Listen to your gut; it's midnight in Paris....
I feel an Angel is watching over me, however I won't continue to push my luck
It's midnight in Paris and I'm walking home on a cold January night when a cough behind me takes my attention, and I turn to see who is sharing the dimly lit and deserted street with me.
I make out a male figure in a dark jacket with a hood pulled tightly over his head, he's 20 meters behind. As I quietly reassure myself there is no reason to be afraid I quickly take out the gate keys anyway and hope that this will be the one night I won't be forced to wrestle with the lock.
I have only just put the key in when it's clear that I'm not going to make it. Some sort of weapon is shoved rudely and violently into the small of my back and I feel a prod like instrument pushing forward, it makes a loud clicking type noise and my muscles experience a tightening. The guy repeats his attack again and again into my back. I fight back as best I can, and let out a shrill and persistent scream, which in turn seems to infuriate him and so he takes his weapon and forcefully jams it into my head, twice.
I am sharing this, one of my not so pretty Parisian experiences, to emphasize the importance of instinct, and using it to stay safe wherever you are in the world.
Had I actually listened to mine that night I would not have taken the metro line that I took. I had always and purposely avoided it at night as it meant a longer, darker and more deserted walk than the alternative metro line.
I remember vividly the words I said to the friend I was with that particular evening, 'I don't usually take that line, but ok, just this once then'.
Even though I didn't feel good about my split second decision I went with it and took the less safe option.
I do not know exactly what this guy wanted with me, it is possible he may not have simply wanted to take my bag. My screaming saved me, it alerted my neighbour who was putting her cats out for their nightly business. She yelled and the 'courageous' man ran like hell picking up my bag on his way out and leaving me bloodied and sprawled on the ground.
There followed a visit from the police, followed promptly by the ambulance, hospital and a bunch of stitches, a police station visit, and even a home visit from a couple of detectives the next day. Unfortunately in my struggle I never got to see the perpetrator's face and so he is left to roam the streets freely and dangerously.
Up until very recently I had no intention of sharing this story on my blog, however a recent experience in Laos changed this. Once again I ignored a gut feeling and found myself alone in a very tense and bad situation with an inebriated and clearly irrational man on a very isolated part of the Mekong river in a very isolated part of the country. (up shit creek without a paddle as they say in Australia)"!
Once again had I gone with my instinct I never would have found myself in the frightening position I was in, and to this day I am not entirely sure why I didn't. It could possibly have something to do with a stubborn streak, and the fact that when I set my eyes and my camera on something I become focused to the exclusion of all else, including my personal safety.
I will not go into the details of my experience. I will be eternally grateful for a spot of luck which saw two other tourists able to get me out of what was a drawn out and very scary situation.
Neither France nor Laos are dangerous countries, either event could have taken place in my native country of Australia. Having said this, I do want to emphasize that there are cultural differences and less stringent rules and regulations in developing nations such as Laos, so it is important to understand and recognize this.
Instinct is one of man's most primal responses. It exists for a reason and should be trusted and acted upon. I certainly feel that I have learned some very important lessons and have vowed to never again override what my gut is telling me.
Please stay safe and don't doubt your instinct for a minute.