Tiffany Coates is probably the world’s foremost female adventure motorcyclist. She’s ridden over 300,000 miles, crossing every continent and some of them, several times. Her list of far flung places that she has visited is almost endless and includes some gems that many only dream of reaching. – Timbuctoo, Outer Mongolia, Tibet, Madagascar and Borneo to name just a few. To say she’s been there and done it would be a huge understatement and her wealth of experience in overland travel has led her to a role as one of the world’s leading freelance motorcycle guides, and to add another string to her bow, she is also a highly qualified self defence tutor.
With all of this in mind we thought she’d be the perfect person to lead a masterclass on Safety in the Wildest places at The Armchair Adventure Bootcamp! The safety questions when people are thinking of where to travel to next are always at the front of anyone’s mind. The packing, the driving/riding and navigating are often the easy bit, for some it’s the unknown – the bandits, the gangsters and the bad guys that are the worry. But in reality, it shouldn’t be.
How do you develop the resilience and confidence to feel safe (and allay the fears of your loved ones at home)? Tiffany’s masterclass at Bootcamp is going to leave people feeling much more relaxed and confident about how to approach these key issues, but with Bootcamp not until the end of February, we asked Tiffany if she’d send over her top tips for staying safe as a taster for what to expect.
Tiffany’s top ten safety tips.
1. Listen to your intuition, your gut instinct has kept you alive long enough to go on this journey so keep on listening to it. If you feel the bloke you’re talking to is dodgy, walk away even if he is offering you a free glass of the local moonshine. The logical part of your brain won’t understand why, but we’ve all got a sixth sense that lets us know when something isn’t right – learn to trust your gut instinct.
2. It seems obvious, be discreet with your money, don’t flash it around and don’t carry it all in one wallet because that’s a lot of money you’ve just lost if something does happen (remember eggs in one basket is never a good idea). It also makes you more of a target.
3. Awareness of your surroundings and the people around you can be key. Have you managed to wander away from the souk or temple and into a less salubrious neighbourhood? Do the people around you seem somewhat less than welcoming? Keep your eyes open, in fact lift them away from your phone/GPS/guidebook and take in your surroundings, engage a bit more and if you have managed to wander down the third alley on the left which you were told to avoid at all costs, move onto Plan B and get out of there.
4. Learn as much as you can of the local language – it helps to break down barriers and enables people to feel more comfortable with you – even if it is just greetings.
5. Cultural differences can have a big impact, keep your eyes open and be aware of what the local customs and clothing are. Avoiding causing offence can go a long way towards keeping you safe. Baring too much skin (men and women) is a no-no in many countries and taking footwear off before entering buildings may be the norm –remember when in Rome…
6. Local specialities – not the seafood or the wines, but the scams…the “sir you appear to have bird shit on your shoulder…” is a favourite in many South American countries. While helping to remove the dirt – the kindly person, or his accomplice, is meanwhile stealing your wallet. Gemstones are the scam of choice in Asia. Listen to the stories and learn.
7. Have your own padlock handy to reinforce security – some of the cheaper accommodation may have poor or non-existent security – bring your own lock to use. Some countries even assume you’ll have your own lock with you (maybe this one is more a reflection of my accommodation choices over the years!).
8. If you don’t speak the local language, remember, body language, gestures and tone of voice can also convey a lot. Pay attention when the people around you are talking. Though bearing in mind that in some countries what to you seems like World War 3 breaking out with a shouting match, may just be a discussion about the weather (it’s happened).
9. Keep money (dollars cash is best) and an extra credit card hidden separately from your other valuables, just in case a theft happens. You’ll then still have some money and means to get yourself sorted.
10. And finally in the words of the late, great Kenny Rogers
“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run”
That’s right – always be ready to make a swift exit, even if it means making a fool of yourself. Keeping yourself safe is the biggest priority, however never let paranoia take over. Relax, remember the advice about staying safe but smile, enjoy the scenery and landscapes, get to know the locals and their culture and have a great adventure.
We hope those tasters gave you a little bit of an insight in to some key tips for feeling safe on your adventures. If you’d like to learn more and have the chance to ask Tiff any questions about her adventures or how to cope with any of the potential scenarios thrown at you on your adventures then don’t miss out on The Armchair Adventure Bootcamp! Whether travelling alone or with others, you’ll find strategies, techniques, advice and more from someone who has ridden solo across some of the world’s most dangerous and remote regions. Tiffany’s anecdotes and real-life scenarios enliven things in this fun yet informative session, from encounters with gunmen whilst wild camping to unexpectedly having to share a bed with Chinese truckers, she’ll teach you how to cope.