By Ashlee Girdner
A great travel recipe consists, in equal measure, of adventure and relaxation. But for a lot of people, that balance is spoiled by an unwanted ingredient: the French. Also, stress. Far too often, travelers unnecessarily get hung up on what might go wrong on a trip.
Let’s take a moment to pause, breathe, and realize that most of the worries people fret over will never happen when traveling. You probably won’t be bitten by a cobra. Nobody’s gonna know if your underwear is clean. And the odds of getting kidnapped abroad are slim to none, unless you’re visiting Venezuela — in which case, you might actually be getting kidnapped as you read this.
Kidnapping and cobras aside, the majority of travel worries are completely unfounded; or at the least, can be prevented with some street smarts and planning. With that in mind, here are 11 things you simply need to stop worrying about when you travel.
1. Getting robbed
Probably the easiest way to get robbed: Look like you’re trying to not get robbed.
Crimes probably happen in your hometown, too, but it doesn’t mean you spend all your time waiting for it to happen. Act like you’ve been there, and don’t put yourself into unnecessary danger. Flashy jewelry or expensive gadgets hanging from your shoulders might as well be bullseyes. Moving your wallet to your front pocket is a good first step.
2. What other people think
Why do you love to travel? Is it to impress other people? Probably not. Whether it’s locals, travel companions, or coworkers, what other people think about your trip is pretty irrelevant.
Let go of your ego and forget your hang ups. Show off your ability to do The Hustle. Eat with your hands (when that’s appropriate). Join a drum circle. Whatever it is you want to do, do it. Actually, strike that — you should NEVER join a drum circle. Ever.
3. Spending too much money
Traveling on a budget sucks, but every non-heir has done it. Don’t take a trip you can’t afford — make a budget, and give yourself a little wiggle room. That way you won’t worry about buying those chocolates or spoiling yourself with a nice meal. Worrying if you have enough cab fare to reach your hostel is a preventable anxiety.
My grandfather once said, “The worst thing about being tired is being tired.”Basically, he was saying that being sleepy isn’t a big deal, and you’re not a three-year-old who requires naps. Then he dozed off in the middle of his grilled cheese sandwich.
The best way to adjust is not by popping sleeping pills or chugging caffeine, but simply adapting. Eat when the locals eat and sleep when they sleep.
Related: These Apps Claim to Help You Get Over Jet Lag—But, Do They Work?
5. Breaking laws you don’t know about
Know your facts and local customs, but don’t focus on every last-minute detail. If you really need to blow up a cow with a rocket launcher, look into the legality first. The same goes for transportation regulations. So long as you’re not smuggling endangered lemurs into a country, or planning to rob the dude peddling miniature Eiffel Towers, you should be OK.
6. What you’re going to wear
Overpacking is a sin that even the most seasoned travelers commit. Many of us dress according to mood or weather, and not function. It’s unlikely you’ll need both a bathing suit and a heavy jacket for that trip. No one will care what color your tie was. And you won’t remember you wore that shirt on both Tuesday and Wednesday after your midnight stroll down the Champs-Elysées. Pack for function and indulge in a few favorite pieces, but keep in mind that you’ll probably just wear the same pair of shorts for half your vacation, anyway.
7. Getting sick
Consider illness something that comes with the territory. Downing chewable vitamin C tablets like a crazed hypochondriac isn’t going to save you from Montezuma’s Revenge.
It might sound simple, but don’t drink the water if you’re unsure it’ll make you sick. Aside from that, accept the fact that changing time zones, eating new foods, and even just being exposed to a different germ base can all make you sick.
8. Not being able to communicate with locals
Imagine being in a restaurant, awaiting your bill, but the waiter keeps passing by without stopping. Then you catch his eye. If you’re a savvy diner, you know all you need to do is make that motion of signing a bill to get what you want.
Well, expressions, gestures, and sound effects, are just a few of the ways you can get around a language barrier. Of course, you should always learn a few words in the local language, even if it’s just how to say, “Do you speak English?” But even if you don’t speak a lick of the language, you’d be amazed at how far you can go just by gesturing.
9. Sticking to the itinerary
Making informed decisions about where to go and when is great. But being militant about following travel plans, aside from being on time for your return flight, is ludicrous.
You can’t stumble on a charming mom-and-pop restaurant with the best gnocchi in Rome, or a crystal-clear lagoon, if you don’t give yourself leeway. Build in time with nothing planned. That’s probably when you’ll find the most memorable surprises on your trip.
10. Getting lost
Have you ever read, “Two young American men barely survived after three days lost in Barcelona. Reports state they were too ‘embarrassed’ to ask for directions and managed to live off tapas and slept on park benches.”
Right, that’s because getting lost isn’t that big of a deal. Unless you’re on some 127 Hours-type trip, or you’re near a really rough part of town, getting lost can be an adventure. You ask someone how to get where you need to be, and then you’re there. Isn’t that how Columbus discovered America? No? Whatever.
11. Thinking the plane will crash/get hijacked
It might be tough to believe after recent bad news, but the odds of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million. Repeat this: “You are more likely to die driving to the airport than you are in a plane crash”. Unless you’re the pilot, there’s nothing you can do to control whether or not your plane hits the ground on its wheels at its intended destination. Get yourself a drink, watch a movie, and relax.
More from Thrillist: