People telling you its not a good plan? Torn between that exciting trip, that journey of a lifetime, and that niggling feeling behind your left eyebrow that it could all just go horribly wrong?
Well firstly give your eyebrow an itch. And then, provided it still niggles, have a read of this. Because being scared is GOOD. Its normal, and it means that you understand the full impactions of getting out of your life’s familiar bubble and living a bit more on the edge.
I met a guy once who may as well have had no eyebrows – he was so confident it scared me! We met in Rajasthan, India, in a backpackers’ hostel common room, and the thing that frightened me about his attitude was that he honestly had no idea.
He was in a country so diverse and unpredictable, so different from his own, and he was swanning about like he had known the place since birth! I won’t go into details, but A ended up leaving India a month earlier than he’d planned because this attitude got him into a lot of trouble.
Guys, being scared is a good thing. Being cautious is useful, nervous, frightened even – they’re all feelings which mean that you get it. And you can use them to your advantage.
The key is to take that niggly brow and channel it into productive precaution taking. You don’t feel safe? Then take steps to change it. Let me take you through a few that I use every single time I am about to go away.
People tell me I’m mad all the time – actually when I went to India the second time last year about 1 in 10 of my friends and family were convinced I’d never come back. Hypochondriacs! And you know what?
At the end of the day its not their research, its not their interest, and its not their trip…
1. Its your research.
Safety concerns are real and legitimate and you have got to do your research before you go anywhere. There. Simple as that.
And let me be clear here – it is YOUR research. If you want to go somewhere then you need to find out about the political, social and economic situation of that place, and the appropriateness of your travelling there right now.
So! Here are some helpful ways to get going with research…
– Lonely-planet it! These guys have information about the exchange rate, culture and relative safety of so many of this world’s incredible list of destinations, and their online catalogue is a great place to start.
– What does your government say? In Australia we have a website run by the government with direct advise as to the safety of certain places at the current time. Before I plan any trip I will visit this website and assess the situation.
– What does the media say? Yes, so the media is known for its shit stirring, but you know what there is no smoke without a fire. Check out the current affairs of your proposed destination, and then test them against other resources such as government websites and travel blogs
– Which leads me to my next point…ask someone! I will always be here to help where I can and I’d love to hear from you (email me from the form at the bottom of this page, or leave a comment), but obviously there are many cluey veterans out there who could also be of excellent use.
– Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet forums. Check out some of the questions of other travellers, join the community, and get involved! Don’t get too lost in other peoples’ opinions though – remember this is YOUR research, and their posts are useful only as objective examples of other peoples’ experiences. Perhaps its just an issue of personality. Would the same thing apply to you? Are you that sort of person?
2. Its your interest.
So, apart from anything else… Do you actually want to go?
Forget other peoples’ expectations, the fact that you’ve booked your flights already, that you’re meeting a friend in Cambodia, and just be honest with yourself for a second. Do you?
If not, then great now you know and you can either work on your attitude or work on cancelling. If so, then blooming well sit down right now, with a pen and paper, and write down all the reasons for that desire to go!
Perhaps you want to go to a particular place, or perhaps you just want to get out there. Perhaps you want to see a certain thing, challenge yourself in a certain way, meet a certain person, etc.
Whatever the reasons for going on this trip write them down, and then keep that paper as a list of rebuttals for all those eyebrow niggling doubts! It is YOUR interest. So the only reasons you should/shouldn’t go are your own.
3. Its your trip.
Finally, this is your adventure so it is up to you to take precautions and plan certain things before you go, which will make it a smasher and not an absolute nightmare.
– Type up a document with the following contacts on it, print a copy for yourself and leave a copy with a friend/family member.
– Register your travels with your government. Even a rough guide of the country you’re starting in and where you might end up is useful, it just means that you have another line to call on if you get into trouble.
– Buy travel insurance. I do not travel without it. My best friend snapped her ankle in Vietnam last year and without travel insurance she probably wouldn’t have been able to come home for the operation.
She may not have been able to pay for any medical attention at all, and she would have been alone and scared in a strange hospital at a time when she most needed support.
– Be vaccinated! What vaccines do you need? This site has comprehensive lists and advice for most countries, but it’s also a great plan to get to your local GP or the travel doctor and ask them in person.
From the persecutive of someone who fell ill three times on her last trip, was tested for malaria and JE and (thank god) came out negative, it is imperative that you don’t leave your country without being properly inoculated first. That is just not a logical risk to take.
– Book your first night. Trip advisor is my first point of call for all accommodation searching, short of word of mouth. When you’re on the road get into the habit of taking the hotel card of places you like so you can pass it on to people you meet, and likewise ask your fellow travellers where they would recommend!
Nothing better than finding a brilliant little hole in the wall somewhere… Some hostels/hotels provide airport pickup which, especially for late or very early arrivals, is a very good thing.
I was in Delhi at 1:30am on my last trip due to a poorly planned train-flight connection, and I needed to get to the airport. There were no government taxis, and we ended up in a rickety old thing, soaring through the smoggy city at 100km faster than a tuktuk should ever go, winding round massive trucks and whistling through blurry intersections.
I was frozen! And at that point of ‘scared’ at which you forget you’re frightened and start planning for an early grave. If you can plan it before you get there, do it.
So! With all that under your belt I suggest you shave off those eyebrows and draw on some new ones, or something…
Because being nervous is good, but doing nothing about it is not! Safe trip, and stop worrying – get excited. This will be amazing.