Being a traveler for almost a decade, I’ve gotten some pretty horrendous advice. Typically, it wasn’t true either.
Here is some of the worst travel advice that I’ve ever received:
Traveling is dangerous This will probably be the first false fact that your friends and family will offer you. A majority of the people who give this advice have never even left their own country. The Global Peace Index Report, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranks countries from most peaceful to most dangerous. To give you an idea of where the U.S. scores – it’s not even in the top half of the most peaceful countries.
I’ve been to 15 foreign countries and never once felt threatened in any way. Letting fear dictate your travel choices severely limits wonderful possibilities. It is wise to do research about the areas you want to visit, but just because an attack happened in southern France doesn’t mean the entire country is a mayhem fest. A little dose of “street smarts” or intuition will suffice. If you don’t have it, bring someone who does.
You need to have a lot of money This depends. Are five-star hotels, private jets and all-inclusive resorts required for your journey? If so, then yes. If you are willing to pack a few lunches, fly coach and settle with a hostel or campsite, then this theory is trash. Travel does not have to be synonymous with splurging.
Affording travel is really about budgeting, not trust funds or glamorous salaries. Last year, I traveled 121 days through Europe on a bicycle. I was able to budget my income at an entry-level job and save enough money for a four-month trip in just two years. This meant reducing how often I ate out, and I had to sacrifice entertainment, such as concerts, on occasion. I kept my 10-year-old car instead of upgrading and canceled my media subscriptions. By delaying some instant gratifications at home, I got to experience a world of cultures.
Stick to populated areas I don’t know who came up with this logic, but cities often have higher crime rates. Funnily enough, I’ve also heard the opposite advice: Stay away from populated areas.
Explore the places that entice you, enjoy the unique cities of the world, and don’t miss out on the richness of villages and small towns.
A cousin to this “safety in numbers” myth is “don’t talk to strangers.” Contrariwise, talking to strangers is how you make friends. Locals of the land know the best spots away from the tourist groove and can show you beyond the guidebooks. Ditch the guided tour for a day and spark up a conversation with a local. Most people are happy to make suggestions or even show you around. The magic of travel is in the unexpected.
Don’t take every piece of advice you receive to heart, including mine. I can’t remember how many times people said I was going to be kidnapped or fall victim to the next Jeffrey Dahmer. If I took their advice, or let the fears of others become my own fears, I would’ve missed out on hundreds of friendships and experiences. If you want to explore the world, impale those myths and go find out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed you did.
Peter Stadalsky is an Aurora resident and adventurer. He shares his travel experiences with a “glass-half-full” view of the world.