On high alert…Traveler’s warnings…What’s our plan?…In 30 days, off to Kenya…

A kindly reader of our blog posted a comment that we received overnight, inquiring as to our concern over traveling to Kenya with the recent embassy and consulate closings in countries all over the weekend. For the full article, please click here.

Yes, we’re concerned. How could we not be? It’s this level of concern that prompts us to do all we can to ensure our safety to the best of our ability. There are always unknowns.

Looking up stats on various countries worldwide, we see that Belize had a higher homicide rate per capita than Kenya. After spending almost three months living in Belize, aware of the risks, we never let our guard down, never taking our safety for granted.

Such will be the case when living in Kenya for a few days short of three months from September 3, 2013, to November 30, 2013, when we depart for South Africa. We’ll be exercising extreme caution, none of which is a guaranty of our safety but reduces the risks.

Having registered for the Smart Traveler Program at the US Department of State we’ll be receiving any warnings via email that may require us to leave Kenya or later South Africa if the tension in our area escalates.

A few portions of our travel plans to Kenya give rise to added concern; our arrival at the Mombasa Airport in the middle of the night and, the subsequent over one hour ride to our vacation rental in the middle of the night.  Most crime occurs in the dark in these high-risk areas.  Yes, we’ll be nervous until firmly ensconced in our new location. 

Have we considered changing our plans?  Yes, we have. But we’ll continue to carefully watch the world news, reports from the State Department, online posts and comments. Should these next few weeks bring rise to added concerns in the areas we plan to travel with warnings from the State Department to cancel travel plans, we’ll do so. 

We realize that doing so will cost us around $6000 from loss of paid-in-advance rent and non-refundable airfare. This is a big loss to incur but our safety supersedes money, doesn’t it?

What plans do we have in place to ensure our safety, the reader inquired?  Here are what we have thus far:

1.  Destination contact:  We’ve established a plan with my sister that we will notify her by email when we depart any area and immediately when we arrive, having provided her with the address, contact person’s name, phone, and email plus travel arrangement information for our destination. If she doesn’t hear from us within 12 hours of our estimated arrival time, she is to begin the process of finding out what’s happened to us, contacting the embassy, state department, etc.  (if we have airport delays we will contact her as they occur).
2.  No rental car. We’ve been made well aware that driving in Kenya can be risky, even in the tourist area we’ll be living. Once arriving, we’ll make arrangements with a driver for weekly trips for shopping, daytime dining out and any touring.
3.  Deciding on safari trips based on safety in a specific area, airports, etc.  The property owner suggested we wait until we arrive to decide on safaris as he will assist us in making arrangements with people he knows and trusts.
4.  News updates: With no TV at the property (as we have here in Italy with a few English speaking news stations:  BBC, France 24, and CNBC, we’ll be watching news updates on our computers on a daily basis.
5.  No venturing out after dark. Period. 
6.  No wearing of jewelry, watches, any items that may attract attention. 
7.  Dressing “down” when out during the day, jeans, shorts, tee shirts, no clothing that attracts attention.
8.  Keeping money and documents secure at all times. We carry very little cash, mostly using credit cards.
9.  Staying together at all times when out and about.
10. Never, ever, loosening our guidelines for what appears to be “special circumstances.” Neither of us is naïve.  It is unlikely that we’d fall prey to some “scammer” attempting to divert our attention. Keep walking, don’t make eye contact, be guarded with confidence and astuteness.

There is nothing anyone can do to be exempt from danger. Where we lived in Minnesota it was only a 30-minute drive to an area where one wouldn’t dare get out of their car at night, let alone during the day.  Tom’s mother’s home in a less desirable area in North Minneapolis had bullet holes in it when it was finally taken by the city by eminent domain. 

Over the years, while she still lived in the house, he and the family worried that she could fall prey to drive-by shootings occurring all over the neighborhood. Luckily, she got out in time, living to be a healthy 98 years old. 

There are risks wherever one may be at any given moment; a movie theatre in Colorado, a train in France, or running a marathon in Boston, MA.  We can only hope and pray for safety, exercising caution to the best of our ability while allowing ourselves the privilege of reveling in every moment of our world travels