Traveling to many people seems scary. In fact, I used to be nervous about all sorts of things. People have tried to put the fear in me about driving in a foreign country, walking around at night, getting pick-pocketed, losing my passport and a slew of other things. I have decided to write about all the things I’m not scared about (and why) when it comes to traveling. You can call me naive or ignorant, but here’s my honest opinion about things I’m not worried about.
1. Not speaking the common language in a foreign country. I’ve visited 15 countries now, and only 6 spoke predominately English (and 2 spoke “English”… meaning I still had to figure out what they were saying with the different accent.) Which means that 9 spoke languages that I don’t speak. Yes, it’s challenging, but that doesn’t deter me. You can get away with smiling and at least trying. Yes, we’ve had a few challenges, but nothing that would cause me to not visit a country. The worst that happens is that you don’t understand what someone is saying and you have to find a translator app. That’s the worst…
2. Getting pick-pocketed. We don’t carry anything that valuable. I don’t value money or objects that much anyways, but if I have something I cherish, it stays home. Jared hides our passports on him where it’s safe, and our pockets are filled with just a day’s worth of cash. If someone needs money that bad, they can have it. The worst that happens is I’m out $100, and let me tell you, I’ve been out $100s that I wasn’t expecting all the time at home. Try getting a bill in the mail I forgot about, needing to fix something on my car, fixing our bathroom mold problem, going over on my cell phone data, etc. etc.
3. Walking around at night when the “crips and bloods” are out. OK, every city has sketchy parts. When we were in Ecuador, the taxi driver was driving us around and when we drove up to one town, he reached around his seat to lock the back door. At first it startled me, but then he just sort of shrugged and said “Just safe.” I mean, he was taking precautions with us gringos in the car. However, even that wouldn’t stop me from visiting there again. So there are “scary people” out. I don’t have anything they want (unless they’re dying for a Lonely Planet guidebook or CO Bigelow’s Rose Salve), and if they just want to make trouble, I will run. I’ve taken self-defensive courses, I know to be aware of my surroundings and get out of a situation that looks like it’s not going to be good. If you’re aware of where you are and whose around you, you can leave if need be. I’m not saying this means I can’t be shot or mugged or any number of other horrible things. I am saying, if you’re aware and take some precautions, the risk isn’t high enough to deter me.
4. Driving in a foreign country. Granted, my husband does the driving. However, he reads all the road rules ahead of time, and asks a lot of questions. He reads up on the words on the signs so he knows what “STOP” means in Spanish or German. Driving in Europe is basically the same as here (at least where we’ve been). There are Burger Kings and McDonalds at the rest stops, toll roads and pot holes. Driving in South America was interesting; lots of dirt roads and no signage, but nonetheless the gas stations are basically the same. Mexico and Canada didn’t feel any different than here, to me. My point is, it’s no more dangerous or less dangerous than driving here. (We have not driven in Asia, so check back with me later after I’ve tackled that one. I might change my mind… )
5. Dying in a plane crash. OK, recent news aside of the poor man on United, airplanes are still safer than cars, buses, trains and motorcycles. According to The Week, the odds are 1 in 11 million that you’ll die in a plane crash; 1 in 5,000 that you’ll die in a car crash. This means I’m more likely to die on my way to the airport than I am flying. That puts things in perspective.
6. Losing my passport, ID and/or credit cards. Hey, good news! You can get an emergency passport at a US Embassy in as little as 24 hours. You do need a few things (like your driver’s license or birth certificate) This is why I recommend scanning those documents and putting them on a Flashdrive or Google drive. Then you’ll have electronic copies of everything that can be shown anywhere in the world. It sounds more like a royal pain in the butt than it is scary. I mean, I’ve had credit cards stolen and my entire purse stolen, and replacing everything is a pain. But, contrary to what you may have seen in movies or TV, you’re not “stuck there forever.” I’d like to not have to deal with all of this, but if it happens, I’m sure it will be a great blog post for when I get home.
7. Getting lost. We’ve been lost like 100 times. It’s not “scary”. It’s irritating… but it’s not scary. Google maps on your phone works anywhere in the world if you pay a little extra. Sometimes, getting lost can actually be fun. You may find somewhere you weren’t expecting or explore some untouched area of the city. Instead of it being scary, it could be a fun adventure! (Or it would be seriously annoying and make you late to an important appointment!)
8. Getting “locked up abroad.” NY Times writer said something interesting about these types of shows: “There is nothing quite as hypnotic as a travel show that suggests it’s better to stay home.” Yes, people have gotten locked up abroad. Sometimes it’s because they were involved in some drugs or illegal activity; sometimes it’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, these are the extreme cases. Millions of people travel every year and don’t find themselves in the middle of a foreign cocaine deal. Seriously… I will take my chances with this because I think I’m more likely to die in a plane crash than get locked up abroad.
9. Using public transportation. I’ve actually been mean-mugged and stared at on public transportation. I’ve also traveled with all my bags on busy trains in Germany, DC, NYC, Rome, Paris, etc. There are all sorts of people that ride public transportation; not just “scary people”. I actually love public transportation. I love to people-watch, so what better place than public transportation? If you know where you’re going, you can get on and off in a jiffy with minimal hassle. I’ve never been scared for my life, although I have been uncomfortable by some of the looks I’ve gotten by people.
10. Contracting sicknesses and diseases. I remember the first time I saw the check mark on the reentry form that says to check if you’ve been around livestock. I remember thinking how ridiculous and funny that was. I also remember the first time I checked it to say that I had definitely been around livestock (touched it too!) I had to have my shoes and bags “disinfected” in case I was bringing back any “diseases.” I know that diseases are real, and people have contracted all sorts of things from travel. I’m not saying it’s not a possibility, because it absolutely is. I actually just learned my great grandmother was a missionary in the Philippines in the 1920s and contracted malaria. So it’s definitely not something I would “take lightly”. However, I’ve also gotten plenty of sicknesses in the states (MRSA is very painful as I’ve had this). I wouldn’t not travel somewhere because of this, but I would take some necessary precautions. Sometimes you might need some additional shots or medicines, and be careful about not drinking the water in places, but I can plan and prepare for that. I can use bottled water, and I have.
11. Nature. I love being in all kinds of nature, terrain and weather. Yes, there are natural disasters, animals and all sorts of threats. I’ve been bitten by a sea lion, but I would still get back in the ocean. I’ve been on the edges of cliffs and felt the scare of falling, but I love that. Weather can be scary, but you can prepare. You can make adjustments if the danger is great. (I’m not going to go kayaking when it’s lightening.) I’m not trying to put myself in any danger if I can help it, but some risk is to be expected. Being aware there are risks means that you can be somewhat prepared. It doesn’t mean I have to avoid it all together.
Like I said, maybe I’m naive and should be more worried about these things, but I’ve continued to travel regardless and I would much rather take the risks than stay at home because something “might” happen. I’m not interested in being Bubble Boy.
How about you? What aren’t you worried about when you travel?