The quote from Aldous Huxley is one that everyone should know, and take into account, before trying to give me (or any other traveller) advice on a country they have never been to,
When I first announced that I would be traveling, not only by myself, but to another country, I was bombarded with people worried about my safety. I had more people that I can count telling me how dangerous the world is. I was warned that other countries hate Americans and will kill or kidnap them in an instant. Many people expressed their concern with me getting raped, even though Michigan ranks number 2 in human trafficking.
Others who cooed at the idea of me meeting and falling in love with a super fit Australian man failed to realize to Australia’s obesity rate is not far behind America (who can blame them when they have something as yummy as Tim Tams). Sorry to disappoint anyone who has not been to Australia but no, not every Australian can surf and/or rock a speedo. Australians also laugh at the idea that we genuinely believe they “throw shrimp on the barbie.”
When I decided to go to Indonesia I was told not to trust the locals because they will kidnap me or steal all my possessions. Yes, it’s a good idea to be a little extra cautious but the locals were (for the most part) genuine people.
I was also told Italians are not healthy, eating only pasta and bread; well, American friends and family, they think that it’s weird that most of the liquids we drink are not water. Actually, even though they eat a lot of carbs, they also eat a lot of fruits, veggies, and proteins.
The biggest thing I am beginning to learn as I travel is that most people’s conception of foreign countries are wrong. So many people are quick to share their knowledge of the world, yet they haven’t even done much traveling themselves. As of January 2014, only 46% of Americans even have passports. If anyone tries to give me advice on another country and hasn’t even left America, their guidance is very likely to be fueled from misconceptions, and I’m sorry to anyone this offends.
I’ve taken a lot of false advice from people. I brought way too many clothes to Australia; I was told everything there was expensive so I wouldn’t want to buy anything, actually, the opposite was true. After spending a couple hundred dollars just shipping things home, I learned my lesson.
I understand everyone wanting to be helpful, I really do. I also understand why so many people would be so scared of the world with everything on the news. There is so much going on in the world.
Traveling has taught me to see the good in people, but to still trust my gut.
Traveling has taught me to get lost, but always carry my compass.
Traveling has taught me to be independent, but not close-minded.
Traveling has taught me that a lot of people will give (seemingly genuine) advice on countries they know nothing about.
My advice to any new travelers? Take it with a grain of salt. Listen to advice you are given but assume that it is exaggerated or only partially true. Do not let the words of other discourage you from seeing the world. Get out there and show them that it isn’t as awful of a place as the media makes it out to be.
If I had allowed the fear of others influence my decisions, I never would have hung out with aboriginal refugees, biked through Indonesia, lived with strangers as an au pair, eaten (amazing) street foods, etc.
I want to reassure everyone the world is no more dangerous than your backyard.
And I promise, there is so much more to see and learn that even the biggest world traveler cannot tell you about. You must experience the world for yourself.