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“Situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event.” ~Wikipedia
While preparing for and going on travel, a certain amount of situational awareness is required. This skill has to be developed and honed as you gain greater understanding of the world and possible events.
As young children, we walk in traffic or bump into people because we don’t watch where we are going. We have a sense of safety in the world, and a lack of understanding of the dangers around us. Children also tend to be focused on their desire (ice cream truck), and lose the situational awareness to perceive on-coming traffic.
Parents have to spend lots of time, first looking out for their child then training their child to look for dangers themselves. Just like children, we must train our eye to look for new dangers we are not accustomed to look for. While traveling, situational awareness is even more important as you interact with crowds of people in dense environments.
Situational Awareness While Traveling:
- In airports, and train stations keep your eyes open. While waiting for your plane to board, don’t become complacent even if you are tired.
- Keep an eye on your fellow passengers, and don’t sit with your headphones in staring at your phone.
- People often travel with their cell phones, laptops, cameras, extra cash and purchased goods. A camera could easily get swiped off your luggage if you aren’t paying attention.
- Drunk people in public spaces can cause nuisances and fights. Keep an eye out for the aggressive behaviors in others, and get out of the way if you see a situation rising.
- As you are walking to your gate or platform, look for the exits. Where would you go if there was a fire?
- While rare, watch for suspicious behaviors that could turn into a shooting. Where would you run if someone started shooting into the crowd?
- On a crowded street, watch what the locals do. While you may need your cell phone for GPS, in order to get to your next place, keep looking around at your surroundings.
- Regulars to that street may know to avoid the left sidewalk near the wall, as there is a giant trench but you may not.
- Locals may know that buses pull up on top of the curb to stop, but you may not.
- Residents know which streets are safe to go down at night, you may not. You will need to keep your eyes open for potential threats.
- Driving in a new city can be confusing and disorienting. Keep your eyes open for your options and location of basic necessities.
- As you are driving, making note of the hospital signs. Where would you need to go if you needed the emergency room or walk-in clinic?
- Watch for pharmacies and grocery stores. If you need a medication you didn’t pack, where would be the closest store to your hotel? Can you walk there?
- If you see a police station make a mental or physical note of it’s location. If you need to report a crime or want friendly advice on which districts to avoid, they should be able to help you.
Situational awareness is about watching the environment and other people for potential dangers. It's about getting a good understanding in your head about the layout of a building and your closest exits. Situational awareness can also mean you aren't as relaxed in the airports, as you are constantly watching other people. But you should never be 100% zoned out and unobservant; always keep an eye on what's happening around you, especially as situations can change very quickly.
What have you spotted while traveling that others around you missed? Share your story in the comments below.
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