Yes, I know this is Guns Save Life, but here is some info about travelling to places where no guns are allowed, particularly overseas. Here is some travel advice, and everyday items you may have with you for self-defense.
Succinct foreign travel advice:
1. Don’t try to smuggle weapons onto airplanes, through x-ray machines or into foreign countries!
2. Don’t commit bad acts or do dumb things while on the road, and you won’t suffer bad consequences. Foreign jails are notorious for having poor wi-fi signal and the breakfast buffets have relatively few choices.
3. Your status as a rich and privileged American does not elevate you above the local people.
4. Avoid bad areas and desperate people. Avoid being drunk or high in bad places.
5. Research local laws before you go.
6. Keep the U.S. Embassy contact info with you in case of trouble.
Take the old Vaudeville doctor’s advice:
Patient: Doctor, Doctor! I broke my arm in two places, what should I do?
Doctor: Stay outta dem places.
Rarely do you just stumble into really bad areas abroad. The signs are all around, and you just weren’t paying attention. Security barred windows, lots of graffiti, a plethora of poor people present (some with graffiti on them) and the presence of razor wire should all tip you off to pay attention to your surroundings.
Most tourist destinations have pretty strict “Don’t Mess With the Tourists” attitudes in place between the police and local miscreants. Having travelled in a couple dozen foreign countries, I have rarely felt unsafe to the point where I had to really worry about fighting someone or getting robbed. Now that doesn’t say I didn’t plan for such, many many times, it just never physically came to blows or street crime.
Robbery Notes: Cooperate and give up the money. Never give up the body. If some bandit wants you to go other places as part of the robbery, it is fight or flight time. You never give up control of your body to the mercies of some thug who will do any damn thing they want with you until they are tired of doing it. Your chances of surviving unharmed plummet if you surrender control. Run, fight, make noise.
If you have too much money to lose in an overseas street robbery, then move some of it now. Same goes for wallet contents. Thin out your wallet items and credit cards. Keep one card at the hotel in a safe location in case you lose your other card(s). Put money and things in multiple pockets or even in your sock\shoe or leave them in a hotel safe. A money clip is perfect for robbery bait money. It adds heft if you choose to toss your small amount of money one direction while you exit stage left rapido while yelling about a local fire or lack of Policia.
The obvious best unarmed self-defense weapon is your fabulous brain. It is legal to possess almost everywhere. Try to carry it with you at all times, switched on and fully charged. My brain and I aren’t always on good terms, but when the lights go down, I try to keep some of the more stringent voices at bay and have a heightened mental awareness of the areas and people around me.
I am writing this while on a trip in Brazil, (which may be the razor wire capitol of the planet) and I find the people here to be marvelous and food delicious. I am also aware they have a world class robbery ethic stretching back generations and had to prepare a bit for this trip.
Preparations included making color copies of my passport and DL (leave the original in hotel safe and carrying the copy in the street) and getting a front pocket wallet to make pick pocketing tougher.
A plain black Casio is my only visible accessory. I don’t wear earbuds or stare at my phone in public, as poor people may be looking to have a nice set of their own. I wear plain colored shirts with no logo. I also get on the State Dept website before I go, and review crime conditions, and if you sign up online, they will send you emails when dangerous conditions or events occur, like a recent takeover of the national legislature in Brasilia by political protestors. Good to know, when you aren’t getting news in English anywhere else!
I also researched the laws in this country and found they don’t want me to bring a knife…one of my fave pocket items. I can buy one here, they just don’t want my quality one imported, I guess! I would gladly fork out for some Made in China or Pakistan piece of crap knife made out of an old chrome car bumper and impossible to sharpen…but I can’t find a store!
Travel item number one is available everywhere and allowed everywhere. A small tactical flashlight. It travels in bags, clipped to jeans and sits on the nightstand overnight everywhere I travel. It has Damn Bright, Just Bright and Strobe settings. Bringing bright blinding light to any dark situation changes things dramatically and can prevent further escalation. Nighttime robbers and sneak thieves want no muss, no fuss. Lighting them up interrupts their oh so elaborate Machiavelli level plans and dramatically indicates things are not going to go their way.
If the fight is on, then grasp the flashlight in your fist, like holding a roll of nickels in the old days. Turns your hand into a rock…note: If you hit a hard target with your rock-like teeth or a skull, you may fracture your own hand bones…but they can heal up later.
I am also never without one or two carabiners on the outside of my travel stuff. They can grab and hold lots of stuff for you, and in a pinch can slip nicely over fingers into kind of…oh, how do they say it…like a metal, knuckley thing. Not brass. The really big carabiner has a million uses, least of which is hauling large bottles of filtered water around foreign countries…a necessary practice.
Prior to departure I packed my favorite metal pen, a S&W M&P, which is not only made of aircraft aluminum, it even has a small but bright flashlight in the tail cap. As an added bonus it even writes!
I have several “Tactical” pens, and most are just too silly for me to carry. They are either too fat or have pointy things on the end caps preventing me from putting my thumb over the top in an ice pick type grip. They look like weapons, and I am not trying to carry weapons into restricted spaces or carriers and advise you of the same: if you have something that looks like a weapon never try to carry it on restricted carriers or restricted places.
