I love to travel, don't get me wrong, but I have a bit of a fear about traveling outside of the country. I know that may seem silly but I didn't even take my first plane ride till I was 21 and have never been outside of the US other than a boat trip to Victoria Canada (which was awesome). I have heard other peoples horror stories and it just kind of scared me away from visiting a lot of places. Ireland, Greece, Australia, Italy and of course Amsterdam are the only places really left on the list. But if I somehow won a free trip anywhere else I would go without hesitation... ok maybe not anywhere, the list of places I have no interest in is fairly long.
What Tom said.
Do not listen to Tom or mr york. People outside of the USA hate you and will do everything in their power to rape and kill you.
I can understand about hearing horror stories and worrying about things going wrong. It's true that every once in a while, some traveler is going to have a horrendous experience and then be very vocal about telling everyone how bad it was.
But I also think that 90% of the time, those horror stories simply come down to folks not doing research, being dumb, and not having proper expectations. Yes, you might get pick-pocketed in Rome, and it might suck, but as long as you're only carrying around a minimal amount of cash and not your passport and social security card and every credit card you own, it's not going to be the end of the world. Yes, you might end up staying at a hotel that has bedbugs, but if you're smart then you know enough to at least get moved into a new room or even better find a new hotel the very next morning and then request a refund plus the cost the expense of any medical care received. Most of the time, even bad situations can be remedied with a few proactive steps.
I fully agree with Courtney's post about "horror stories." There are also some people who are just going to be miserable anywhere. I have traveled with friends whose experience on the same trip was so different than mine that it was like they took a different vacation than I did.
Read up on where you're going, make sure you understand the city/area in terms of cost, relative crime, and standards of service/accommodations. Adjust your expectations accordingly before you leave. It seems like most people who have a really bad time have gone into an international trip thinking everything will be exactly as it is in their hometown -- and wanting it to be. Why would anyone travel if it were identical to home?
I really can't believe how many people complain about locals in the countries they visit -- whether they're complaining of the people being rude, ignoring them, not speaking english... I have had ONE person ever be rude to me when I traveled, it was an isolated situation and doesn't cancel out all the people who went far out of their way to help me as I traveled.
A lot of bad shit happens in this country, too, so you better just not leave the house to be safe.
It isn't so much the mugging, raping and killing that frightens me, that can happen anywhere, its more the weird foods, not speaking the language, getting lost, sharing a bathroom with a whole floor of people type things that creeps me out a bit.
Courtney's right...people that have issues are the people that travel dumb-even when they're traveling in their own country. Don't get me wrong, I won't be traveling to Iraq any time soon. But if you're aware of what you're doing and make a small effort to learn some of the language, you'll be fine. Do tons of research, carry a translater, put your money in a neck wallet (they look stupid, but if you tuck them under your shirt, your money is safer there than anywhere else).
Eating weird foods? YAY. This is part of why I travel -- getting to experience new things. And I might not like all of it, but I might also find a new favorite.
Not speaking the language? Sure, it can sometimes be frustrating not to be able to communicate everything, but learning a few key phrases and then using hand gestures and smiling a lot can do wonders. I enjoy the blissfully ignorant sensation of sitting in the middle of a crowded bar or public bus and being able to completely tune out all the overlapping conversations because I can't understand a word of them. Although honestly, English is so prevalent that unless you're traveling to Mongolia or the rural Peruvian Andes, everyone speaks it anyway.
Getting lost? I do this intentionally all the time, whether I'm in Los Angeles or London. Sometimes you discover the coolest stuff when you're lost. Wandering without worrying about directions gives you the freedom to really look and explore. And once you need to figure out where you are, it's as simple as just pulling out a map and walking into a nearby shop and asking them to point to where you are.
Sharing a bathroom? Yes, this is going to happen if you stay at certain types of European-style B&Bs, or youth hostels. But if I've researched the hotel and decided it's where I want to stay, generally that's because I want a communal experience so I can hang out and meet fellow travelers and swap stories and tips (and usually drool at hot Australian and German travelers). But I also make darn sure that the reviews online say that the hotel is clean and well-maintained to prevent shared bathroom grossness. And if I want my own private bathroom, I just don't stay at this type of hotel.
Last edited by Courtney; 10-28-2009 at 09:08 AM.
oh and audra here's a related story that might make traveling in europe less intimidating.
This happened twice this summer: once in Germany (at Berchtesgaden) and again in Austria (in the Wachau valley). Parking lots where you park and then go put money in a machine to buy a pass and put the pass on your dashboard. Both times, we park, get out of the car, and are approached by folks babbling in German; I give them my "Ich sprech nicht Deutsch"; we switch to English; and then they give me their parking pass so I don't have to pay.
one amazing thing to do is go to see a performance right below the acropolis. i was leaving the area at one point and just sat down outside the venue, the theater of herod atticus, which was built by the romans in 161 AD. the parthenon was brightly lit above with a full moon in the sky. it was an amazing moment to sit and reflect on the history of that area.
Last edited by JustSteve; 10-28-2009 at 09:58 AM.
The best part of traveling abroad is the unknown - the adventure. Yes the potential for "bad" things is always there, but if you travel smart you can avoid most. Loca, don't be afraid - branch out and experience the world. It can be scary, but it is usually the most wondrous thing to explore.
I have my taveling horror stories, but they are far outweighed by the incredible, magnificent, and just plain fucking fun stories.
My mother doesn't leave a 3 mile radius of her house without some serious anxiety. I am a little better than that but most of my traveling has either been for work, which means they make all the arrangements and I pretty much just show up, or with my sister and she made all the arrangements and I pretty much just showed up. The only trips I have taken alone where I had to be the responsible person has been to Cali, which I have gotten the hang of but the first time I was very lost. I am directionally challenged you see, which in Phoenix is not a big deal because everything is on a grid, but when I am out of that comfort zone... xanax is needed. I couldn't get on the subway in NYC without it.
I just need to find some traveling/drinking partners to go with me and I will be find. One of these days I will get out of my little west coast world.
Hrm. My experience is that not everyone speaks English, but they will try gladly try if you are not rude and demanding. Appearing apologetic that you do not speak the local language is enough to make people try to help you understand.
loca, if anyone should be weird about eating foreign foods without fully understanding what you're getting, it's me. There are a half a dozen foods that literally can kill me with a small bite. There are food and dining specific pocket dictionaries. If you're that worried about it, get one, you can translate the menu, and if there is specific stuff you do not want you can look it up, write it on a note card and show the waiter.
What should I do in la to kill a few hours?
Go to the Hammer in Westwood and check out R. Crumb's bizarre take on the Old Testament.
Just kickin it for the weekend Disneyland and probably get into trouble tomorrow night. Hoping to find something better than hhm tomorrow night.
Amobea Venice and weed all sound like a great idea for the afternoon. Tanks for the suggestions.