“Taken” (the movie) and travel safety

Upon the suggestion of a family friend, my parents treated me to a $1 movie to see “Taken,” the new movie with Liam Neeson. My dad had told me his friend thought it would be relevant to my travels abroad, but after reading the synopsis, I kind of scoffed at the idea that the movie could have anything to do with me! After watching the movie, however, I can now see how it could in fact have to do with me, any solo female traveler, and travel safety in general.

The film’s plot is based on a real existing crime in Europe. In this case, an Albanian mafia group in Paris solicits information from female tourists, kidnaps them, gets them hooked on drugs, and then uses them in shady sex trade deals. Although this would appear to be a ridiculously convoluted storyline, the ease with which the mafia identifies and eventually captures these innocent girls is pretty easy to imagine. In the film, a man simply asks to share a cab into the city and then invites the girls to a party later that night. Suddenly, they’re taken.
Luckily, in the film, the father happens to be on the phone when his daughter is captured and also just happens to be a former spy. He single-handedly rescues his daughter from these dangerous and scary mafiosos. (Making matters worse, when he seeks the help from a former French spy, he discovers the mafia group is actually paying the government to keep its despicable operation running).

Unfortunately, not every girl can be so lucky. It was both funny and scary when, after the movie, my parents said to me, “Well, at least you know there’s no way we’ll be able to save you.” And it’s true. If I did find myself in that situation I would pretty much be at the mercy of the cruelty of my captors, which is not a very pleasant thought.

Females absolutely have to keep their wits about them more than men do — both at home and abroad. The first time I traveled to Colombia I was honestly scared of getting kidnapped. I was particularly wary of taking night buses. Fortunately, Colombia is a far safer place than people believe it to be, but it doesn’t mean that you can travel everywhere and anywhere to your heart’s content.

It’s a shady, shady world out there, so if you’re female and traveling alone, use really clear judgment:

  • NEVER get drunk or go to a party where you don’t know anyone (even if you’re going with another female travel companion).
  • Never hitchhike alone.
  • Always take a certified cab if you don’t feel safe walking back to your hotel at night.
  • Always do whatever is within your power/control to be safe even if it means staying in at night, taking a day bus, or not going somewhere altogether.