Risks of Travelling
Traveling is riskier than staying at home and watching TV (for the short term only). Yet, traveling will give you unparalleled moments of joy and the risks can be managed with some preparation and the right mindset. We will now go over the major risks you can encounter while traveling and some of the ways you can mitigate those risks.
Theft and Losing your belongings
Travelling involves carrying all your belongings with you while moving from one place to another, or staying in random accommodation options. This greatly increases the chances of theft and losing your belongings. The best advice to mitigate risk is to be minimalist, and take only what you need with you. Every valuable you carry that is not needed brings pressure and attachment – you’ll always be thinking of how to secure it instead of just going to the beach and taking a swim. Not to mention that travelling light is also fun. Granted, digital nomads need some valuables they can’t do without (laptop, camera, passport, etc.) and safeguarding those things is necessary. Find the right balance between not being paranoid and not being careless and over-trusting.This balance also depends on where you are since the level of risk changes in each country. Try gaining information on the level of risk and most common theft/scam methods where you are, prepare yourself accordingly.
- Violent crime. This is more severe and rarer than theft, and happens more in developing countries (developed countries are more prone to petty theft). The best advice if you are unlucky enough to be in a situation of violent crime is to understand that your life is worth a lot more than what you carry with you, so don’t resist unless it’s your only way out. Reduce risk by avoiding problematic locations (gain info beforehand on where is safe). Also, don’t look clueless – signal that know where you’re going, tourists (especially drunk ones) are considered easy and lucrative targets. It is also important not to flaunt your valuables, and use them only when necessary in safe locations. The most important advice here would be to trust your intuition. If a place doesn’t feel good, spend money on taxi or new environment and get out. As the saying goes, “if you’re looking for trouble, trouble will find you”.
- Health risk. Usually we’re only aware of our health when it deteriorates, and health issues away from home are more challenging since you are alone out of your comfort zone. Firstly, before traveling (especially if you’re going to developing countries) visit your doctor, ask about your destination’s specific health risks and get some emergency medicine for common scenarios. Developing countries often lack quality medications or circulate counterfeited medicine you don’t want to use. Also, getting travel insurance will cover your treatment financially until you get to your country. It’s inexpensive and worth the trouble, but be sure to read the small print to see that it covers most scenarios. When problems start, and if your health deteriorates, get some info about the best hospitals and clinics where you are. Some hospitals countries can be of poor quality, so if you are covered with travel insurance, it’s always worth choosing the best place.
- Transportation. Using transportation exposes us to the risk of accidents, especially in developing countries. If you’re in a place with heightened risk (Peru, for an example, is known to have many deadly bus accidents), I recommend spending a bit more on a good bus company or airline. When the ride is long and risky, I try to sit in the middle of the bus on an aisle seat in the right side since those seats are proven to be the safest in case of an accident. Additionally, using motorcycles is a notorious risk; try to avoid them in places that have a lot of traffic.
- Border controls and visa issues. First,an aside about problematic possessions and drugs. If you ever have them, don’t carry them while crossing a border. But even if you stay clear of problems, some border control can prove to be quite frustrating (I have had two incidents in Hungary and Bolivia that ended with deportation and long delay). If incidents happen, keep cool and don’t lose your temper since this will only make things worse. It is important to check the visa laws applicable to your country before traveling, so invest time in research to avoid problems. Keep your passport safe and in good shape since neglected passport screams fake and a lost passport is truly a hassle that you want to avoid.
- Problems at home. There can be problems with family’s health, bureaucracy and so on that are difficult to deal with when you are far away. Mitigate those risks by creating open channels of communication with home to make sure that if something happens, you’ll get the news as soon as possible. It is also recommended to jump back to your homebase every now and then to sort your stuff out, before moving to the next destination.
- Losing your sanity. There are cases of people traveling for a long time that get disconnected from themselves and society. This usually happens when you change places not for the right reasons, killing time instead of exploring new places, or running away from something (or from yourself, which doesn’t really work). Older travelers are more prone to this since they find it harder to meet and connect with other travelers and locals. My advice would be, don’t disconnect. Investing time in meeting and interacting with people in addition to having clear goals to accomplish while travelling keeps you happy and sane.
Now, hit the road!
An audio version of this post is available below: