With Covid ravaging the world and international travel being considerably more difficult than it once was, I’ve been spending more time checking out travel locations inside the USA. While not as exciting as some of my past travels in unique locations, I’m enjoying myself traveling within our country in conjunction with the classes I teach for work.
Last month I taught a couple of classes outside of rural Dahlonega, Georgia. After I finished the class, I booked a couple nights in downtown Atlanta to do some exploration and meet some friends. I booked my stay at the beautiful Hilton Downtown Atlanta. The hotel was great, the neighborhood, not so much.
When I wasn’t hanging out with my friends, I took a few walks around the neighborhood. There was an outdoor folk art park near the hotel that I wanted to explore. It was a nice sunny afternoon and I decided to check it out.
The art was kind of cool, but nothing stunning. It wasn’t quite as awesome as the local guidebooks made it out to be. Check out a few of the photos below to see the art and learn a bit about the history of the exhibits.
I enjoyed the art, but I was shocked at the amount of homeless people living within the art exhibit. Take a look at the photo below. There were a couple homeless people living in a tent directly inside the art display.
As I was walking around, I was aggressively approached by three different homeless men. That’s a bit unusual in my experience. I’m a big dude. I don’t look very friendly when I’m walking around a potentially dangerous area. Most homeless folks see my aura and decide not to approach. Not true in downtown Atlanta.
Even though I look big and angry. Even though I’m armed with a full sized gun, a blade, a sap, and pepper spray. Even though I was intentionally giving off the “don’t fuck with me” vibe. I still got accosted by predatory homeless folks.
The first confrontation involved a slick talking homeless dude who smiled and tried to engage me in conversation. I kept moving, but was intentionally curt and non-engaging. The dude didn’t get the message. He continued his approach and stuck his hand out to shake.
I replied “Sorry dude. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t shake hands with people I don’t know.”
That excuse has previously worked pretty well for me. It didn’t here. the homeless dude got mad and started screaming at me. He said “Motherfucker, I don’t even drink Corona. I sure don’t have the virus.”
When my smile turned to a scowl and I didn’t respond, he decided to back off and find another mark.
About two minutes later, I was approached by another homeless man. I told him “I can’t help you, man.” and kept walking. He didn’t push the engagement any further.
The final interaction with the homeless involved a man who was obviously mentally ill. He was walking towards me on the sidewalk laughing and screaming to a non-existent audience only he could see.
This guy looked even crazier than the first two. I pulled the POM pepper spray container out of my pocket and readied it for use. The man immediately picked up on my action. He looked at the pepper spray in my hand and said “Fuck you” before crossing to the other side of the street.
I have lots of experience moving around in crowded urban locations. I’ve spent most of my career life dealing with homeless folks. I was truly surprised at the aggressiveness of the homeless men I encountered in Atlanta. It was challenging for me, and I know what I’m doing. I can’t imagine being an inexperienced female half my size handling the same problems.
I really can’t recommend that any of my readers walk around downtown Atlanta, even in the daytime. If you decide to go sight seeing there, I would recommend that you stay armed and move in groups as often as possible.
I’ve written a lot about assessing relative neighborhood safety when traveling. I have a whole chapter on the topic in my travel safety book. I’ve also written website articles on the topic.
As I was walking around downtown Atlanta, I became aware of another potential indication of danger that I had not yet mentioned.
If you see metal gates or wooden board blocking the door to retail establishments, you should understand that those store and restaurants have experienced a lot of break-ins over the years. When you see those security measures, you should be extra alert. You are no longer in a safe area.
The photos below show some retail locations within a half mile of my ritzy hotel. Note the security measures. That should be a clue that you might be traversing a dangerous neighborhood.
While I didn’t have great experiences on my walks around the hotel, I did enjoy one amazing sushi meal. I visited the Pacific Rim Bistro because it was close to my hotel. I wasn’t disappointed.
I got a unique sushi roll where the roll wasn’t served in a traditional cylindrical shape. The sections were cut flat and laid face up on the plate. The toppings were ten spread over the top of the rice rolls, It was almost like a sushi casserole. Very tasty. I highly recommend the Pacific Bistro if you do have to visit downtown Atlanta.
Overall, I’m glad I spent an extra day in Atlanta hanging with my friends. But as a solo travel destination, I can’t recommend it. If you do visit, make sure you are armed and that you are verbally adept enough to dissuade the extremely aggressive homeless folks you will most certainly encounter.