We hear so much about the violence in the world, it’s enough to make you never want to step foot out your door.

Terror attacks not just in Pakistan or Beirut, but in Paris and Brussels. Mass shootings. Planes that disappear and trains that crash.

At the same time, when we go out to travel, let alone about our daily ways, we hardly ever stop to think about the potential for violent attacks and accidents.

Getting on a plane comes with trepidation for some, but the more-routine drive to the airport doesn’t register as the (far) greater danger it statistically represents.

People who prepare to defend themselves are seen as rather weird, and the vibe off people who are gun-nuts or think that dressing themselves in military-looking garb in their everyday life will somehow make them more special ops-like special doesn’t help.

Inspiration in Unlikely People

Carryology has been running features with John V. Cain, “Vinjabond” , and he’s been an excellent example to wonder about.

(Which, I would like to point out explicitly, is the reason I’m using his example, same as I used the example of Tim Ferriss and ultramarathons: Not to try to push down a person, but to point out problems while suggesting lessons and learning from others, anyways.)

While talking about world travel and the great potential to meet new people and have new experiences, his number 2 “top travel tip” is that “meeting other people in a new country is the best part of travel — locals and other travelers alike. Make this a priority.

Nice, but he also presents himself (and his site) as all black-ops, where “[t]he way I look and dress apparently gives off an intimidating aura”  (Source: Carryology)- and in the process, he breaks the first rule of covert ops (the world he presents himself as belonging to) as well as simple travel: Don’t present yourself as a stranger, a tourist, someone who absolutely does not fit in.

Even Clint Emerson’s “100 Deadly Skills”, which “teaches us how to turn common household objects into brutal weapons in a pinch, which is almost as funny as it is terrifying” as Outside Online described it, in between seeking to hotwire cars and prepare for gunfights using books for body armor, points out that it’s a good idea to try and blend in:

Page 17: “Due to the highly covert nature of their missions, operatives go to great lengths to ensure that they blend into their surroundings. A carefully managed appearance allows them to operate undetected…”

Page 49: “[The] contents [of this gear bag for crossing enemy borders] should include mission-specific gear such as a change of clothes that will allow the operative to blend into the area of operation…”

Or, of course, you could look into any travel advice book and you’ll find similar suggestions to not draw undue attention to yourself by looking like an obvious tourist.

Meanwhile, Vinjabond vagabonds full-time, no matter how, no matter where, in Triple Aught Design all-black military-inspired gear, and with at least three items as part of his everyday carry-on-only travel gear that most airport security would not let pass, and with a pack made theft-proof in a way that screams for attention.

So, interesting as the Vinjabond Packing List was to see, I fear that such “This is how I travel / This is my everyday carry” posts would get mistaken for sensible advice rather than the theater of self-advertising they are (all the more so as the timeline of this blogging vagabond’s “covert operator” career, and his money-making via posts on money-making by travel posts, seem dubious to me).

The Real “But Wait!”

That having been said, this is not the point I truly find worthy of consideration and attention.

Rather, similar to the way things went with Tim Ferriss and his ultramarathon “Four-Hour Body” hack, I fear that the way these issues may draw controversy overshadows themes it would indeed be good to consider:

For one, in learning and training, it may not be a bad idea at all to play at a special ops-attitude, train hard and look for challenges.

“If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.”

The “Living with a SEAL“-attitude to want to do things exactly because they are hard may be a lot better, at least for the person who doesn’t overdo it and overlook when ‘softness’ is called for instead, than the take-it-easy approach to life that ends up wasting it away.

If you want to “enclothe” yourself in the fitting gear for that and it makes you feel more motivated rather than stupid, go ahead.

I’m not entirely innocent of a liking for dark and muted colors myself… but if you can’t let go of your one approach, you’re limiting yourself in a way that is a weakness.

Vatican - Swiss Guards

(Also, you might want to remember that even gaudy costumes can hide highly capable fighters…)

Martial Artist StereotypeSecondly, I think that it is not only good but even essential to be and look non-aggressive and approach people with kindness in everyday life, including and especially when travel is your everyday.

An intimidating aura” may be something you like to tell yourself you have, but it’s not the best method for getting to know others well.

However, it is not just the ominous “predators” that cynics and scared people fear everywhere that seem to mistake kindness for weakness, it is ordinary people who seem to assume that kindness cannot go hand-in-hand with strength and skill.

Preparing yourself for the potential of violence is not a bad choice or one that shows cynic pessimism, it is an attitude that is realistic.

While you learn self-defense against attackers, don’t forget to also learn how to treat those wounds you fear may happen, though.

In all likelihood, that skill is much more likely to come in handy.

When you are strong and skilled, when you know how to handle yourself and how to evaluate and avoid danger, or how to face danger if you must, preferably without a constant aura of violence hanging around you, you have not given up on optimism and kindness.

Ideally, you are putting yourself into a position where it is much easier to be kind.

Then, if you never need those “dangerous” skills, you’ll still have learned something useful, developed skills that may come in handy and make you more useful and in control of your life.

There are definitely worse ways to be. Just don’t go all “gear-queer” and think that that’s enough…