Staying Safe and Traveling Savvy – Tips from Peggy Kelsey

In November, we shared a wonderful interview in ArchaeoAdventures with Peggy Kelsey, photographer, author and speaker. Peggy shared with us her inspiring project Afghan Women’s Project, what it was like traveling in Afghanistan, how she is so dang productive, and some great travel tips for women. The article was packed with so much great travel advice that we compiled some of our favorite tidbits from her into the following travel tips list. We are sharing the highlights from that article — some of Peggy’s really insightful and practical travel tips to help you travel smart, savvy and safe wherever your travel dreams take you. I invite you to read the entire interview here and check out Peggy’s stunning images from Afghanistan.
Travel tips and advice for off-the-beaten path travel:
  • Danger can be very local. You wouldn’t think twice about visiting Chicago, would you? And yet there are parts of Chicago that are not safe. Many times, when you ask around, you can get a sense of what’s dangerous and what’s not. Local people would be the best judge of this. Everything seems scarier from far away.
  • Wherever you go, most people are decent, kind and hospitable, often way more welcoming than Americans are, especially with strangers.
  • Dress in a way that makes them less conspicuous and less sexy. Look around and see what the locals are wearing. Unless you see local women wearing strappy tops and shorts, don’t. Keep in mind that people all over the world see the worst of our films, ones where hyper-sexed, scantily clad women are ready to jump into someone’s bed at a moment’s notice. They understandably assume that all Western women are like this. Knowing this, I generally dressed conservatively. Doing this also gave me better rapport with local women.
  • From home, everywhere looks scary. Once you’re out in the world, that fear drops away. If you want to make a longer trip, it can be a good idea to go with a tour and then stay on afterwards. At that point, you will have gotten oriented and made some connections. I did this on my second Afghan trip. Nowadays there are tour companies that specialize in travel for women, older people, and other special interest groups, so if you can afford it, there is no reason not to take advantage of these and from that jumping off point, go on alone if you like.
  • Don’t give money to beggars since some of them are only working for their pimps, and it sends a bad message to those living on the margins, honestly trying to eke out a living. Those are the people you want to support. Buy things street kids and adults are selling, even if it’s not something you really want. You’re helping them earn an honest living and perhaps helping to supply the only meal they’ll get that day. Another good idea is to give money to local charities. They know how to reach the most needy and give them longer-lasting support.
  • Leave your valuables home and carry your money distributed around your body in several places. Always wear your passport inside your clothes. Even better, carry around a copy of your passport and keep your original locked in your hotel safe. Keep your camera tucked inside of a purse rather than a camera bag. Take your pictures quickly and return your camera to your bag.
  • If you feel in danger, look around for families or older men and go stand near them. They can’t physically protect you from a would-be attacker, but their moral authority may keep them at bay.
  • If you need help, don’t accept it from folks offering it to you, but seek it out on your own. The ones offering it will likely be hustlers.
  • Ask several different local people for advice or about what to see, don’t just rely on one source.

These are just a few of the travel tips Peggy shares in her interview. She also talks about her incredible project giving a voice to the Afghan women, as well as photographing them, she talks about her time in the country and shares advice and tips for anyone embarking on their own big project. You can read the interview here.

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