Travel Fears and Scares

Note: Probably don’t read this if you’re about to head off on a solo trip to a dodgy foreign country… read it when you get back.

This month’s blog linkup is a goodie… and reminds me of the things that can generally go wrong when you’re travelling. I always try to tell myself ‘it’s all part of the experience’ and by gosh it will make a good travel story one day… but when you’re in the midst of it all, it’s incredible hard to think forward positively.

More stairs

More stairs up to Machu Picchu Mountain

Fear: Heights. Scare: Hiking Machu Picchu Mountain

Yes, I’ve skydived. Yes, I’ve bungee jumped. Yes, I’ve hang-guided and paraglided.

But give me a walk up the highest mountain in the Machu Picchu region with a sheer cliff on one side and narrow stones to walk up to the top (3082 m above sea level) and I’ll nervous and hell.

3082m above sea level

Steps at the top of the mountain

Steps at the top of the mountain

Then tell me I need to walk back down, with nothing to hold onto and cringe whenever someone comes in the opposite direction and I’ll freak out. To the point that my legs will shake uncontrollably for some time afterwards.

But I did it.

Same with Dune 45 on my birthday. Highest dune you can walk up in Namibia and I was near tears walking down. It was at that point that I started to realise maybe I don’t have to force myself to do these things just because I don’t want my fear to hold me back…

Dune 45, Namibia

Dune 45, Namibia

Fear: Getting sick while travelling in a country where I don’t speak the language. Scare: Thailand, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia… do I go on?

Me on the boat in the Pampas, Bolivia

Me on the boat in the Pampas, Bolivia

Yer… I’m a seasoned pro at getting sick while travelling now. And guess what? If you go to an international hospital there is still no guarantees they will speak English. Sometimes you’ve just got to learn the gestures (oh trust me that’s pretty bad), but if you can enlist a fellow traveller to help that speaks the language it’s a lot easier!

Me in the GalapagosI’ll skip the parasites, the military hospitals and give you the example of snorkelling and my flipper going down into a sea urchin in the Galapagos.

The ‘smart’ crew ripped off my flipper and broke all the spikes in my foot. Various people had a go at removing the spikes, but I still had one or two in there that wouldn’t come out. I still had about 3 months of my travels ahead of me.

Hospital to hospital, anger towards the insurance company many times and a few countries later, I try for the last time to get someone to persuade my insurance company to take the freaking spikes out the of top of my foot. This time I found an American guy who was a fluent Spanish speaker at my hostel that was happy to waste an afternoon translating.

Tortoise in the breeding centre in Isabela

Tortoise in the breeding centre in Isabela, Galapagos

Marine Iguanas on Islote Tinoreras

Marine Iguanas on Islote Tinoreras

Male Red Frigate Bird, Punta Pit, San Cristobal

Male Red Frigate Bird, Punta Pit, San Cristobal

It still didn’t work and the insurance company ended up offering to fly me back to NZ early, but wouldn’t pay for them to be removed. So I sucked it up and continued on my trip trying to avoid wearing shoes too tight on the top of my foot where the spikes were.

Fear: Dying. Scare: White water rafting in Uganda

White water rafting on the Nile

White water rafting in Jinja, Uganda through the Nile river

Ever had your life flash before your eyes? I’ve been in a few dangerous situations, but white water rafting in Uganda on the Nile took the cake. Rapid 1, fall out. Rapid 2, fall out and knees scrap on rocks. Rapid 3, fall out and loose helmet and freak out.

Yes, in the rapid not knowing which way was out I felt water rush over my head and remembered the rocks I previously hurt my knees on. I could only think that I might hit my head on the rocks and die.

How angry would my family be that I died in such a stupid way?

Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jumping, Jinja, Uganda. Definitely outside of my comfort zone.

I can laugh about that now. It was immediately after bungee jumping, yet that wasn’t cause for concern (despite temporarily freaking out and convinced I wouldn’t do it).

Never mind the Australian girl who’s bungee chord broke just a few weeks later on the Nile and there were crocodiles… she survived, but feck that!

Fear: Missing my plane. Scare: Granda, Spain / London, England

Granada Graffiti, Spain

Granada Graffiti, Spain

Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Alhambra, Granada, Spain

All I can say is learn 24 hour time. Set your watch and phone into 24 hour time when you’re travelling Europe. I ‘just’ caught my plane in time when I realised (during a few tapas and maybe a beer) that 1400 was not 4pm!

And… don’t get really drunk after winning MVP on your final rugby game when you planned to leave at 4am to catch buses to the airport the next morning. Also pack before getting drunk. It will just end in a lot of puke and an expensive cab to the airport stressing out.

Beginning to think I should write a book of these tales… I’ll leave it there for the time being…