I felt as if I could be "taken"
A few weeks ago I got to accompany my handsome hubby on a work trip to London! Now, I will be the first to say that Europe and "London" in particular have never been like on my wish list or dream places to go.. but when there is a seat open with my name on it & a hotel paid for by Tan's work you can bet your bottom dollar I am off on a new international journey.
There is no particular reason why I have no desire to visit Europe, but I think it comes with the fact I studied in Asia for college and since then Asia has my heart through and through. Absolutely cannot wait to get back there. With that being said, I found London to be beautiful, full of history, & wonderful architecture.
I started my journey familiarizing myself with London by watching Paddington Bear on the flight there.. you know learning from the bear who loves orange marmalade? It made perfect sense to me.. haha But I will say I enjoyed seeing the sweet statue in Paddington Station and treasuring the memories of the stuffed Paddington my sister had growing up.
While in London, I had something happen to me that has never happened to me while traveling. Tanner was at work 4 out of the 5 days we were there so I did 85% of my exploring by myself. I learned on the first day of exploring that I really enjoyed the Kensington Gardens and found them to be the perfect place to take my lunch and have a picnic for one and all while enjoying the beautiful gardens around me.
As I sat on a bench going through my pictures a man approached me asking to sit down, and I said of course. He started out asking, "isn't this weather beautiful?" I of course agreed and started making small talk with this man not to be a complete rude tourist, then 5 minutes into our verrrryyyy casual none informative conversation he asks, "Where are you staying?" I replied with a station that was completely in the opposite direction of where I knew my hotel was at. I thought to myself is this how people become victims of awful abductions?
After I had told him the wrong location he persisted on knowing what I was doing the rest of the day, exactly what hotel I was staying at, what train I took. All things that were giving me major red flags in my mind. I am not going to lie I was scared & super uneasy.
He then asked me the question that got my nervous attention very quickly, "Are you alone? I thought to myself (agh. creep) I replied, "no, my husband is down the way at the next fountain taking pictures." (TOTAL LIE, I WAS ALONE) but I was not going to let him know this. I felt like I could be "taken." He was persistent asking where exactly? what does he look like?
This entire time I am texting Tanner word for word what this guy is asking me all while this man is texting someone else after each reply I gave him. I was nervous. Tanner told me to get out of there as fast as I could, but I wanted to be smart about it. I absolutely didn't want to walk away when no one was on the path I had to take. I waited until a large group of school children were starting to walk in the direction that "supposedly" Tanner was in. I quickly set my ringtone off and acted like I answered a call from Tanner. I told the man, "my husband and family are waiting, goodbye." I called my mom because Tanner did not have a way to talk to me on the phone due to security clearance and what not at the airport. My mom answered, and I carried on a conversation with her like she was just right down the way. I talked loudly, so everyone around me would KNOW I had a family member waiting on me.. I didn't, but no one needed to know that.
When I got to the fountain there was another photographer taking pictures, I walked up next to him and stood as close to him without it being uncomfortable and stood for a few minutes in case that guy had followed me. Hoping he would believe it was my husband. With my mom on the phone I made it the subway station. I got on. Went one stop. Got off. I did this 4x. Was it probably a bit ridiculous that I thought someone could still be following me? Yes. But I was not taking any chances. I finally felt at peace in my mind as a said about my one thousandth prayer in that 45 minutes, so I boarded the train that took me back to my hotel, and went to the hotel to wait for Tanner. I was done for the day.
Do I know that something was going to happen? No. Do I think something could of happened? Absolutely.
This experience for me opened my eyes about two things. 1. That my parents have taught me to be safe no matter what. This man was asking at first what seemed like harmless questions, but also seemed like questions he was using to gain my trust. After all, he told me his name and facts about him.. shouldn't i trust him? No.
I always laugh when my parents remind me and say my dad is No Liam Neeson when I go on an international trip, but in that moment I didn't want to find out. I was so thankful to have what I thought was an intelligent strategy to keep myself safe and others informed at what was happening during this time. This man wanted my trust, but for what? All I could hear in my head were my parents lessons growing up and discussions we've had regarding things to prevent dangerous situations like that. I was truly grateful.
The second thing I learned, was I truly believe this is something that happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. We need to share our stories of these types of things happening so that others learn from us. I can only imagine a young woman or child there sitting next to this man as he gains their trust and then they continue to tell him EVERYTHING including where they are going and where they are staying. How TERRIFYING is that?
Whether or not something would have happened to me this experience was very real & very scary to me. I couldn't get to my hotel fast enough & waited for Tanner to get there so I knew I was finally safe.
I am soo grateful for the peace of mind that came through prayer during this experience as well. Heavenly Father knew I was terrified & was not going to let me go through it alone.
Sooo with all that being said, here is my advice-
1- Use caution when talking to strangers
2- Be smart when traveling abroad HAVE A PLAN if something ever happens to you like this
3- Do NOT give out personal information to anyone. This includes your full name, location, place you are staying, are you alone, how long are you in town, social media info.
4- Travel Smart. Keep people informed about where you are.
5- Watch your surroundings. ALWAYS.
Other than that, London was great. I perfected my accent per usual, missed tea with the Queen, ate dinner at the foot of the London Tower with my sweetie, made some new friends, went on a tour, saw the changing of the guards & so much more!