Travel protection: safety whistles, Swiss Army knives, and pepper spray
When I first started traveling, a friend bought me a cheap three-dollar safety whistle from REI. “For your protection,” she said. For years afterwards, I dutifully took it on trips, even though I never quite figured out how it would come in handy. But I knew that if I threw it away, I’d end up in a situation where that little safety whistle would mean the difference between life and death. And so that whistle traveled with me across many continents until, to my relief, it finally got lost, somewhere in the lava fields of Iceland.
There is something about travel, about entering the unfamiliar, that makes me want to pack protection. While some unknowns (say, a plush hotel in a European capital) may be patently safe, the kind of quirky or offbeat unknowns that I gravitate towards generally come with risks.
I’ve always traveled with a Swiss army knife, and years ago a friend gave me a large pocket knife, the kind that opens with a flick of the wrist. I had to use it for protection once—to frighten off a man who was following me on a hike in a remote part of Turkey—and I’ve kept it handy ever since.
Pepper spray is the newest addition to my personal protection kit. I’ve been meaning to buy one of those keychain sprays for years, but wasn’t able to do so because I was living in Massachusetts, where you need a firearms license to legally purchase the stuff. But now that I’m no longer living in the state, I went on Amazon.com and purchased the highest-rated keychain pepper spray available: the “Palm Defender” made by ASP, a well known weapons manufacturing company. It’s a sleek tube, with the weight and feel of a keychain flashlight. I hope to never have to use it, but as I plan my next trip—a two-week solo bicycle tour —I already feel safer.
What kind of protection do you take on the road?