Celebrity Travel: Go Away With Evy Poumpouras
"I was a week away from going to Mt. Everest when the unfortunate events of coronavirus caused all travel to be canceled," said former Secret Service Special Agent Evy Poumpouras. "Once things get back to normal, India is the next (destination) on my list. I'm fascinated by their culture and food. I just have to pinpoint exactly where in the country I'd like to visit." Poumpouras' latest project is her book, "Becoming Bulletproof: Protect Yourself, Read People, Influence Situations, and Live Fearlessly" (Simon & Schuster, $27). Based out of New York, she stays in touch with followers on Twitter (https://twitter.com/EvyPoumpouras), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/evypoumpouras/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/evypoumpouras/).
Q. When you were in the Secret Service, were there different issues to navigate in countries where women had less rights than in the United States?
A. Adaptability is one of the most important elements to being a Secret Service special agent. Although protecting the president was always the primary mission, I also needed to respect the culture and societal norms of the country I was in. This meant, for example, that if President (Barack) Obama was visiting Egypt or Jordan, where women were required to keep their arms and legs covered, I followed suit. The same etiquette applied when protecting certain foreign heads of state who were visiting the U.S. Even when I worked investigations or interviewed terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, I knew my gender could have a negative impact on the outcome. So, in those situations, I adapted and let my male colleagues take the lead. I didn't take it personally, because it wasn't about me or my ego. It was about getting the job done.
Q. What are some tips you would give people traveling alone to keep them safe?
A. Don't be afraid, be cautious. Have situational awareness, which means paying attention to what's going on around you. Your primary focus shouldn't be your phone. And no headphones, either. Being able to hear your environment is just as important as being able to see it. Pay attention to your body language: Shoulders back. Chin up. Eyes scanning. How you carry yourself is the first thing predators look at when choosing their next target. Do some advance work before you travel: Before going overseas look at any U.S. State Department advisories for you designated country. Find out where the local police stations, fire departments and hospitals are so that you know how to get there in case of an emergency.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. Both my mom and dad are immigrants from Greece. I spent nearly every childhood summer there. Once my brother and I finished school for the year, our parents would fly us back to their homeland while they stayed in the U.S. and worked. They couldn't afford to hire a babysitter. So, from June through August, we spent every day with our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I loved it!
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Greece. I love it because you can go anywhere. Some vacation destinations encourage tourists to frequent only certain areas or stay within certain geographical boundaries, because it's not safe anywhere else. But in Greece you can explore everywhere. You can mingle with the locals, eat at the same restaurants, dance at the same clubs, swim at the same beaches. When I travel for vacation, I want to embrace the native culture, not be corralled in with the other tourists.
Q. What untapped destination should people know about?