After talking with Gloria about our separate trips to Marrakech, we disembarked the Porto metro en route to the Casa de Musica, Porto’s hub for performing arts. Gloria, a marketing teacher who was born in Portugal, gets to travel to exotic places every month for her job. Taking students on trips to destinations like Bosnia, Berlin and Bangladesh, Gloria sees first-hand the deer-in-headlights look on students faces as they enter into a world so foreign from their own.
As a student travelling for my first time in Portugal, Gloria’s stories about overcoming fear while travelling inspired me to explore Porto deeper. I got lost at dusk. Unable to speak the language and hungry, I cursed Gloria for her “advice”.
But after being helped by a sweet local who could speak broken English, I felt bad for blaming Gloria for my misfortune. I wasn’t paying attention, I was angry. A hungry bear in an unfamiliar forest. When traveling in a new country, whatever the guide books or articles tell you, sometimes it’s good to be scared.
For those who couldn’t bear not preparing for travel, get over it. Pack clothes, money and your passport. Free maps and information centers are displayed in airports. Use them.
Media can misconstrue a city. War, poverty and crime splashes across maps before people have a chance to explore what’s on them.
Cities like Paris and Marrakech for example are notorious for their pick-pocketing history.
I have travelled to both cities and wasn’t mugged. The way you carry yourself in a foreign country will keep you out of bad situations.
If you walk through a city looking scared and anxious you become prey. But with shoulders back and a look of determination you won’t be crossed. Fake it until you make it.
I also think people assume that things will go the way they planned when they travel alone or with a group. Things happen! Life happens. Be prepared for the worst and if things turn south the trip will be saved.
Kayla Copland, an exchange student at Glasgow Caledonian University from Ontario, Canada, travels on her own at least three times a month. Each return, a more confident Kayla walks through the door each time without any bruises.
"I think kids our age should travel alone,” Copland says. “It retouches our fundamentals of growing up and being on our own”.
Travelling alone builds self esteem and basic survival skills. Some of the best places could be the scariest, being prepared for a trip solo or with a group, will save you from a bad travel experience. Travelers who run in to trouble have most likely put themselves there. Walking through a new place with confidence will prevent theft.
Go to new places that look scary on paper. Travel is supposed to be scary. Chances are that fear is just inexperience. So quit listening to people’s horror travel stories, go get some experience and get scared.