There’s a lot of travel advice on the internet. I usually refrain from dishing out my own since the world is full of it and what little advice I have often imagined giving usually ends up being wrong. But one piece that seems to always hold true – probably because I was not nearly clever enough to invent it – is this: Don’t Panic.
It’s classic, eternal and simple. Don’t panic. Traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language? Don’t Panic. Not sure if the food you are eating from that food vendor in Delhi is entirely above board? Don’t Panic. Think the one armed thug in the corner fondling his knife may have some disconcerting motivations? Don’t Panic. Think the bus you’re on heading into the amazon and driving in the pitch black through winding mountain passes in Bolivia is about to topple down a cliff? Don’t Panic.
Now the easiest part about advice is in the giving. I fully appreciate that. But if there was one piece of advice you really should practice acting on, it’s this one. And travel is one great way to practice and embrace the advice.
Travel gives you LOTS of opportunities to panic. Visas, money, theft, illness, foreign food, loneliness. You name it and there’s a reason to panic. Sure there are antidotes like waking up and having to lounge around here for a while.
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But there are lots of times you’ll feel the panic set in.
I’ve watched travellers panic. It’s not pretty. They tend to be more hysterical than most since they are often in a personal space that’s uncomfortable for them. But at the same time, as bad as whatever panic inducing scenario you are facing while on the road, panic is the worst course of action. As a traveler, you are mostly at the mercy of foreigners. Sure, commerce does help the wheels turn but if you want those wheel to fly off the bus, start yelling at the only hostel owner in town in the middle of the night because he forget your reservation. That’s panic and it’s not leading you anywhere you want to be.
But, after being on the road for a long time, you get used to the bumps and bruises that come. The more you bump and bruise, the weaker panic’s grip becomes over you. When your bag gets stolen, don’t panic and run home and tell everyone about the crime culture in Peru. Don’t panic. A new bag is a great way to simplify your life even further than it already was. Half the time, you’ll realize just how little of your lost possessions were essential in the end.
The same of course can be true when returning home after traveling. Don’t have a job? Don’t panic. Can’t find a place to live? Don’t panic. This is expected and nothing to be ashamed of or, worse of all, to panic over. Let the fear flow past you and carry on your ways. Just because you are home doesn’t mean you need to toss off your travel earned patience.
So the next time you find yourself eating insects in the dark in Africa or getting stung by a scorpion in the jungle of Colombia, try and remember that it’s just another opportunity to practice the best advice I’ve yet to hear. Don’t panic.
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