Safety When Traveling

In my somewhat extensive experience on the Baja California side of the border, I can honestly say I’ve never had a problem or fallen victim to the old anecdotes of police extortion for that $20 in your sock or a car burglary for that matter. I’m not saying these types of things never happen, rather they are more likely to happen in urban centers and areas that have late night activities. In my opinion, traveling through Baja California is no more dangerous than traveling through Los Angeles. Like with anything, media fear mongering can allow us to think that the whole of Baja California is super dangerous. This fear-based media tactic plays a number on our psyche because we are hard wired to value negative emotion over positive. Admittedly, there is truth to parts of Mexico being dangerous and violent. However, to say that a few bad areas are representative of Baja California as a whole is very far from the truth. Similarly, the consistent violence in South Chicago is not representative of Illinois as a whole. This dichotomy exists everywhere in the world and we shouldn’t catastrophize by attaching extreme negative connotations to the whole of something based on the small areas of the worst violence. There are many-a-hidden oasis south of border towns such as Tijuana where you feel completely safe and relaxed. Nevertheless, you should always take some measure to keep safe when traveling.

Here is a list of things to consider when traveling:

  1. Go with a tour guide (like me) if you aren’t familiar with navigating in Mexico.
  2. Travel light. Keep all important documents and items on your person at all times.
  3. Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
  4. Don’t be flashy. Keep your expensive jewelry at home.
  5. Don’t leave things in plain view and unattended in your vehicle.
  6. Trust your instincts. Don’t go down dark alleys and backroads at night.
  7. Pay attention to your surroundings by keeping your head on a swivel. This could help you recognize a potentially bad situation before it happens.
  8. Be courteous and respectful.
  9. Obey the rules.
  10. Remember, you are a guest.

PUTTING IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE

As Harvard Psychology & Linguistics Professor Dr. Steven Pinker points out in his bestselling book “The Better Angels of our Nature”, we have seen a significant decrease in violence in the world and we are currently living in the least violent times of our history as humans. This is also despite the recent wars we have been engaged in the last 30 years. Albeit, we have all been complicit in the media paradigm “if it bleeds it leads”. Hearing negative and violent things consistently has the proclivity to pattern our brains to think in catastrophic terms without consideration for nuance. The culturally intertwined residents of the sibling cities understand that the reality of diminished crime Dr. Pinker highlights applies to Baja California as well.

No matter if you are sightseeing in Rome, being a foodie in Bangkok or walking from your hotel to the Zocalo in Mexico City you will always have opportunistic criminals looking to run a con, take your passport or snatch your wallet. Much of the severe violence we hear about is perpetrated by and done to people involved in illicit organized criminal activity. If you aren’t involved in that life, you have very little to worry about when traveling to Baja California. As for the petty criminals, the idea when traveling is stay alert and DON’T GIVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITY.

by Josh Neimeyer
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