Locked Up Abroad

Locked Up Abroad

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”3RRKN5MDAMWC

Rita Mae Brown

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching “Locked up Abroad.”  It airs on the National Geographic channel –a channel that usually has shows that promote travel, not paranoia. There are always  marathons or at least back to back episodes.   They are true stories of people who have been put into a prison in a foreign country.  Most of the time they are smuggling drugs.  You can smuggle drugs from many different countries.

The stories are narrated by the actual people. It is followed by a reenactment of their story  played by actors.  Once in a while they play themselves. Sometimes they  are real actors, who have made bad life choices.

There is always that moment  in the show when they are walking through the airport with pounds of cocaine strapped to their waist or hidden in their suitcase. Sometimes they make that one wrong phone call. I get a pit in my stomach and start saying “No, don’t do it, don’t do it. “  But they always do.

We go with them to prison and we get to see what life is like in the different prisons of the world. We  experience the legal system in third world countries. I always feel sorry for  them –  even though what they did was wrong.

The worst stories are when it isn’t drugs. I can deal with the smugglers but  it is hard watching the hostages and kidnapped victims.  If you have the travel bug, these episodes can knock it out of you – immediately.    The UN Peacekeepers come under fire in Sierra Leone from the brutal rebels.(that was a really difficult one to watch) .  An Australian girl is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She   is wrongfully accused of something and ends up in prison where no one speaks English for twenty years. Backpackers are hiking through the Darien rainforest between Panama and Colombia and get caught by guerillas.

There is the Hasidic King of Coke who ends up in a Brazilian prison, (you can’t make this stuff up), the smuggler who gets mistaken for a terrorist in El Salvador and the American girl in prison in Bangladesh  for drug smuggling with no hope of parole. Life in a Nepalese prison is detailed by a professional magician who got caught trying to smuggle hashish out of the country. There are people  smuggling heroin in Russia, who end up in in a Gulag in the seventies. A woman is set up by the drug cartels and goes to prison in Columbia. The life inside Venezuela’s notorious Los Teques Prison is told by an Irish man who was arrested at the Caracas airport for trying to smuggle cocaine back to Dublin.

I have learned many important  facts about traveling from this show. . Never buy illegal drugs in Mexico using fake money.  Don’t smuggle alcohol into Saudi Arabia. Don’t talk to any missionaries on the plane to Manila.  If someone asks you to bring gold into Argentina, they really mean cocaine.  Don’t travel to Pakistan and the Silk Road with your estranged father if he happens to be a drug smuggler. If your friend surprises you with an all expense paid vacation to Peru and has an extra suitcase when you get to the airport, run away.  It seems that there are women who are  willing to take incredible risks for a free vacation.

Fly Safe,


5 thoughts on “Locked Up Abroad

  1. Hi Jayne,

    As you do, or don’t know, I read the Sydney Morning Herald on line every morning and so your blog is of special interest inasmuch as I’ve been following the horrific tale of Schapelle Corby for years. She’s the woman convicted of smuggling a small amount of drugs into Bali in her boogie board case (she claims it was placed there without her knowledge at the airport during check-in) and given a 20 year sentence which has been shortened to 6 (through the King’s benevolence on his birthday), but nevertheless a disproportionate sentence for a minor crime of which she claims no knowledge. She now suffers from serious mental illness as a result of her incarceration and will never function properly in society again. Add to your other cautions “keep an eye on your baggage and make sure you have TSA approved locks on all pieces to prevent items being slipped in without your knowledge for later retrieval by smugglers.”

    Good stuff as usual,


  2. Yes, that is her. This is so heartbreaking. Thanks for the helpful tip. I don’t have a problem because if you saw my packing blog, I never have one extra inch of space. The thing about anyone opening my bag is that they wont be able to close it again.

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