Sandy highlights ways that we try to stay safe as we travel.
Trekking the Planet is going to some of the most remote and unspoiled places in the world. We wrote this article in order to document the steps below that we have taken to improve our chances of having a safe trip.
Do Your Homework Before You Leave
As soon as we formed our itinerary, we begin to research our potential travel destinations for any safety issues. These can take the form of crime, unrest, unsafe areas or iffy infrastructure. We usually start with that area’s guidebook (while we favor the Lonely Planet series of guidebooks, there many other quality publications). We have been known for throwing out destinations after this initial research, based on what we uncover. For those areas that make this cut, we augment our research with information from the Internet. There are good sources of information that cover international travel and safety, including: http://state.gov/travel, http://lonelyplanet.com/thorntree, http://tripadvisor.com and http://virtualtourist.com. Finally, we subscribe to alerts using the U.S. State Department Smart Traveler feature and a service called Google Alerts to stay informed about potential hot spots on our itinerary. This keeps us up-to-date on issues that may arise after we leave home.
Learn From Other Travelers
As we travel, we seek out other travelers as another source of information about places that we plan to visit. The best place to meet them is in budget hotels or hostels, the restaurants that surround budget hotels and hostels and on public transportation such as ferries, buses and trains. We are always surprised how willing people are to tell us their experiences and provide other helpful advice. We also share our insights if we know something about an area in which they are interested. In this way, everyone benefits.
Keeping a Low Profile
Whenever we travel, we try to keep a low profile. This means abstaining from anything that would draw attention to our presence. This includes leaving jewelry at home, wearing casual clothing, keeping our cameras out of sight and maintaining contact with our bags at all times. Another strategy is to be on the lookout for one another and aware of exactly where we are. Pickpockets and thieves are looking for easy targets. Travelers who are aware of their surroundings are less likely to have a problem. Finally, we study up about the local history, customs and laws to better blend in with others.
Traveling to Remote Areas
One of our favorite places to visit is wilderness areas. Unfortunately, there are many hazards in the wild. To make things worse, the nearest medical facility could be hours and even days away. It is for these reasons that when we travel to remote areas outside of the United States, we tend to hire guides. We do this because the more remote the place, the less written information available and fewer travelers from which to learn. The guides that we favor are from the local area. They know the locals and speak their language. They are familiar with the risks and also have a deep knowledge of the plants, animals and history of the area. They know the way and, in some cases, are prepared to deal with emergency situations. Hiring local guides also contributes to the local economy, giving the people who live there an economic reason to keep the place wild.
We believe that doing the research, talking to other travelers, keeping a low profile and using local guides takes some of the risk out of safety issues that can arise during travel. However all the preparation in the world won’t keep us from being perfectly safe. In the past, we have been the target of scams and attempted robberies during our travels. It is our hope that our preparation will mitigate some of the risk on this journey. As we like to say, there can be safety issues even in your own backyard, let alone in the most remote places on the planet.
If you have other tips, feel free to share your thoughts below in the comment box.