How do you worry less and experience more? That was the theme of a video contest we are currently entered in. It’s a two minute video that highlights some of our overall travel experiences and most of the video shows the past trip abroad where we spent a year in Southeast Asia.
It’s a fair question and we do get asked it quite a bit: How do we travel so much and don’t we get worried about it all? At the beginning of many of our travels people frequently ask us if we’re worried about any number of things that could potentially happen to us. Particularly when we were about to embark on our Africa journey we really got asked a variety of questions from, “Are you sure you want to go? Africa – really? Africa – umm, isn’t that a bad idea? Africa – oh I don’t think so. You’re still going to Africa – we better have a farewell dinner.”
Now to be fair, it was during the height of the ebola crisis which was certainly scary. But we weren’t going anywhere near the outbreaks. It was like saying there was a wildfire in California and being afraid to go to bed at night in Vermont like it was just going to jump over the entire country and get us in our sleep. Yes, a communicable diseases can travel differently than a wildfire, but largely, with the exception of where the outbreak was actually happening, the hysteria that caused so much fear for general travel to the other parts of Africa was way over hyped.
We went to Africa and had one of the best trips of our life.
During our travels we’ve gone to places where “they are sure to get you.” I have always hesitated to really talk about this because I didn’t want to jinx ourselves, but now we can say we have been traveling for 10 years and nothing significantly bad has happened to us. We’ve been in all these “scary” places (Thailand, Costa Rica, Peru, Africa, New Zealand, Australia) and we met such nice and wonderful people. The only time we have been robbed was in the USA. Of all the irony, we were in Salt Lake City, Utah, the hub of the Mormon religion, and someone broke our car window and stole our backpacks. They didn’t get much other than our lunches because we were about to go hiking, but I was pissed because then we couldn’t go hiking! Not to mention it cost us $130 to fix our window.
I still get freaked out going to places. I get over-worried, paranoid and stressed out, but, after ten years of traveling I can say the more I have experienced the less I worry. Yes, something “bad” might happen to me, but it might not either. Something really great could happen too and indeed, more often than not, great things have happened to us (and many other travelers) over and over again.
So…as we said in the video…we travel…a lot.
Here are some of the practical steps we take to worry less and experience more:
Buy Travel Insurance – this is one thing we don’t skip. It is so much easier and better for Chris and I to have good health insurance when we travel abroad. It is no secret that health care in the USA is completely out of whack. We are currently looking at different ways to construct our life so we can consistently spend six months or more outside the USA for our health care.
Always, always, always have emergency travel savings – oh my gosh, I know some people that don’t do this and it stresses me out just thinking about it. The rule of thumb is to always be able to buy a plane ticket home from wherever you are plus a little more for day to day needs.
Always, always, always keep at least some of your savings – oh my gosh, this is another thing I see other travelers do. To each their own, for some people it’s a adrenaline rush to be down to their last $100 and try to see how they can make some more money. I am the exact opposite. Chris and I set savings goals and we do not break them. Period. If you follow the rule of thumb to keep a six month to year’s worth of living expenses in savings that can be a very empowering feeling.
Don’t be dumb with drinking – so many people when they head out to travel they hit the booze hard. Everyone is different in how they like to travel and it’s not my place to say what you should or shouldn’t do. However I can share this observation: so many of the “bad” travel stories I hear almost always involve drinking too much. That’s when someone get’s their stuff stolen, they let their guard down or they made a bad judgement call. Drink and be merry but don’t get so drunk you do overly stupid things and put yourself at risk.
Take assessed risks – people often comment about the adventurous types of activities Chris and I do. But here’s the thing, although we are risk takers, we are assessed risk takers. We do things that we feel we have the skill set to do. When we went on an 11 day backpacking trip around the remote Stewart Island in New Zealand, that wasn’t our first backpacking trip. We had years of experience behind us to enable us to feel confident we had the skills, knowledge and health to handle the hike, and also, to deal with unforeseen circumstances. Where I’ve seen people get into ‘trouble’ and by that it could mean they were extremely scared or had ‘the worst experience’ of their lives, is when they went off to jump into an area they had little to no experience in. Yes, of course, push yourself. We do that all the time. Be uncomfortable but not unsafe.
Think the best of people – this might sound like controversial advice, but I find sometimes so much of what we fear is by getting worked up in our own heads. So many times once we have gotten to know someone or even just made eye contact with a stranger, it is a reminder the majority of people everywhere on this earth just want to simply get through their day. They are like us and we are like them. Most people are not out to get us and that mindset of thinking will affect the type of energy you surround yourself with. This story about sitting down with two men in the jungle is an example of that.
Give yourself a regular safety checks – so right above I just said to think the best of people, and yes, I fully believe that. However we both also are preemptive and aware of almost all our actions and while we are thinking the best of people we are not casual about our actions either. For instance when we are walking down a street we will always carry our cameras or bags on the non-street side of our bodies. That way it would be very difficult for someone driving by to snatch our bag. We never leave our day backpacks just sitting on the bus when there is a bathroom break. Even tho it is more uncomfortable, we always stuff our backpacks down by our feet and not in the overhead bins above. Chris and I constantly check each other for safety reminders such as checking that we wearing our money belts discreetly, that we are super vigilant of our bags and just being mindful of the type of information we give people. So yes, most people are like us, but that also doesn’t mean a careless action won’t be taken advantage of. So we always try to be as preemptive in all things regarding our belongings and personal safety at all times.
So I can speak for myself that watching the news gets me terribly depressed and overwhelmed at this current time. In order to take active measures and have self discipline with my own mental wanderings, I make an active effort to reflect on all the people who have come into my life. This could be a brief moment at bus stop where some stranger who could barely speak English helped ensure we got on the right bus or to people who have become a beloved part of our circle, it is by experiencing more that I have come to worry less.
With that we are super pumped with this video contest we have entered! I hope you can a moment to watch this video and tell us what you think! We had a lot of fun putting it together. If you like it, a thumbs up, a comment or a share would be so much appreciated! Social engagement will be taken into consideration for the judges final selection.
I hope all of us can worry less and experience more.
Thank you so much everyone for being a part of this site!
Tiff and Chris…aka…Vagabond Way