Having spent a lot of my life in underdeveloped countries, it doesn’t surprise me when I hear about another missing or dead American, and I’m not just talking about war-torn countries. “Friendly” nations such as Mexico, the Caribbean and most any country in Latin America seem to consume more U.S. civilians than Iraq, Afghanistan and other hostile nations combined. And while I can’t teach someone not to be an idiot once they’re on the street in the Third World, I can offer some advice that has served me well during my years of traveling in places such as Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and almost every other country in Latin America.

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Just about every dire situation I’ve seen during my romps around the world has come from the traveler’s lack of situational awareness. They either get zoned-out over their new surroundings, or they’re so focused on not being a victim that they lose their ability to think rationally. Most travelers are easy marks once they leave their own surroundings, and you can bet that those who wish to take them apart, be it a terrorist or common mugger, have done their homework. Most security gurus will tell you to try not to look like an American when traveling abroad. While that sounds like a good concept, the fact is your culture, language and actions are bred into you. No matter how much you dress and try to act like the locals, the seasoned hunter always knows his prey. With that said, avoiding any military style dress, watches, jewelry, packs and insignias is imperative, since threat potentials typically get taken out first.

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