It’s fair to say that travelling the world has inspired countless dreams. It has also inspired countless nightmares. We fear what we don’t know, and what is travel if not a journey into the great unknown itself? Festering on the flip side of the coin, lurking in the dark side of the moon, Fear has sabotaged many a dream trip, so it’s time to put things in perspective.
Health: “I’m not going to go, what if I get sick?”
Ebola! Swine Flu! Kind of makes me long for the days when all I had to worry about were a couple of weird parasites. It’s no fun getting sick on the road, but then again, it’s no fun getting sick anywhere. There are all sorts of nasties out there, but the truth is, there are all sorts of nasties in here too. So if you are advised to stay away from uncooked fruit and vegetables, or drinking tap water (watch the ice cubes), simply using common sense will drastically reduce the chance of getting sick. Remember, locals are accustomed to local food, we’re not. Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands frequently, since that’s the most common way for colds and flus to spread. No matter how many precautions you take, you might get sick anyway, and if you do, you'll deal with it.
Transport: “What if the plane goes down?”
No matter how many stats you read confirming commercial flying amongst the safest form of transport – safer than cars, not as safe as walking – we all have a pit of fear when it comes to the idea of a plane crash. We can visualize it thanks to too many movies, feel the painful sorrow when we read about it in the newspapers. It is tragic, and yet, accidents happen every day, mostly without our control. This is not the place for discussion about fate and destiny, save to say that we live in a world where we travel at high speeds, on wheels, rails or wings. Fear of driving doesn’t stop you going to the mall, and fear of flying shouldn’t stop you from getting in a plane. To distrust the methods of our transportation generates a distrust of existence itself. Travel, like life, functions best when you embrace the fact that everything’s going to be just fine.
Crime: “What if I get robbed?”
Theft is unfortunate, and it does happen. Simple precautions do help – locks on your luggage, money belts, not flashing around cash or expensive cameras – but the sad reality is that there are desperate people out there looking to target tourists. The good news is that there are plenty more people out there who would proudly protect you, and help you out in a fix. You’re a guest in their country, and for most, it’s a matter of pride that you remain safe and healthy. I’ve been to several of the world’s most dangerous cities, and never had a problem. Am I lucky? Perhaps, but I like to think that using common sense protects me. I research and ask where NOT to go, carry a minimal amount of cash, have all my details backed up online in case I need to cancel cards, and carry myself with confidence. Those travelling alone know it’s sometimes safer to connect with other travellers, and avoid getting into uncomfortable situations with strangers. Crime is a pest. Common sense is the repellent. Should you get bit, humour and perspective is the antidote.
Terrorism: “What if I get attacked?”
Even if you avoid hot spots, you are never 100% guaranteed of safety. 99.9% is probably more accurate. If you're steering clear of hot spots, the chances of getting caught in a terrorist attack are ridiculously slim, but fear has no respect for statistics. Calm yourself by researching your destination, avoiding known zones of conflict (maybe leave Syria for another year), and knowing that, depending on your destination, you’ve probably got a greater threat from falling coconuts.
Natural Disaster: “What if there’s an earthquake?”
Earthquake, Mudslide, Hurricane, and the one that really brought it home for tourists, Tsunami. Natural disasters are impossible to predict and devastating in their impact. You can limit risks by skirting relevant destinations during hurricane season, but there’s not much you can do if a tectonic plate decides to drop off the shelf. The Earth ticks according to a very, very slow watch. Could it happen? Yes. Will it. No. If you’re particularly nervous, brush up on some safety and first aid. Nervous people carry a lot of baggage - the sky is forever falling on their heads. No matter how much you carry in your suitcase, the most important things to pack are positive thought, and an open mind to experience.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.