How to Be Safe and Savvy in the Gap Year Jungle; STUDENTS

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 4, 2004 | Go to article overview

How to Be Safe and Savvy in the Gap Year Jungle; STUDENTS


Byline: JENNY LITTLE

OUR series on gap years continues with a look at safety when travelling.

TRAVELLING always carries risks. Ask Matthew Scott, the kidnapped gap year student who escaped from Colombian rebels in September.

He was one of the 40,000 young travellers who set out each year to explore the world before university.

Can gap year adventurers reduce the danger by going on a course? And can it teach common sense? To find out, I went on a day's course in gap year safety with a company called Objective. The London course, run by ex- Army personnel, costs [pounds sterling]150.

I've travelled a bit. A wellworn backpack shows the scars of a world trip and a recent sabbatical in Central America. What could I learn that I didn't already know?

A great deal, it turned out. The agenda included understanding local customs, lowering your profile to avoid trouble and getting safely with your kit from A to B.

Advice on how to dress and what not to eat may have seemed unnecessary, but possibly not for 18-year-olds fresh from school.

Instructor Charlie McGrath says that young men tend to be dismissive of advice. 'We get a lot more girls on the course,' he says.

'They are more aware of their vulnerability, more mature and cautious in their behaviour and less likely to get into tricky situations.

'Boys often attend only at their parents' insistence, but I think they often have more to learn than women.' Objective offered basic self-defence and first aid tuition. By the end of the day I'd even learned what to do if kidnapped - unlike Matthew Scott, don't try to escape; and talk about yourself so that your captors come to know you as a person. …

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