Two “Tacticals on the left are too silly. Pen #3 is much smaller and better and Pen #4 is, well… just a pen!
In the news this past week, three people in America were arrested by TSA for trying to carry disguised weapons onto flights known as “Vampire Straws.” They look like metal soda straws with a scooped end. They are sold as disguised weapons via the internet and now on the TSA radar for carry-on items.
I carry smaller metal pens which look like, well, uh, pens. A stiff metal pen can be carried all over the world because it is after all, just a pen. The only time I had anyone pay attention to this S&W pen, was at an airport when a TSA screener wanted to look at it, and I thought “Oh well, there goes that one.” Turns out he didn’t think of it as a stabby or pokey kind of weapon, he just had never seen a pen with a light on it!
I read a couple books by a guy who worked somewhere in the CIA (he never said he was a field agent or a janitor) and he swore by these pens as a defense item. I have no illusions about the lethality of a metal pen in a melee…but having something in hand can be a handy thing and may convince opportunistic bad guy from continuing to think you are going to be a push over…and in the end after all it is just a metal pen.
Kubotan sticks and Yawara sticks are pretty 1980s chic, they are just sticks made of plastic or wood about 4-5 inches long, and don’t seem to be a weapon. Metal pens can be used like these sticks with striking, poking or pressure points. Look up Japanese Ka-shi-no-bo or Yawara to see how to use them.
Another item I always have at hand while on travel, is of course my belt. I continue to wear my every day double thick, metal buckle, pistol grade belt even when I can’t carry a gun. It’s just a thick heavy belt. But in an emergency, with a sharp tug it can become three feet of GET BACK with a metal buckle flailing around on the far end. A big old American flat metal rodeo buckle would be even better, but I don’t wear them OCONUS as it marks you as an American right along with your baseball hat, gold jewelry and American logo t-shirts, and everyone knows Americans are rich beyond measure. You are not going to injure someone badly with a belt, but maybe they don’t want to get hit with one by an American whose pants are sagging. That guy is nuts!
I have a rather nifty coin purse in inventory given to my friend Steve (Amazon available) that has about a quarter pound of my laundry money in it. Funny it is all in quarters, but that is my story, laundry money. I had not seen a coin purse since the 1970s, but this one is leather and a strap wraps around my belt to hold it in place, and wouldn’t you know it, if you grab the strap end and hit something with the heavy end it makes a kind of unique impact when it arrives.
Another field expedient in foreign countries is to just buy one or two screwdrivers. Easy to carry, easy to dispose of, and even easier to explain to authorities about how you bought it to fix your window lock or door screws. Can’t carry it on an airplane? Put it in your checked bags or toss it in the garbage. It is just a screwdriver. In foreign countries people still get stabbed with screwdrivers when poor thieves can’t afford a knife.
A cheap-o pair of locally obtained pliers would be good if you can’t get a multitool into your area. Obviously, you can’t carry on a multi-tool through an airport in carry-on baggage, why you could disassemble an entire airplane with one if you had enough time! (I have lost several to TSA over the years- with no ill intent on my part, just bad packing! I don’t see them as weapons. Most recently, a three-inch Micro-tool was taken out of a carry-on bag by TSA because it had a one-inch blade! My mustache scissors were fine though! Ah well. No big deal and trying to explain that tiny tool had been all over the airways did not dissuade the screener on that day.) By the way, I wouldn’t bother with getting a blade out of a multi for knife fighting purposes. Way too slow and not very handy, just get the pliers portion extended from the bottom of your fist. Much quicker.
Another universally accepted travel item is a plain old padlock and a piece of cord. Trim to your preferred length. A heavy metal padlock, swung on a string will break or mash almost anything and I always have one hanging off a travel pack on a carabiner in foreign countries. Oh, and strangely, you can even use them to lock things up. Weird.
In a pinch, don’t overlook the availability of field expedient and locally obtained free products like chunks of asphalt, rocks or even handfuls of dirt. Drop something heavy into a bag and spin it. There is generally something at hand if you don’t wait till the last second to look for it. I really like construction areas where odd scraps of rebar are lying around for souvenirs.
I will also talk to you a bit about fiberglass items for self-defense. They are nontraditional and just happen to pass X-Ray inspection. Please know, if you try to bring disguised items onto public transit or government buildings like airplanes, trains, and court houses where weapons are strictly prohibited you may commit a federal or state felony. Don’t do it. No matter how they are labelled on internet sales, they look cute but are weapons.
A number of manufacturers make fiberglass items which are super cheap, lightweight and easy to carry. Cold Steel used to make a variety to include exact copies of some of their metal knives along with nasty triangular darts and ice scrapers. Plastic letter openers, key chain striking devices and other similar items available via the internet can be sharpened with a file, but they remain primarily stabby stabby things. I have a polymer folding knife that is kind of cute with a Beryllium spring assist, but in no-knife countries like England you would go to prison for even a plastic “knife.”
Be smart. Be safe and know before you go. With the internet there is no reason to not know foreign self-defense laws before you travel internationally.