I may come across as Pollyanna in today's posts, but I want to assure you all that while I am an optimist who seizes the day, I fully understand as well the risks of travel. It took me a long time to get over a) my fear of flying (now I love it except for the TSA part); b) meeting strangers (now I like them more than people I meet on an every day basis); and 3) you always have to exercise good judgment and be careful, wherever you are.
To take an arbitrary example, if a couple from the central Midwest (other than NUHUSKER) went to LA or NYC, precautions would be in order. In Maine, we expect people not to commit crimes and to act nicely toward others. I expect most feel the same. Yet big cities are different. But even there you'll find helpful strangers -- just make sure they're not TOO helpful. Confidence is key. When I ended up in Grand Central Station in the 1970s en route to Philadelphia, I was taken for a ride, so to speak, by a guy who offered to help me with luggage. He didn't steal it, but he also expected money at the end. And I had almost nothing. (He was not a happy camper when I gave him my nearly last dollars.) So part of my point is that even when traveling abroad, think like you would if traveling at home. On the other hand, the last time I had to go into NYC (sorry for the wording -- I will have to go into NYC again in two weeks) I took the subway from LaGuardia. I didn't know what I was doing, since I mostly just fly through airports and had only been to NYC a couple of times, then on a high school class trip and later on a visit to The Cloisters. But an obvious prostitute came to my assistance (without any hope of reward), telling me that to get to Midtown I needed to take a certain train (without most stops) and avoid others (with many stops), then change to a bus. Then she went away without asking for anything. On the bus, I still wasn't sure where to get off, but I was the only one with a suitcase, and 3 different people offered helpful (and true) advice about where to descend.
I mentioned in one of Jerry's posts a while back that my first trip to Rome was awful because I stayed near the train station in the heat of summer and also got ice-cream balled by a con man with a dog who had an ice cream gun (I do have a lot of good stories). I was (AS ALWAYS) hugging my laptop bag and my purse tightly to my body while keeping my roll-on luggage very close. The man said in English (dead giveaway, usually), oh, "a bird has crapped on you" or something to that effect. Always, if you don't take a taxi (or sometimes when you do), map out your route in advance. Whether you're walking, taking a train, bus or taxi, you need to know the distance (just like in NYC or LA) from your origin to your destination so you won't be taken for a ride that could be quite costly (or ruin your clothing).
In my Roman case (my first time in the city that made me hate it till I returned and loved it starting 8 years ago and many times since), since I did not then speak any Italian, I yelled at the guy in French that I knew where I was going and that he and his dog (whom he had trained to do triple 8 maneuvers) should find some other *******. I don't know that he got the reference, but he backed off. When I got to the hotel wearing my black dress, I told the check-in guy what happened and he attributed it to gypsies. But I turned around and he confirmed that I had been ice cream painted into polka dots on the back of my black dress with white ice cream. That's why it took me so long to go back to Rome.
But I was young in those olden days, and very naïve. Even in the cases I've told you about in my pilgrimages, I always had the good judgment to know when or if I was in a difficult environment. If I figured I could handle it, I stood my ground -- and had some cool and extremely worthwhile experiences. With one exception that I wrote about on MRI a few years back, my only truly bad experience happened on a Saturday train from Paris to the ritzy suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I will not repeat the details, but even then I feel I won the upper hand by my immediate but bizarre response.
In other cases, like in Turkey, where you will be sucked in (if you allow it) to buying a Turkish carpet while visiting one or more facilities, you will be harassed in a sense. The point is you can and must say NO (unless you want what they're offering). And the earlier you say no, the better. You'll oddly earn respect from the locals if you do.
And keep that purse, computer or whatever tucked to your body whether you're in the USA or anywhere in the world.