Meet the Expert: Rosa Voulon

Meet the Expert: Rosa Voulon


Rosa Voulon (45) came to Proximities after leaving the Dutch Ministry of Defence, where she worked for 18 years. She just started to get to know her new colleagues at Proximities when the pandemic hit. This meant she had to get further acquainted with them online. Roughly one year after her transition from the government, the moment has come to find out what it has brought her so far.

With her anthropological and analytic background, Rosa operated at all levels within the Dutch intelligence community and within several military missions within the Middle East and Africa. Being responsible for setting up the analytic course for intelligence analysts within the ministry, she also left quite a legacy. But, legacy or not, Rosa believes that for true skill development and individual growth, you have to keep looking ahead and step outside your comfort zone. And so she did!

Rosa, looking back, how was your first year with Proximities?

It was intense, very intriguing and an eye-opening experience. Intense because, due to the pandemic, we had to assist a lot of our clients with the repatriation of their personnel working abroad. In 2020 we ended up repatriating 32 people from 8 countries across the globe. It helped me to get familiar with our clients very quickly, though.

An eye opener for me was how much improvement there is to make when it comes to prepare the private sector for traveling to challenging environments. Although it is not intentionally, travellers often operatebut under the general notion that everything will be ok and that problems will take care of themselves. The pandemic changed all this. Companies have become more aware of the necessity of travel safety. And finally, intriguing because I found out that I can assist our commercial clients with my expertise and experience.

What can we learn from your experience with traveling to challenging environments?

The biggest lesson I learned is that everybody can find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation when traveling. Be aware of them, be able to recognize them and be able to act accordingly in order to keep yourself safe.  

Before I joined the military in 2002, I studied the tribal identity dynamics within Touareg clans in Mali for my anthropological study. For almost a year I lived with them, learning their language and culture. By being interested in your surroundings,  you learn to blend in more quickly and you get a knack for recognizing potential dangerous, situations. During my military career, I developed these skills further. When a dangerous situation does occur, it helps you to keep a clear head and get to safety.

And how do you prepare you clients when it comes to travel safety?

We provide them with tailor made courses for the countries they travel to. Apart from general insights about the country and its culture, we add specific kinds of security aspects that they need to prepare for. If we have women in the course, I also provide security aspects especially for them. Drawing from my own experiences, the advice I give can be practical in nature.

Can you give us an example?

How important it is to take delays and toilet breaks into account when travelling in challenging environments. During my time in Bamako (Mali), forgetting to take a toilet break put me in a dangerous situation. As I was driving alone to my hotel at night, I felt the need to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, however, a hold up on the road occurred and it would take me at least two more hours before I would arrive in the hotel.

So what did you do?

In Bamako, the majority of rapes occur along the road when women travel alone in the evening. As such, I remained in my car of course, with the doors locked and immediately informed the hotel where I was and when I expected to be back.


Travel safety workshop

Resilience in challenging environments can be taught!

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Study the risks, learn about the gaps

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