Planning on Traveling Abroad? 3 Ways to Prepare for Your Trip & Avoid a Russian Gulag

Image by: Wilerson Andrade
By: George Lamb

So you’ve got your passport and now you’re gung ho at the idea of exploring all the amenities the world has to offer. Not so fast… There are a number of things you need to be aware of when venturing out to unfamiliar terrain. To a person who hasn’t had much experience traveling, it may seem as though everywhere on earth is exactly the same, but in reality the region you are traveling to may have entirely different customs, geography and livelihood.

One of the last things in the world you would probably want would be to travel to a new place and find yourself shunned by the locals for exhibiting ‘tourist like’ behavior. Its a common fact that people hate tourists who act like too much like tourists, but if you do your best to adapt, communicate, and train yourself to the ways of the world, traveling can be an extremely rewarding experience.

 #1) Safety Precautions

First and foremost, safety is the priority when considering diving out of your comfort zone and scampering about unknown territory. You may feel invincible after your $2,000 dollar flight to Paris, but if you don’t watch out for the litany of things that can go wrong, you may find yourself lost in the deep, dark hell of the catacombs.

As a tourist, you are subjected to a vulnerability that is partially inescapable, as you have to temporarily adapt to a new, unfamiliar environment. But just because you are fresh off the airplane doesn’t exactly have to mean you have to be a fish out of water. As there are many precautions  you can heed that can save you trouble.

-Of course it would be ideal to visually capture the wonderful scenery of whatever location you decide to visit, but as much as you want to leave that camera dangling across your neck, resist the urge and put it away. To a trained thief, an expensive camera shines like gold. The menial effort that is involved with pulling it out from your bag will be a lot less strenuous than chasing a someone down the street.

-Avoid strangers. Yea, I’m taking it back with this word of advice. Do you remember your mother earnestly demanding that you avoid people you don’t know? It’s because whether we like it or not, there are people you may come into contact with that have less than altruistic intentions. These people pray on tourists, and rely on their “sexy” accent and generous façade to reel you in.  They may seem ideal when approaching you, but whenever somebody offers you a “free” ride or invites you to a “wild” party, think of the movie ‘Hostel.’

-Scan all your important documents or have them emailed before arrival at your destination. God forbid you lose your passport or study abroad program.

#2) Health

From January to late August there were nearly 600 measles cases reported in the U.S., and %99 of these cases were associated with international travel. Hear that, people? That means if you’re leaving the country, you are bound to contract Measles. Well, not exactly…it can be avoided by simply getting up to date with your measles (MMR) shots. Measles isn’t the only cause for concern, though, as other serious diseases include typhoid and yellow fever–and even polio can still be found in some developing countries across the world.

As much as you hate getting the needle, before traveling abroad you should get a list of the vaccinations and medicine you may need upon arrival. You can check the FCO’s website for news and info, travel warnings, and medicine you may need to go to a specific destination. With all the different, exotic insects across the world and the whole Ebola craze booming, you may in fact be better safe than sorry.

Another tip: Be cautious of what you eat and drink! Unless you want to ingest intestinal worms and experience the harsh effects of 50 foot critters growing inside of you, I’d suggest you only eat fully cooked foods that is served hot, eat and drink only pasteurized dairy products, and only drink beverages that are bottled (with an unbroken seal, of course). When your stubborn friend ends up in the hospital from indulging themselves with the fruits of Africa, you’ll thank me later.

 #3) Essentials

Out of respect for the locals, at least try to learn some of the language of the area you plan on making your temporary home. Yes, in most developed countries English is learned and spoken, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the norm. There might be a bit of a language barrier when dealing with locals, but most people are rational enough to understand that you’re a tourist in unfamiliar territory, and will try to help you. Even if you’re completely ignorant to the language, carry around a pocket thesaurus that will help you translate what’s being said around you. That way if somebody insults you, you’d be able to deduce what is being said and punch their lights out. Okay maybe not, unless you want to end up in a foreign prison (I hear Russia’s are the worst of the worst.)

Adapt to the customs, learn–at least–some of the language, and be respectful to the culture even if the holiday, festival or gesture seems obscure to you. That means if you find yourself being challenged to an intense game of ‘Fingerhakeln’ in Germany, unless you want to lose your man card, you better accept the duel with open arms.

There are so many wonderful places to explore in this big blue marble we call home. Have you got any crazy experiences traveling abroad? Don’t hesitate to share, we would love to here all about your wild endeavors.