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How not to die when travelling

18th December 2010

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Nathan Millward1. Go with the flow
The temptation when travelling, especially if it’s your first time, is to try and plan everything in advance. Things however never, or rarely go to plan. Plans always go wrong or have to change, it’s the nature of travelling, so instead of having a fixed schedule which you try to stick to religiously, have an idea of the options so you can be flexible. Most of all, don’t worry or panic, just go with the flow.

2. Don’t be afraid of the locals.
It’s meeting the people of the country that makes your trip. I travelled some miles on my motorbike, almost 23,000, and I can remember not more than half a dozen people that weren’t welcoming. Be gracious, humble and treat them right and you’ll be just fine.

3. Back down
That said, don’t be afraid to back down in a confrontation. You can’t win every battle when you‘re travelling. At some point you’ll be ripped off, tricked, conned. But forget about it, move on, learn your lesson. It can be frustrating dealing with embassies, tour guides, taxi drivers, but take it with a pinch of salt. Above all else, trust your instincts. Do what feels right.

4. Be wary of ‘deals’
As a general rule, if someone approaches you offering something for sale, be wary. I found this especially true in India where so many people are trying to sell you something and more often than not it would be overpriced or a scam. If you want something, do your research, know what it should cost, and then go directly to the shop/agent/drug dealer…

5. Be careful with drugs.
They’re commonplace on the travelling circuit, people become blasé, which to me is daft given how severe some of the punishments are in places like Indonesia and Malaysia. Here, it’ll be a long prison sentence, in other countries a heavy bribe (or baksheesh). It’s not uncommon to hear whispers of people going missing after meeting the wrong dealer.

7. Ignore the travel guides
Travel guides are useful, especially for your first time away. But it’s easy to slip into a routine of following them religiously. Try and find your own restaurants and places to stay. Discovering new things is part of the charm of travelling. This can be quite daunting at first, but it gets easier.

8. Have a back up fund
Access to back up funds is essential. Sometimes bank cards get blocked and no place will change your travellers cheques. I always carried a stash of American dollars just in case. Money transfer agencies such as Western Union are good for getting emergency money sent from home because the reality is that as long as you’ve got some money in your pocket you’ll be just fine.

9. Stick it Out
The biggest battle often is the one with yourself. Travelling can be boring, lonely, frustrating, and, after so much build up, quite a disappointment. There’ll be times when you want catch the first flight home and I think that’s natural. Try and stick it out, give it a go, but the reality is it might not be for you, and that’s just the way it is. But that you gave it a go in the first thing is the main thing. Equally, don’t worry about what you’re going to do when you get home. It’ll only ruin your experience if your mind is on that.

10. Last thing; do take out travel insurance.
There’s been too many stories of Brits in Thai hospitals with no insurance to bring them home. You might not need it, and if you travel to a country advised against by the Foreign Commonwealth Office ( it won’t be valid anyway, but other than a toothbrush and a penknife for cutting mangos, I can’t think of anything more essential.

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