Being Safe While Traveling

Aug 7, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Maria Ruiz, Travel

by Maria Ruiz

Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.

Before we started traveling, I read every article about traveling and safety. I ordered catalogs offering bags with hidden pockets, belts with hiding places for extra cash, wires and little padlocks to tie all luggage together, shoes with hollow soles, underwear that could be washed out at night and dry by the morning, Tilly hats that would float if dropped in water, etc. There were more and more little things I could buy to be safe and most of what I bought was abandoned as we traveled.


Maria, Ted and their dogs on the road with their motorhome

I read warnings that in a crowded space, boys or men on skateboards would swoop by and grab purses or cameras from unsuspecting tourists. Other ploys were: when one person would come up with a map or paper, needing help to find something, while another person was picking the pockets.

I bought most of the safety products, some I improvised. I always wear my purse or bag with the strap across my chest. No one could swoop by and steal it without taking me along. I sewed Velcro on the tops of all pockets. In one bag, I sewed in more pockets and lots of Velcro. No one, myself included, could get out money, passports, or any other thing without making noise and alerting me.

Ted teased me about how long it took to find the correct pocket and get to the money. I didn’t care. If it took five minutes to find my wallet, no pickpocket would be able to find it. And after ten years of traveling in every sort of way, always without a packaged tour, no one got into my purse or bag. We did use the belt with the hidden pocket on several small trips.

Another warning was boys on bikes or skates riding by someone using a video camera, grabbing the camera and away before anyone could even yell out. I bought a yard of bright purple dog leash strap, sewed it to a wrist Velcro band and looped and fastened it around the handle of the camera. Anyone looking to steal Ted’s camera would see the bright purple strap attached to the camera on one end and Ted on the other. No one ever tried to steal his camera in over ten years. I don’t know if anyone ever wanted to.

One warning was that someone would spill some liquid on our backs and while one would help wipe us clean, another would steal our money.

We were walking along one lovely street in Buenos Aires on a Sunday afternoon. A man came up and was speaking rapidly and pointing first to the trees, then to our backs. I was convinced he was trying to rob us and backed away from him. But he continued talking to us and pointing to our backs. Finally, we looked. There it was. The birds, large black ones, sitting in the trees above the sidewalk, had emptied their bowels on us as we sauntered beneath, unaware of what was up there. We thanked him and continued our walk in the middle of the street, away from the trees until we found a gas station with a toilet. We tried to wipe what we could and headed toward home.

Buenos Aires travel

Craft Market in Buenos Aires

Once in South America, we took a bus ride and needed to change buses. I had just purchased a small insulated bag that held a small thermos of hot coffee. All our bags were tied together with a wire chain and padlocked together except the small bag. I was leaning against a wall with all the luggage while Ted went off to find our next bus. A man approached and shoved a piece of paper in my face. As I pulled away, he yelled at me. I finally pushed him away and turned to find that the small bag had been nicked. The thieves got a dirty thermos and an empty bag. Hope they liked it.

I was truly robbed only once, in Thailand. I had purchased something at a local market and needed to put my money away. I looked for a private place and found an empty little street. I ducked in, found my wallet and was putting the money in when a young man grabbed my wallet and the money. He took all the cash and handed me back my wallet. I took it and he ran off. I could have called the police but he was long gone before I could even return the wallet to the purse.


Floating Market in Thailand

Those were the only two times in ten years that we were robbed. Once in Genoa, we withdrew some money from the ATM machine and got into a taxi. I thought I had put the money into my purse but must have missed the opening and dropped the cash on the floor of the taxi. We didn’t discover the loss until we returned to the RV.

Our feelings about the people we visited are that they are the same as we are. People like each other and while some would rob us in a split second, most would not. In fact, most would help us if we needed it.

Another thing I was always aware of, while being on a boat, is ‘where are the life preservers?’ Most of the time they were in racks above our heads. But sometimes, they were under lock and key in large metal boxes. We never did discover who had the keys.

Another time, we had booked passage on a boat going to Zanzibar. The ride would take several hours. A man was circulating in the group of people waiting to buy tickets. He was selling tickets on a speedboat. Ted bought tickets, only to discover there wasn’t a second boat at all.


Local bus in Zanzibar

Paying attention is paramount to traveling safely. Also, listening to others when they offer advice. When we heard about tourists getting robbed, it always happened to someone taking chances. We didn’t visit strange bars late at night. In some places we made sure we were extra cautious such as markets where crowds pushed in. I wore my purse, backpack, or fanny pack against my chest. After several people warned us against going to Colombia, we decided to skip it. All in all, we didn’t find strangers to be any more ready to rob us than any we meet while at home.

Maria Ruiz was born in Santa Barbara, California; her family had been there since the Spaniards first converted the Indians & created small towns. She graduated from the University of San Diego State in 1972 & taught for 8 years before starting her own business. After retiring she began a ten-year odyssey to visit and live in 57 countries around the world. She just recently relocated to California. Her book, I’ll be in the Fourth Grade Forever, can be ordered on Smashwords & Amazon. Her blog can be found at


  1. Good advice M. During a Paris trip I saw a purse snatching fortunately we’ve never been victims. However sometimes I can be pretty careless.?

  2. Great article, Maria. You can never be too careful, as you point out so well. Your story should alert many travelers and, hopefully, they’ll follow your advice. XXX

  3. Fascinating, Maria. I was hugged by a stranger in Paris. I wore my crossbody bag inside my coat. Otherwise, we were fine.


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