At Reaper Feed, we spend a large portion of our time traveling around the world to various locations looking for material to write articles. Naturally, some of these destinations are inherently risky. In the past few years, we’ve traveled to some of the most dangerous countries in the world. From Chechnya and Syria to Iraq and Afghanistan. When it comes to travel advice, the bottom line from the authorities is generally this: Don’t go! It’s very rare to find useful information or travel books to keep yourself safe in risky countries. At least that was the case until the Military Grade Travel Guide came along and changed the world of travel books!
The Military Grade Travel Guide was written by Joel Gallagher, who works as an expedition leader in conflict zones around the world as well as an international security consultant, which means he spends a lot of time with a bulletproof vest under his shirt! We soon found the book was traveling with us everywhere we went as a useful tool for personal security. So we decided to contact Joel and see if he wanted to meet up to talk about his book.
Tell us a bit about your background?
My background is in international security. As a fluent English and Russian speaker, my main field of expertise is mostly the former Soviet Union countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia as well as and Balkan countries of the former Yugoslavia, but I’ve also done stints in the Middle East and South America.
Currently, I work as a freelance security adviser but my full-time role is as an expedition leader and manager for the company Young Pioneer Tours. They specialize in out of the box travel to destinations around the world such as Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, and Chechnya. It’s a great job as it allows me to travel, learn new languages and cultures and indulge in my love of photography. Also, the clients I spend time with are largely well-informed people who are keen to gain an on the ground insight into the world’s most troubled regions so each expedition is usually an education in itself.
What made you decide to write the Military Grade Travel Guide?
Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel with my job, and in the process, I’ve seen countless examples of fellow travelers who are vastly ill-prepared for the world. Many people are naive about how ruthless other humans, assuming everybody is as decent and honorable as you can be and this can be lethal for your personal security. In addition, the majority of travel books are generic and don’t provide you with advice to deal with ugly situations.
We live in an age where terrorists, cybercriminals, and lone-wolf attackers can lay in wait for us at any given time. Countries once regarded as peaceful such as France, the United Kingdom, and the United States are increasingly falling victim to violent crime and of ruthless terrorism. As the world becomes more globalized and intercontinental travel to a growing number of risky destinations becomes more accessible, protecting yourself becomes a priority. So I decided to write the book in order to provide key skills to the average civilian to be able to protect themselves if they find themselves in danger at home or abroad.
What influenced the tactics and skills outlined in the book?
In my line of work, I spend a lot of time in hostile countries and conflict zone. Alongside a variety of training such as HEAT, my on the ground experience alongside police, military and security services of various countries has allowed me to gain an expertise on security techniques to stay safe whilst travelling. From going to the airport and reaching a hotel in a foreign country to surviving an outbreak of civil unrest or a kidnapping.
What do you hope for the book to achieve?
The majority of travel books are exceptionally expensive. My aim was to make the book affordable for everyone, so I priced it at $5 which is around the same price as an average coffee. I’m not looking to get rich out of it but rather to pass on skills to people that could potentially save their life. If it prevents harm or evil deeds being committed for just one person, then it was worth writing. I focus on the skills that few people will learn in regular life and draw attention to the fact that places you may deem as safe are sometimes far from it.
For example, in my chapter on hotel security, it reiterates just how unsafe hotels can be. From the lobby being the ground zero for thieves and kidnappers spotting targets, to hotel staff working in unison with hostile governments to provide intelligence on people. I show you how to recognize if your room or belongings have been tampered with as well as how to create a makeshift alarm to buy yourself vital seconds if your room is attacked.
What do you consider to be the most important chapter?
I put a lot of effort into the chapters focusing on terror attacks and mass shooters. Attacks such as these were some of the main reasons behind me writing the book as I’d seen countless reports of massacred civilians in both the US and Europe. In a shooting or bomb attack, how you act in the first few seconds is vital to becoming a survivor or a statistic. In the book, I demonstrate how to form a way of mind in order for you to react quickly in the event of such an overwhelming and horrific event. I also outline a system of things to do in order to help you and others survive.
A common misconception many people have is that they wouldn’t know what to do in such an event, it’s simply a matter of becoming more informed and better prepared. Case studies of previous shooting and terror attacks have shown that the most unlikely people can step up to the plate and stop the carnage.
Do you have any other books in the pipeline?
Absolutely, after the success of MGTG, I certainly picked up the writing bug and I’m looking to branch out from travel books. I’m currently in the final stages of writing a book that leans more towards the international security perspective. It will focus on the prison uprising that took place in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan.
Being a military history buff, it’s a fairly recent battle that always fascinated me and I feel there are a lot of security lessons to be learned from it. It will also shed light on the murky days of the war in Afghanistan featuring CIA operatives being airdropped with millions of dollars in cash to secure alliances with anti-Taliban fighters. Truly fascinating stuff in my opinion.
To pick up a copy of the Military Grade Survival Guide and add it to your collection of travel books, you can find it for sale on Amazon. For the price of a coffee, you can learn travel survival skills that could save your life!