Sun Tzu and the Art of Traveling Safely

by Graywolf, Graywolf Survival

In these uncertain times, how can you keep your family, yourself and your property safe while traveling, especially while traveling to a foreign country? Terrorists don’t only target the military and thieves don’t only target the rich; everyone is a potential target.

Great version

Most people realize that being aware of your surroundings is necessary to keeping safe, but from what we see in the news and hear from others, this is not enough. What was true for the militaries that Sun Tzu commanded in the 6th Century BC is true for your family today. What else can we do? Quite a bit as it turns out.

What you need is a plan. Sun Tzu said,

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

If you asked him what that means for you, he would tell you in this case that if you have a plan to protect yourself but don’t think of the details, your protection won’t be very effective and if you do a bunch of little things with no overall plan in mind, your protection is all smoke and mirrors and doomed to fail. You have to see both the forest and the trees in your plan.

Sit down and come up with a list of all that you want to protect, all the ways someone could hurt or take those things and what you can do to prevent those things. You should do this before you plan to go on vacation as well as incorporate it into your travel plans. Investigate the details of how to achieve all of the things on the list by using everything at your disposal and make sure you’ve covered everything you can so you have peace of mind during your excursions.

To guard yourself, you must think of those wishing to harm you as the enemy. “How do I start?” you might ask. Start at the beginning. One of the more famous quotes by Sun Tzu that is used by the military today is, “The formation and procedure used by the military should not be divulged beforehand.” What he was saying is that it’s not only what you’re doing that can make you vulnerable to your enemy; it’s also what you do beforehand that is important. He was talking about OPSEC.

Just as a military unit must be careful not to forecast their plans, you must as well. When you last went on vacation, how many people did you tell? How many did they tell? How many people overheard those conversations? The more people who know your plans, the more likely it is that the wrong person will hear them.

Tell your friends about your vacation; it’s worth talking about. Just don’t give up specifics as to when you are leaving, how long you’ll be back or that no one will be home while you’re gone, unless these people have what the government calls ìNeed-to-know.î If they don’t need to know when you’ll be gone, don’t tell them.

This goes double for while you’re gone. Don’t tell the hotel staff, bartender, waiter or the taxi driver where you’re going to be unless it’s absolutely necessary that they know. The world is a wonderful place but not everyone out there has your best intentions in mind.

“All warfare is based on deception.” The key to fighting an enemy and winning is making the enemy think things that are not true. That will cause him to make his plans based on faulty information.

How does this apply to your family? When a criminal wants to rob a house, or a terrorist looks for a victim, he looks for what are called “indicators.” According to The US Government in Joint Publication 3-13.3, an indicator is, “a type, or class, of information that is significantly associated with or characteristic of an activity.”

In this case, the activity is your vacation. If you have a package delivered to your house and it sits there for several days in front of your house, that is an indicator, or an indication that you may not be home.

Have a trusted neighbor hold your mail and your packages for you until you get back. If your yard is usually kept clean, it is an indicator that you haven’t been home if you start having weeds pop up everywhere.

Schedule someone to come in while you are gone to take care of them. If your lights never turn on at dusk or the same ones are always on, that is an indication that no one is home.

Set your lights to come on at random times if you can afford to have programmable lights. If not, have a friend or neighbor come over occasionally and change how your house looks. For even more piece of mind, set up a good security system at your house and include cameras that can stream video that you can see. Set up something with your neighbor or close-by family that they can watch it too and respond if you call. You should look into something like the Swann SWDVK-425504 S 4-Channel Digital Video Recorder. Not only will you be able to see what’s going on, you can use it as evidence to get your stuff back if someone does get in before you can reach someone.

“. . . attaining one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the pinnacle of excellence. Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.”

Don’t believe that you’re better off by spending all your time and energy to protect yourself by learning how to fight. Make sure you spend time figuring out how to get out of the situation altogether.

Vary your route and your daily routine. If someone wants to get at you, the last thing you want to do is have a situation where all they have to do is sit and wait for you at a time and place that they know you will always be.

The wise old general said, ìIf you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles. Know what threats are out there and know what you can do about them. Start with the Internet, especially if you’re visiting outside of your home country. The websites for every US embassy and consulate in the world is listed at

If you’re not from the U.S?, I bet your country has a website too. For our purposes today, we’ll assume you’re from the U.S. I like people from a lot of other countries, I just don’t feel like being politically correct enough to make this a globally-written piece. I’m an American so that’s what I’m writing.

So, where were we? Oh yeah. Find the website for the embassy in the country you’ll be visiting and there you’ll find a link titled, ìU.S. Citizen Services.î You will find useful information here about the threats to people traveling in this country, no-go areas if they exist there and what they suggest that you do to keep yourself safe.

Make sure you keep the contact information and location of the embassy with you at all times in case something happens. If you or someone in your group gets arrested, kidnapped, attacked, goes missing or has a serious issue with the host nation’s government, you need to see if the embassy can help.

You can also go to the websites for the embassies and consulates of other countries that have English versions available and read what they suggest for their own citizens. This is especially helpful in countries that the US has no embassy. There are very many other websites around that you can find with a search engine that can help as well. Make sure you not only learn about your threats out there; learn what you should do about them.

By thinking ahead to the threats out there, you can avoid putting yourself in a compromising situation. Walking down dark alleys isn’t safe at home, why would it be in a foreign country? Getting into a taxi from a company that isn’t well-known is an invite to danger. Ask around to the hotel security of where you’re staying as to who is safe to travel with. They are a good source of information.

Speaking of the embassy or consulate, it is always a good idea to visit there when you get into a country. All you need to get in is your passport.

We’ve seen that what was true for the army of Sun Tzu several thousand years ago is true for your family today. Come up with a plan to protect your family while you’re gone according to your specific circumstances and where you’re going.

Make a detailed plan and don’t give out those details to people unless they need to know. Do what you can to trick your adversary into not knowing what your plans are. Research everything you can about what the dangers are and what you can do about them so you can avoid trouble.

You should also make a good family communications plan for the trip. You won’t know how you’ll be able to communicate if you get separated unless you figure it out beforehand and a good plan will cover your bases if your expectations don’t pan out.

If Sun Tzu were the head of your family’s security, he would tell you,

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

BTW, there are some great Sun Tzu resources out there. One interesting one is a History Channel documentary on how Sun Tzu affected military operations throughout the centuries, called the Art of War (2009).

Graywolf is a veteran of the US Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community. He blogs about prepping and security at Graywolf Survival.

7 thoughts on “Sun Tzu and the Art of Traveling Safely”

  1. As much as I appreciate your tips and I know how helpful they are, I hope I won’t need them on my next trip to Geneva, I am planning a relaxing vacation, I need it so much.

  2. Ways to Pay Off Debt

    This is really fascinating, You are a very professional blogger. I’ve joined your rss feed and sit up for in quest of extra of your excellent post. Also, I have shared your site in my social networks

  3. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  4. Great beat ! I would like to apprentice even as you amend your
    website, how can i subscribe for a weblog site? The
    account aided me a appropriate deal. I were tiny bit familiar of this your
    broadcast offered vivid clear concept

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top