, then you’re you’re putting your safety at a paramount. You need the analysis, not just the raw data. For instance, you could be traveling to arrive Iraq. And you could be reading online that there are all sorts of crazy protests and be getting really concerned because are you going to be safe? Is everything going to be okay? And you read something about how the checkpoints are closing down. Okay, that’s great, congratulations. But if your information is talking about protests happening in Baghdad, and you’re going to Kurdistan, if you’re going to Kirkuk in the north, you’re in a totally different part of the country, it’s a big country. And so you need somebody who who has more knowledge, who has the ability to, to absorb more knowledge than you or, or the resources at their disposal. To be able to create an assessment, an analytical assessment that can can inform your travel more than you can by yourself. Information and intelligence are two different things. Information is the raw data that is then analyzed by someone who understands greater context and has more information, and has historical information to make an assessment that then becomes intelligence.
Paul Trotter

0:12:43 – 0:13:34

Great explanation for Molly. In intelligence circles, it’s often said that forewarned is forearmed. And she really highlighted the value in getting that expert support when you need it the most. The best example I can think of is owning a bike versus owning a car. Fixing a problem with your bike is something that you can probably do on your own, or perhaps with a bit of a Google search on what the issue is and how to fix it. You can probably do the same with a car to a lesser extent. But if you’re suddenly googling how to replace a transmission in a jeep, is that really the better option when you could take it to a professional mechanic who can identify the problem and the solution, and then help you implement that solution? Travel security is very much the same. Sometimes our trips are just like the bike, the traveller, the destination and the activity are all simple and straightforward, with no real risk. Other times we’re going into a more complex environment, or what we’re doing is a more high risk activity. And that’s where the professional support to identify the problem and the solution comes into play.
Molly Sweeney

0:13:35 – 0:14:53


There are so many variables in travel, right, there’s so many variables in security while traveling, the experience I have is not remotely the same as the experience my father would have. We are two entirely different demographics, or going to different places, we are engaging in different activities, we’re doing everything different even if we are going to the same place. And so to to be able to work with an expert and say, this is this is who I am, this is what is important to me and be able to have that tailored assessment that tailored analysis of okay, here is the individual and here are the factors that go into a higher or lower threat index for that individual. And here are the specific locations not just the region of the world or even the country is is hugely valuable and necessary to to be able to have that peace of mind when you travel and and know that you’re going to be able to come back with with your great stories and come back unscathed. And it’s worth the front-end investment. To to not have to worry about it because you know that somebody’s already got your back.
Paul Trotter

0:14:54 – 0:15:18

That’s all for this episode of NAVIGATE. My guest has been Molly Sweeney, a highly experienced expert in the field. Who was kind enough to share with us her thoughts on the importance of preparation before we fly, and someone who knows exactly how bad things can go if they go wrong. Thanks for listening to NAVIGATE the travel podcast by world travel protection. To always access the latest episodes, be sure to hit like and subscribe. Safe travels and goodbye

In this episode of NAVIGATE, we talk all things traveller safety. From common safety mistakes to new pandemic concerns, security risk management professional Molly Sweeney shares common misconceptions business and leisure travellers make about their safety when travelling internationally. Molly is no stranger to travelling in high-threat environments, oftentimes as a solo female traveller, and knows what it takes to stay safe in environments where security needs to be a top priority.

At the end of the episode, Molly and host Paul Trotter dive into the difference between knowledge and intelligence, the value of security support from qualified experts, and why each traveller needs their own tailored risk assessment.

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