Alone, but not lonely

East of Aleppo, Syria. 2020

Downsides to operating alone

  1. You won’t be able to plan activities as a team, leveraging the often considerable experience of other team members.
  2. You won’t have a team available to support you. If you’re involved in an incident, having a team nearby to assist will make your life significantly easier. Knowing you have reliable support also provides peace of mind, which is often in short supply in higher-risk locations.
  3. Operating alone can be psychologically challenging. Being able to socialise with people you know and trust can provide valuable reassurance and comfort.
  4. Finally, there’s a risk that you’ll find yourself in the centre of your own echo chamber of questionable motives and decisions. Without the benefit of a team, you may find that you start to second guess yourself. You’ll wonder if you’ve assessed the risks correctly, or whether you’re taking the appropriate level of precautions when out and about.
Late night food run. Aleppo, Syria. 2020.

Upsides to operating alone

Early morning bread run. Damascus, 2020.

Being better, alone

Practice good decision making

Be conservative

Leave the ego at home

Have the basics down

  • Treat minor illnesses or injuries without needing a clinic or hospital (and know when you will need a clinic or hospital)
  • Familiarise yourself with your operating environment
  • Assess risk
  • Assess the security of your accommodation
  • Plan routes and road movement
  • Plan meetings
  • Plan for contingencies
  • Secure your electronic devices
  • Identify hostile surveillance
  • Build local networks
  • De-escalate situations

Build self-reliance and self-sufficiency

  • Drive different types of vehicles (yep, including manual transmission vehicles)
  • Change a tire
  • Filter and sterilise water
  • Refuel and start a generator
  • Where and how to change money (and the various risks involved)
  • Where and how to buy local SIM cards or top up data plans
  • Where to go after hours for medical assistance
  • Who to call at 3 am in the morning when you’re too sick to leave your accommodation to seek medical assistance
  • How to navigate local checkpoints (when to pay, when not to pay, who to call if you get any trouble etc)

Minimise your exposure

Tripoli, Lebanon. 2019.

Assume the worst

Look after your health

Build a local support network

Travel light

Have an exit plan

Hybrid approaches

Wrap up




Founder, Spartan9.

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Grant Rayner

Grant Rayner

Founder, Spartan9.

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