As in life, a traveler’s attitude will determine the outcome of his traveling experience. Fear, risk-aversion, aggressiveness, or lack of curiosity will inevitably damper the chances of a journey full of joy, particularly when exploring the developing world.
Back in 2009 when I started preparing my trip through Asia I just bought one book to get valuable advice about long-term traveling. It was Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding, still a must-read for anyone wanting to be a world traveler. It’s full of not only practical tips but also, and more importantly, advice about how to approach the basic daily tasks involved in budget traveling, such as getting accommodation and transportation, and interacting with locals. Without a positive attitude, the traveler can get stressed unnecessarily in many situations, and not get all he could out of each new experience.
The following three attitudes, quite common in the Western mind, are in my view a serious hindrance for the adventure traveler:
1- The Over-Controlling
There are people who are unable to cope when things are a bit out of their control. Anything unexpected triggers a rise on their cortisol levels spreading stress to all around them. Not finding the expected accommodation, the sudden need of altering a route, or not getting the desired meal becomes a drama, when I think one of the intrinsic aspects of any adventure is precisely the unexpected part of it. Is your life in danger? If not, there’s no much to worry about; concentrate on solving the issue and accept reality.
2- The Over-Cautious
Their mind is full of fear. Without risk, there’s no life worth living. Even sitting for hours at a desk for years (sitting is the new smoking) have its risks, even though it might not be immediately obvious. The over-cautious is mostly worried about possible negative outcomes: this bus driver is going to kill us; I’m not going to eat this, I’ll end up in hospital; I don’t like his face, I think he wants to rob us…. I’m not encouraging risky behavior; I just think some need to chill out a bit when on the road and put every situation into perspective.
3- The Over-Critical
The most common example is Western travelers who go to an undeveloped country expecting that every thing would work as at home. What part of “undeveloped” didn’t they understand? Yes, transport will be slow, and some times filthy; people might push you a bit to get on a bus, or just get too close to you for your liking; some might spit on the floor, others even pee in the middle of the street….. That’s the fun of it, don’t you think? Well, it might not all be fun, but at least before raging non-stop about something you don’t like try to comprehend why things work that way in that country, and what values and customs they have and why. Some people seem to base their personalities on the things they despise.
After traveling through Asia for 18 months, from Nepal to Japan, I not only experienced plenty of joy but also some suffering (I had to go to hospital three times during my trip). Inevitably, when you are on the road for so long things might not go the way you expected. Only a month into my adventure I got quite close to having to go back home because a health scare. Instead of giving up, I tried to solve it in Nepal (with help from people from New York) and I managed to do so and continue my journey thanks to my positive attitude. In fact, thanks to the health problem I faced then I enjoyed each day of my long journey through Asia fully. There’s nothing like some suffering to value your own life.
Based on my experience as a long-term traveler I’ve written The Adventure Traveler’s Manifesto, which is my modest and visual way of compiling the most important aspects anyone wanting to fully enjoy a long-journey must have. I hope you like it. Feel free to share it out: