Do You Worry About Traveling Solo?
More than a week ago, ABC Executive Producer Anne Swaney traveled to Belize for a seven-day vacation to the Nabatunich Resort. Sadly, Swaney was murdered last Thursday morning after she went to do yoga. According to ABC 7 Chicago News, a tour guide found Swaney’s belongings alongside the river but couldn’t find her. When police dogs were brought in to search for her Thursday night, Swaney’s scent was picked up near the river. The next day, Swaney was found floating face-down in the river with only her bra on.
Belize’s Benque Viejo Police Superintendent Daniel Arzu believes Swaney may have been sexually violated. He told NBC Chicago, “She had bruises around her neck that reveals that there might have been some strangulation or some sort of fight back.” The police also noted Swaney had blunt force trauma to her head and neck. As they currently investigate the case, officials state Swaney’s cell phone is still missing although they are trying to track it while they interview employees who worked at the resort where Swaney stayed.
Currently, no one has been charged with Swaney’s murder however police have a Guatemalan fisherman in custody who was in Belize illegally during the time of Swaney’s death. Commissioner Allen Whylie of the Belize Police Department stated, “I cannot say he’s a suspect, but because of the investigation he was found in the general area, so he has been detained and has been questioned.” Swaney’s body will be flown from Belize to Missouri, where her family resides. As her family grieves her death, four other American families mourn the loss of their family members who have died in Belize since the beginning of the year; six other people have been killed in Belize, since January 1, as well.
This leads me to ask: Should you worry about traveling alone? And should you, especially if you’re Black?
If you’ve ever traveled alone, you like have experienced family members or friends discouraging you from venturing off to another part of the world by yourself because they fear you will be kidnapped or killed. However, amateur and experienced travelers alike usually respond with the same reaction: Crime happens everywhere. Also, there are some Black people who believe they will not be harmed by locals because of their skin complexion, race or simply for the fact they don’t believe locals will perceive them as as valuable kidnap victims as white people.
Despite this debate, various travel sites report people should do research on the city or country they’re visiting to learn what are the safest areas to stay in during their travels. For example in her New York Times article titled, Traveling While Black, Farai Chedeya wrote: “The United States State Department issued an advisory, still in effect, about Greece warning that “there has been a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants. U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic, or Middle Eastern descent.”
Although some take heed to the advisories previously mentioned, Chedeya also explained how Black people can and may use their skin complexions to their advantage by blending in with the locals of countries that are of a certain ethnicity. “Brown skin that’s often perceived as ‘otherness’ in parts of America is not seen that way in much of the world. After traveling to more than 25 countries (and 48 of the states), I call being brown in a region of brown-skinned people “masking.” I experienced it in southern India, where many people were similar shades of brown as me or darker.”
Chedeya continued, “I was not mistaken for being a local, but I could circulate less conspicuously than fair-skinned visitors. I took advantage of my skin color (and some common-sense cultural and street smarts, like dressing modestly, showing no valuables and staying alert) to go solo and explore low-income areas of Mumbai that the guards at my luxury hotel had warned me against visiting. My reward: I was invited to lunch at the home of a family, where an older couple and their son and daughter-in-law shared a two-room house.”
Though Chedeya gave examples of how Black people are affected and unaffected during their travels, there is no way to accurately determine what will personally happen to you on a trip. However, it is important for Americans to have the phone numbers of the United States Embassy and local authorities located in the country they are traveling to. It is also imperative to check traveling advisories prior and during your trip.
For more information, visit the U.S. Embassy And Consulate site.