My strange and slightly scary experience of coming face to face with a half naked man while on my holiday really got my cogs turning; travel blogs are often so positive about experiences and while this is predominately the case, I do feel that we all look back in hindsight with rose-tinted glasses (I know I do!). While I was showering on the final morning of my holiday (where most creative thoughts tend to be founded), I thought about all the negative things that I have experienced while travelling and as despressing as that is to think about, I think it is really important to realise that travel is not always a walk in the park. I have therefore put together 10 negative things that I have experienced during my travels and how you can best prepare yourself; you know – just incase.
1. Culture Shock: When you first start travelling everything is amazing, and I mean everything. It’s exciting, exhilarating and different. However give it a couple of weeks and some days that new culture you found so brilliant may start to get you down. Whether it’s the food, missing creature comforts or the language barrier, most people will experience culture shock at some point during their lives and I think this is almost certain to happen when travelling for a long time or living abroad. While I loved backpacking in Thailand, the country took a lot of getting used to. My advice would be to take something familiar to remind you of home, keep in contact with family and friends if you’re struggling and even use international brands for a bit of familiarity; while Costa might not count as embracing the backpacking experience, one trip for that familiar vanilla latte might just do the trick.
2. Language Barriers: I find language barriers really frustrating; not because people can’t understand me, but more because I cannot understand them. I have never been good at languages and I think the UK education system is really lazy when it comes to teaching them. I only began learning another language at the age of 11 and by the end of secondary school all I could say was ‘Hello, I like to play sport, I live in a big house and I have a black cat’ – hardly vocab that will get me far when lost. I’ve always said if I could have one wish it would be to be fluent in every language of the world; wouldn’t that be the dream?! Always take a couple of phrase books with you or get some apps on your phone to learn the basics before you leave. Your hard work will be appreciated and rewarded.
3. Stranger Danger: Individuals such as the Willy Man as I have so aptly called him are few and far between, but every so often something will scare you and all of a sudden your adventure will feel a bit tainted. During my travels I have felt intimidated and scared by certain situations and wherever you are in the world, there will always be a stranger who makes you feel unsettled. Make sure you always have your wits about you, do not walk home alone at night and go with your gut instinct; it’s nearly always right.
4. Fraud & Theft: In Thailand an ATM swallowed my bank card and in Eastern Europe my debit card got cloned and therefore blocked. Nothing is ever plain sailing and I know so many people who have had bags, phones, money and passports stolen. While it sounds very boring, use safes for valuables where available, if you’re sleeping in a shared dorm keep your luggage close and always have a hand on your bag; someone I travelled with was dragged down a street by a motorbike when someone grabbed her satchel. When it comes to debit cards try to use ATMs inside of banks where possible and if anything looks out of sorts find somewhere else. I knew in my heart of hearts the ATM I used in a Croatian train station was dodgy and I have no idea what made me go through with that transaction.
5. Travel Companions: You may have been able to spend a week in the South of France with your best friend, but months of intense travel, long journeys and lack of sleep is bound to test even the strongest of relationships. Make sure you go away with someone you think you can spend all your time with without wanting to kill them and remember it’s ok to have time apart; even if it’s just for a day or two. Most importantly don’t stay with someone on a trip if you’re miserable, chances are you’ve saved up for this moment for a long time and it really isn’t worth hating your life for the entire time just because you don’t want to upset a friend.
6. The Best Laid Plans: … Never go the way you thought they would. You could plan your trip down to the last tiny detail and I guarantee there will still be something that goes wrong. Be prepared that something unexpected will happen and try to take it in your stride; sometimes a disaster actually means that you discover something you wouldn’t normally experience. Good can come out of any situation you just need to know where to look.
7. Natural Disasters & Terrorism: While very rare and horrifyingly tragic, it is something to be aware of. While I have never experienced either while travelling, one of my friends was in Nepal when the recent earthquake happened. Keep your wits about you, check government advice for the country you’re visiting and stay away from public demonstration and disturbance. If you see anything strange or suspicious raise it with tourist police or someone else of authority.
8. Injury & Sickness: I think we have all had this one. You fall over after a couple of drinks and graze your knees, you eat a weird seafood that had probably seen better days or you get dared to eat a bug from a market stall. Whether it’s diarrhoea, a physical injury or sunstroke, an illness or injury can make you feel ready to go straight home back to your mum. Always take a first aid kit with you that is packed out for all the essentials including plasters, bandages, Imodium and painkillers and know the basics about the country you are in e.g where is the nearest hospital, how easy is it for foreigners to get treatment and what are the country’s emergency numbers?
9. Visas & Borders: Also a bit of a tricky one. We have been very lucky (up until recently that is) to be part of the EU and therefore us Brits get very used to being able to enter countries without much hassle. Therefore sometimes going outside of the EU causes us to stress out about what Visas we might need. For this always plan in advance. Look at official government advice and make sure you leave enough time to get the visa you want. As for borders, not all borders are busy and you may have more issues entering through some more than others. Again look at advice and make sure you know the best crossing for your trip; avoiding any dangerous areas.
10. Transport: Transport is a hard one. When travelling we often rely on public transport and while some countries have it done to a fine art, others (the UK sometimes included) leave a lot to be desired. My advice would be to always have a backup. If you plan to go by train make sure you also know where the bus station is and vice versa. Make sure you travel with reputable and licensed taxis and be aware of anything that seems amiss. If ordering mopeds make sure you are prepared for the roads that you’ll be navigating; Vietnam and Thailands roads are scary – watch Top Gear if you don’t believe me! And always make sure you wear safety equipment; falling off a bike can break bones or worse!
If you’ve got to the end of this post well done because it was longgggg! Travelling is one of the best things in the world and you should never be put off by any of the above; however like anything backpacking isn’t always easy there will be negatives. But if you prepare for these the best you can, they should be water off a duck’s back.