Expats love to travel. Make no bones about that. It’s as if living abroad opens their senses to endless opportunities for travel. Catching a flight to a neighboring country during the holidays or whirling away to explore a part of the country on the weekend… there is always an excuse to travel. But as much as expats are fun-loving and spontaneous travelers, most know that it’s also important to cultivate safety, too. The following guest post comes from Abby Woody, a traveler and a fellow expat, I met during a templestay in Korea.
I will be the first to admit it. I am a Type-A traveler.
When I plan my trips, I like to have all the information in advance, from bus routes and timetables, to translation apps, to multiple copies of my travel documents. I’m not this way in my day-to-day life, which is why it surprises so many people I know, but having this sort if deep preparation before I leave on an adventure helps me to mentally prepare for the unexpected and overall leads to a more satisfying trip for me.
I will never advocate for under-preparing for a trip, but there is something I am consistently trying to improve: a strategy for cultivating safe spontaneity while traveling.
Travel is one of the times, when we are purposefully taking ourselves out of our comfort zone to experience new things. The wealth of knowledge online can introduce us to locations we never knew existed before, as well as give us an idea of what a trip to these kinds of places entails and the way we should prepare. My travels have allowed me to take myself out of my comfort zone and experience new things. The wealth of knowledge online has introduced me to places I never knew existed before, and has allowed me to mentally prepare for travel to a new country.
But my personal downfall can be relying too closely on the experiences of others instead of making the trip my own. It is my personal goal to become more open to spontaneous situations during travel.
But how can you cultivate safe spontaneous travel in an unknown city or country, where you can’t speak the common tongue, or when we are traveling alone?
Safety is important, so what are some strategies to have unexpected fun without putting yourself at risk?
1. Spontaneity doesn’t always cost money.
I always research thoroughly before I leave for a trip, and here is one reason why I do so: under-preparing for a trip abroad can leave you more susceptible to falling for tourist traps! I had a friend, who traveled to Bangkok on a whim without researching a thing, and she fell for one of the most well-known tourist scams in that city : the Tuk-Tuk scam.
The first rule of practicing safe travel spontaneity is to remember that a unique experience doesn’t have to cost money. Outside your hotel, pick a direction and walk a few blocks, exploring the shops and businesses as you go. Government buildings such as schools and post offices are chances for photo-ops of life in another country. If you pass a park or village square stop to people-watch or visit the fountain. While These weren’t things you were planning to do—they are fun and authentic ways to experience the place you are visiting. And to boot, they didn’t cost you a thing nor put you in danger.
2. Save unexpected adventures for the daylight hours.
Crime happens at all hours of the day, but on the whole daytime is a much safer bet for trying something you weren’t expecting.
On our honeymoon to Quebec City, my husband and I spontaneously chose to attend a beer festival after passing it near the city’s harbor I am glad that we chose to do this during the day—we were given tokens to try beers in the tents and altogether had about three strong beers a piece, more than we usually ever drink these days. But because we left the event with plenty of daylight to spare, we weren’t walking unfamiliar streets after dark with too much alcohol in our systems. We stayed out of trouble by having our adventure, while the sun still shone.
3. Locals are your best resource for spontaneous fun with no risk.
Staying with a local, whether it be a friend, family member, or someone from a travel lodging site- such as Couchsurfing or AirBnB– is perhaps the best way to experience a new place in a manner both totally unexpected and exciting, yet safe. Locals can help you have a spur-of-the-moment, authentic experience without the guesswork and safety risks that come from trying to do so yourself. They can tell you if a souvenir stall has steals or rip-offs or which neighborhoods are treasure troves and which to avoid.
When I stayed with my friend in Tianjin and Beijing China, she took me hiking on an unrestored section of the Great Wall, as well as a ton of other adventures.China was a fantastic experience I’ll always remember, partly because my friend facilitated so many safe yet unexpected experiences for me.
What I love about travel is that it takes me out of my comfort zone and shows me a new perspective. What better time to try something spontaneous? And by bearing these few things in mind, I hope we can all continue having new adventures without worry.
Abby Woody is a twenty-something from the Midwestern U.S. who lives for day hikes, modern art museums, reading magical realism, and traveling the world. She blogs about her marriage, sustainable lifestyles, and travel at The City Rental. You can also find her ongoing poetry study The Rituals Project on Facebook and Twitter.