Editor’s note: This story comes from SN, a SOFREP reader, fellow intel guy, and good friend of mine. He had shared a mini AAR on his travels to Europe with me and I realized it was too good to pass up. Take what lessons and notes you can from his experience, and enjoy the story that goes along with it. This is part one, with part two available here.—14C

I was alone, on leave, and traveling through Europe not too long ago. Looking back, I really should not have been traveling alone—but plans I’d had to link up with a buddy of mine had fallen through.

After spending time in France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, I decided that my next stop was to be Italy. I had been to Rome before, but in an entirely different context. This time would be different; I wanted to see the city and experience Italy “down and dirty.” I got more than I bargained for.

As I arrived on a train from Switzerland, I realized how much time had gone by and how late it was. I glanced at my watch—it was 2350. “That’s no problem, this is a major city! There must be places open and people to ask for directions to the nearest hostel,” I thought to myself.  I was wrong. The main station was dark and practically empty.

I wandered around for a while before spotting an Arab-looking fellow wearing a blazer and a shiny name tag. He seemed to be ushering other passengers to various locations and giving advice, so I assumed he was someone of relative credibility. First mistake. I asked him where the nearest hostel or hotel was (at that point, I would have paid the extra Euros for some privacy). He gave me a business card and assured me that the hotel he worked at as a “receptionist” was right down the block, and he was headed there anyway. I agreed to follow him. Second mistake.

After the first turn down a dark and deserted residential street, I felt the hairs creeping up on the back of my neck. Always trust your instincts. However, the fatigue of travel and close proximity of this alleged hotel allowed me to rationalize the situation. I kept telling myself, “Have some faith in humanity. This is fine…right?”

The man quietly ushered me to the front gate of an apartment building complex—but it was dark and hard to make out any detail of the surrounding neighborhood, let alone the actual building. I asked him, “This is a hotel, right?” as I stopped walking beside him. “Yes, yes, of course. It used to be an apartment building, but my family bought it and we use it as a hotel now,” he assured me in a surprisingly convincing way. Somehow, I trusted this guy. Somehow.

We walked into the small, shadowy lobby where a fat Arab man, who I assumed was my guide’s father or relative, greeted me with a smile and waved as we walked to the elevator. Upon exiting the elevator, the man showed me to the door of my “room” and handed me the key. He wished me a good night and told me to let him know if I needed anything. Then he left.