Safety and Health

Safety is a huge concern of course with any traveling.

Let me just write a disclaimer: I am not an expert, I probably don’t know the best way to deal with your safety. These are just my suggestions based on my own experience. You should be responsible for your own safety and make your own best judgements on how to handle situations.

Scams – If anyone offers you some kind of amazing deal, always be suspicious. And be EXTREMELY suspicious if someone wants to pay you for some kind of job. Never give your bank account or credit card number out to anyone. Take a glance at what the common scams are in the country you are visiting so you have an idea of what to look out for (Tea rituals, diamond exporting, “I know where you got your shoes”, etc)

Pickpockets – Keep your passport and wallet somewhere that will be more difficult for pickpockets to take. Get in the habit of checking your pockets every time you are leaving somewhere (hostel, restaurant, market, etc). If you’re in a crowded marketplace with people bumping up against you, maybe even keep your hand on your important things, or put them in a more secure pocket.

Don’t be paranoid – At the same time, try not to be a paranoid maniac about this. It’s not worth the stress. It also makes local people very uncomfortable around you if you’re constantly suspicious of them. There’s a balance somewhere that you’ll have to feel out.

Expect it – Things being stolen is not just part of traveling, it’s a part of life. And honestly, some of the best stories I’ve gotten out of traveling were the ones when I had to deal with tragedy.

Reaction – If you get scammed or robbed, it’s reasonable to have a 5 minute panic attack, then you should calm down. Assess the situation. Don’t be afraid to get authorities involved, but depending on where you are don’t expect much effort on their part. Most of the time they can’t do much about it. Most importantly, try to look at the experience from a larger perspective. Things can be replaced. Passports can be ordered at embassies. Money can be earned again. Hopefully you weren’t hurt. And very hopefully you have friends and family that are willing to help.

Sexual Abuse – I am in no way qualified to talk about this situation, but I can give you my opinion. Unlike having things stolen, this is something you should not expect to happen, but you should be prepared to defend yourself. It is unacceptable. If you are in any way sexually abused, then you really need to force the matter and take it as far as you can with authorities. There will be a lot of resistance, especially depending on which country you are in. I’ve heard from some people that really have difficulties with this, but just letting the matter go is not the right solution. I do not know much since I’ve never been in the situation myself. Be careful if you are a woman in India during the Holi festival.

Drugs – Just avoid drugs altogether. Maybe I’m bias since I don’t do them, but really, you should be having an awesome time traveling without drugs. It’s a huge risk, and makes you an extremely susceptible target for being robbed and/or sexually abused. If you have to, only do this with people you have complete confidence and trust in.

  • Drinking is a complicated matter though. It’s a huge social activity and you will probably be a bit of a stranger if you don’t participate. I think it’s great to drink with people, but in moderation. Don’t get blackout drunk, it’s not going to be fun. But getting drunk can be fun, and lead to some crazy stories. Just be responsible.

Food Poisoning and Sickness – I’m a bit of a strange case, since I spent two years in Asia and only got food poisoning twice (once in Hpa-An, Myanmar and once in Varanasi, India). But I think a very important part of getting me to such a state was constant exposure to germs, and giving my immune system something to consistently fight and build itself up with. I ate street food quite often, as well as brushed my teeth with the tap water. After a while, I was able to drink the water they served me in shady dark restaurants and not be affected. This will help you in the long run. But don’t take food poisoning lightly – people have died from it and it can be very serious.

Immunizations – They are a bitch to get, and cost a whole lot of money, but I suppose it’s better to get them and deal with it rather than deal with the consequences. It will require a lot of research to figure out which ones you need, but there are special travel doctors that will help with that.

Malaria – This is a very controversial topic that I could talk about for a good 30 minutes. Honestly, if you’re not in Africa, and not in some Heart of Darkness scenario, there is not a big enough chance that you will get Malaria, and the side effects of the drugs are just not worth taking the pills. And the expensive ones seem like way too much of a cut into your budget to be worth taking, especially considering the risk. This should eventually be your decision, but I don’t know anyone personally who has gotten malaria in Asia. Africa is another matter…

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