I’ve done a fair amount of traveling over the years. I’ve stood next to pyramids on two continents, wandered around the Coliseum and the Acropolis, gone white water rafting in Alaska and relaxed at a wine tasting in Malta. Que Johnny Cash singing, “I’ve been everywhere,” because, although there’s still plenty of world left to see, I’ve seen enough to know what to expect when I get there.
Despite what Tumblr posts and motivational memes on Facebook would have you believe, travel alone isn’t really enough to educate you in the ways of the world. Tourism is a powerful industry; powerful enough to shape your experiences as you jet set around the globe. Many tourism based economies revolve around the idea of giving you (the tourist) what you want. In some places, that means only offering food that fits a region’s stereotypes rather than local tastes, but in others, like many Central and South American countries, it often means the construction of entire facades intended to convince you of some Disney interpretation of local life, carefully built at just the right angle to obstruct your view of reality. The reality of poverty tends to stay under wraps–but that’s not the only way traveling can mislead you.
It’s honestly pretty easy to write an article laying out a few simple steps that can help keep you safe when seeking adventure that’s a bit off the beaten path, but the problem with that sort of article is that the IDEA of adventure seeking inherently requires a bit of risk. The risk in some situations, is the very goal of the trip. Therefore, the secret is to actively manage those risks, and make sure you try your best not to end up in over your head.
Do your research.