When you’re anywhere in the world, home or in a foreign country, there’s going to be danger. Crime is literally everywhere. Whether it’s gangs, robbery, pickpockets or even more dangerous activities, there’s no avoiding it. When you’re by yourself in a new country, the danger factor may feel more escalated. In Florence, the main danger is pick pocketing—from gypsies and otherwise—and, mostly for the ladies, being followed around by creepy men. In just the 10 days I’ve been here, my roommate and I have been followed several times and had many encounters with gypsies. Any of these night and day excursions could have ended badly, if we weren’t careful.
Just because you’re somewhere new without family or your usual big group of friends to help protect you doesn’t mean you’re unsafe. There are lots of ways to travel safely in your new environment and not feel like you have to stay in your house at all times. The most obvious people here all the time, even at home, is to travel in groups. Being with at least one other person, male or female, instantly makes you a more difficult target. You have someone else to watch your back and pick up on the details you may not have noticed. You have a partner to help get you out of a bad situation or devise a plan to walk down a different route if necessary. The list goes on and on. If you must walk alone, pay attention to your surroundings. Watch your belongings and don’t just let your bag bounce around behind you where anyone can grab it. And do your best to stay on main streets unless wherever you’re going is in an alley, in which case…good luck.
Another way to stay safe is to simply plan ahead. Ask around to find out what people are up to and who you can travel with. Also specifically ask your friends if they’ll mind walking with you to get books or grab a bite to eat. Figure out the best route to take before you go—it’s ok to get lost, but at least having an idea of where you’re going is better than walking around in sketchy areas (especially if you don’t have a map on you). You should also consider what you need and/or want to take with you. If you’re just going on a walk to explore the city, maybe leave your wallet behind. If you’re just running to the bookstore to pick up a book or school supplies, take a smaller amount of money and don’t bother bringing your camera. The less belongings, and expensive belongings, you have on your person will make you feel safer—and also make you less of a target.
Finally, be careful about who you talk to. I know this probably sounds lame, like your parents always telling you not to talk to strangers. But you never know who’s a creep and who just genuinely wants to be your friend. It’s always good to make connections in a new country—who doesn’t want an international buddy?–but you need to be perceptive. If they seem like a creep, they’re probably a creep. Use your best judgment, and get your friend’s opinions too, and even when you’re meeting new people, don’t tell them your address (especially if you’re living with a host family)and be careful about handing out your phone number. Just in general, being more cautious than you would be at home is the best bet for maintaining your safety as well as your friends’.
Basically, to be safe you just have to take precautions and be aware. Plan ahead, know where you’re going and what you’re doing and ask people to go with you. If you follow these basic rules, you’ll get through it without losing any of your belongings and having the best time of your life.
Be careful and have fun!