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Traveling is such an amazing adventure. New places. New cultures. New perspectives. Like unwrapping a bow-topped present, excitement swirls in the travelers eyes as each destination unfolds with picturesque scenery, indulgent food, curious cultures or profound perspectives. However, with all the wonder to be held, the reward of traveling is equally accompanied by the risk of traveling. Below are some key steps you can take to travel SMART. Most are common sense and all are necessary to insure that you have the best possible experience.
Have a plan and be prepared should something go wrong. Keep copies of your passport and travel documentation on hand and preferably accessible over the Internet: email them to yourself. Obtain travel insurance, register your travel with the embassy and know what to do should the unexpected occur and you lose your passport or money. You don't need a 20 page action plan, but general knowledge of what to do in a sticky situation is a must.
Monitor your surrounds
Always keep a sharp eye out for what is going on around you. Unsuspecting tourist make the easiest targets. If a street doesn't look safe to walk down, don't walk down it. If someone looks suspicious, avoid him or her. Awareness of what is happening around you is fundamental in circumventing unpleasant situations.
Act like a local
Picture snapping, map toting tourist equals bulls eye. It's best to try to blend in with the locals and look like you belong or at the very least, are comfortable and at ease in your location. You can still take photos and look at the map, just do so discreetly and exude confidence to ward off anyone looking for an easy target.
Learn some key phrases if you are traveling to a destination where a different language is spoken. Only a small effort is required to learn some respectful terms and essential requests in another language. "Thank you" and "Where's the bathroom?" are good places to start.
Keep reading and learn from previous travelers and situations. In Ecuador, for example, pickpockets like to work in teams. One distracts you while the other takes your lunch money. In most circumstances it's the little old lady or least suspecting guy on the bus. Knowing this method of operation will help when you are monitoring your surroundings.
Take only what you need
This rule starts with packing. It's best to leave jewelry, unnecessary electronics, and anything that you don't want to risk losing or being stolen at home. After you've reached your destination, leave the things you did bring in your hotel room or the hotel safe unless you absolutely need them. Take only enough cash for that particular outing and as the old saying goes, don't put all your eggs in one basket. In more modern terms, don't put all your credit cards in one wallet.