Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Traveling somewhere?

The adventurous spirit craves and desires the experiences traveling to new and un-marked territory can give it.

As a seasoned traveler, I cannot say there is anything better than a trip to the unknown with the feeling of freedom it offers. Catching a plane to Valetta, taking the train to Vienna, seeing new towns and cities like Lima and Pisco, stepping onto the streets you’ve only ever read about in books in Venice, admiring your favorite artist's original paintings in the Albertina, sipping a cup of coffee in the square of Zagreb, taking a stroll on the beach in Almunecar.

It all sounds so romantic, but one little mistake could make it all not so grand.
Travel for singles can be fun, but without the right precautions it can turn into their worst nightmare.

While single men run into less dangers than a single female would traveling, it's important to remember that almost anyone who is not alert and aware of their surroundings can be taken advantage of in some form or other.

For the most part I have always been very alert and cautious in all my travels, and made decisions that in several cases prevented terrible things from happening. However, I also made some mistakes that made some of my trips not so fun, and even a bit dangerous.
A valuable lesson I learned the hard way taught me that while it seems like a good idea to go with friends who are originally from the country you are traveling to, it's never a good idea to travel with them when you don’t know them as well as you think you did (making you trust them entirely too much), and it's best not to depend on their reassurances of the hospitality of their family. You are better off making all the plans yourself and insuring that you can get fed properly and taken care of at all times on your own.

Never take anyone’s word for granted and never expect them to hold to any of their words, always prepare for the worst. While sometimes, people go above and beyond and over take care of you while visiting, this is something you can never totally depend on. It's best to plan on buying all your meals out, and it's not a bad idea to insure a good hotel room at a hotel in a good part of town; this gives you more freedom, and you know exactly what kind of place you will be staying in ahead of time, rather than being unpleasantly surprised.

While my situation was not as extreme, because I did not stay as long with the family I visited, Jonathan McCullum’s story certainly drives this point home:

Jonathan McCullum's parents said the exchange program should have warned
them that students placed with Coptic families would be subject to dietary

It's always important to know what sort of situation you are putting yourself in before you go, and always be sure to bring enough money to take care of yourself at all times.

If you choose to go on the cheap and do it backpack style, it's more than likely that you will have been mentally preparing yourself for it, and will not be expecting the safest place or cleanest places to stay. It's very important that you are mentally and emotionally prepared ahead of time for where you will be staying. If you are not completely aware and ready, than you will come unprepared. This is why, again, it is never a good idea to depend upon the word of anyone whom you might stay with. Also, if you put yourself in a situation where you go with a friend who already has friends and family from the place you intend to visit, they will expect you to hang out with them and their friends, and will most likely not want to go see sites or museums. Its very dangerous to visit sites by yourself, and you can’t assume anyone hosting you to also want to see the things they grew up around. I speak from experience, and while some hosts are very kind and offer to accompany you on such trips, you can never always depend on that.

This is where having someone who is a close friend or family member that has also never traveled there can be a great benefit. When you want to see new things, its always so much more enjoyable to share it with people who are just as curious and excited about the sites as you are.
There is so much I could go on about, about all the trips I have taken and the lessons of traveling I have learned.

Safety is first and foremost the thing that you should think about when taking a trip abroad.
One particular subject and issue I have tried to keep myself well informed about is an issue few female travelers bother to think about, and should be alert and aware of its presence.
While some people may think the sex slave trade can’t touch them and will never be an issue for them, in reality it is a very serious problem, and ruins hundreds of lives every day.
Recently I had been researching how much of it goes on in our own country, even in our own home towns. I discovered something very shocking, I couldn’t believe it, right here in Colorado springs, and Denver.

This website also has videos of ads making people more aware of the issue around the world, and actual news interviews and documentaries of women who escaped it.
I was excited when they came out with the new movie “Taken,” because it gets the word out there and makes the public much more aware of what is going on, and that these things really do happen. I just hope more people take the film seriously than I have seen so far. One female film critic did not like the movie, and felt that it was mostly made up, and practically asked the question if the sex slave trade actually existed or not. I was horrified and shocked at the ignorance of someone who is supposed to be so “intelligent.” It's no wonder the monsters who run these trades get away with it so easily and so often.

I went to see “TAKEN” just a few days ago with my mom, we both very much enjoyed the film, and while we both agreed it had a few holes, it had a lot of good lessons to teach, and is something every single female should watch. As Angela said “It’s a movie about pretty much everything you are not supposed to do (while traveling).”

It's ok to travel with friends and have fun, but one important rule, every person traveling outside of their home should obey is, to coin the phrase from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” when the villain (not yet revealed as the villain) says to Dr. Jones, “Don’t trust anyone”, and later when he’s turned on Dr. Jones, he reminds him that Dr. Jones did not take his advice when he told him “not to trust anyone” and is essentially now paying for it.

It's an easy rule to follow but hard to remember when you're having fun and getting way too comfortable with your surroundings. You're fine in your home town, not because home is always a safe place, but because you know who to stay away from and you already know the places and streets to avoid generally; but in a new place, you don’t know these things, and so you can never assume anything.
The article and web link below was a link I found when searching for traveling advice for women. I found that they had some fantastic advice to give and some very good points.

Cultural Concerns

Being immersed in a new culture can be an exciting, yet challenging,
experience. It is important to recognize that, as a woman, you may be treated
differently in each destination. Some countries view men and women as equals,
while others give women few rights. In 1980, the United Nations summed up the
differences between men and women throughout the world: Women, who comprise half
the world's population, do two-thirds of the world's work, earn one-tenth of the
world's income and own one-hundredth of the world's property. You can expect to
experience and observe this difference on your journey abroad.
As a woman,
you may be respected in one culture and harassed in another. You may be expected
to wear certain clothes, and you will be expected to obey certain laws. Being
aware of these differences prior to leaving can help ease your assimilation into
a culture.......
click link to read more

My favorite advice is given by Rick Steves
He pretty much covers it all from “eating out," "traveling smart,” “dealing with men” and “handling harassment.” He also gives advice that is helpful to single guys who want to travel on their own.

Traveling Alone Without Feeling Lonely
Here are some tips
on meeting people, eating out, and enjoying your evenings. (Note that these tips
are also helpful for men traveling alone.)……….

*Rick Steves*

There is so much advice out there from your fellow travelers, that traveling alone should be a piece of cake and very safe if you heed it.

It’s a great world out there and there should be no reason for you to hold back from seeing it.

1 comment:

Red Rover said...

I loved this post! I am still working through all of the sites you listed! Great read. Well, I have a bit more freedom coming up. Spring break and all that, which simply means that I will be getting some more work hours in and catching up on some reading. I really am looking forward to it. I love being able to just go to the local coffee shop and waste as much time as I went talking to random people.