Unfiltered travel: The stories Instagram won’t tell you
THROUGH time, immemorial explorers have gushed about the lands they’ve traveled to, the cultures now ingrained within them, the people they met and the glorified tribulations encountered along the way, but they very rarely tell of the utter miseries that almost forced them to come home.
In one sense, this is wonderful, as being sheltered from the hardship, scares and sadness allow aspiring travelers to grow an untainted wanderlust. However, not informing others of the challenges suffered along the way can lead to naivety and put them in danger.
Hear from a professional hiker, two British travelers and a travel journalist about the trials they faced on the road and how they dealt with them.
Going up a mountain? Here’s what you should know
“From one side I’m trying to instill a love for the mountains and hiking in general,” Chris Kamberis, mountaineer, and author of Trip and Trail told Travel Wire Asia. “And then from the other, to raise awareness about the dangers and point out that nature is not a playground and has to be respected.”
An estimated 300 people have died trying to climb Mount Everest, with many more deaths on other ascents. The only year with no recorded deaths on Mount Everest was 1977, since then, avalanches, earthquakes, rapidly changing weather conditions and altitude sickness have been the peril of many who want to claim the accolade of summiting Everest.
However, it’s not just Everest which has taken lives. “One of my favorite places – High Tatras, in Slovakia (Europe) – has a record death toll this year (2017) around 30 people died,” Kamberis pointed out.
High Tatras is 2,655m high and has been described as, “majestic peaks, touching the sky”.
“Some of these people didn’t even have an accident. They died of exhaustion and hypothermia which means that many of these deaths could be avoided,” Kamerbis explained.
“People with no prior experience trying to hike or climb in dangerous conditions is madness.”
While climbing is never wholly predictable, fatalities and causalities are preventable, and as Kamberis noted, it is often “our fault (social media influencers) because many times, by trying to glorify our stories, we leave out all the hardships and sufferings. Making it look easy and giving people the wrong impression”.
Mountaineering is no easy sport. If it was, climbing Everest would be as easy as getting in the groceries. Climbers must remember that instinct and judgment can only be built from experience.
Experience comes from practice and taking note of what more experienced climbers tell you. This way, climbers can develop a balanced relationship with fear, become aware of the true dangers of climbing and turn positive attitudes into physical energy to get out of tight situations.
“Even seasoned hikers like me have been in tight spots, and the right decisions and precautions had to be made and taken to avoid the worst,” Kamberis added.
Going on a trip? Don’t get taken for a ride
It’s easy to get super excited about an upcoming trip. And why shouldn’t you be? You’ve probably worked hard and saved even harder for this glorious moment, to pack your bags and fly away to the destination of your dreams.
You’re probably going to want to tell the whole world about your plans, and that’s exactly what Archana Singh, author of Travel See Write, did before her big trip to Ladakh, India.
“It was the month of August in 2014 when I was all set to go on the most anticipated trip of my life – Ladakh, the rooftop of the world,” she told Travel Wire Asia.
“All arrangements were done from my side. Full payment made to the travel organizer and thousands of dollars spent on buying the adventure gear.”
“I announced to the whole world my upcoming adventure and traveled 540km from Delhi to Manali to reach the center point from where I was to embark on an unforgettable journey”.
And unforgettable it turned out to be, but not in the sense she’d imagined. Singh explained that the group organizer called at 10pm the night before the trip was due to venture off and offered his sincere apologies for canceling the trip as the rest of the group had not turned up.
“I was given two choices, which were actually no choices – join another group going to Chandratal, a 5-day trip or be my own guest! In either case, I wasn’t getting my money back”.
Naturally, Singh was furious about this decision and doubted whether the trip she’d paid for was ever intended to run. But instead of dwelling on the unfortunate situation, she decided to venture out on her own.
“I had never traveled solo in India before. Naturally, I had apprehensions! To add to it, I hadn’t done any research for my trip because I relied on my travel organizer!”
“I thought to myself, ‘the worst has already happened, what else can go wrong; I shouldn’t back out of my plans because of someone else!’ So, I went to Ladakh alone, and I had the most amazing experience in those 15 days”.
Sometimes, traveling alone can be the best experience as you don’t have to worry about anyone else, meal times or where to stay. It is just you and whatever your heart desires.
Singh suggested that when these unforeseen circumstances strike, you need to stay as calm as possible, “…Don’t fret too much over the past and please don’t pay the whole amount in advance. That’s the lesson I learned the hard way.”
“If you don’t have the bookings at least a week in advance, don’t think twice before pulling the plug out. A little bit of extra research is better than being stranded at the last moment”.
Backpacking in Southeast Asia? Have a healthy skepticism
No matter where you are in the world, if there are other people around, there is a marginal chance that an opportunist thief might try to take what does not belong to them.
Theft and robbery can happen whether you’ve got your money stored in a nifty little belt or you’re splashing it around in full view. Despite all your attempts to fit in with the locals and look as least touristy as possible, seasoned thieves can still spot you in a crowd and make their move with stealth and haste.
Sometimes, it’s those whom you’ve built a little bit of trust with who will screw you over and temporarily destroy your faith in humankind, as Lucy Moore and Charlotte Burton-Barker, two British travelers currently touring Southeast Asia discovered recently while in Bangkok.
“We decided to go to a floating market which was one and a half hours from Bangkok,” Moore explained to Travel Wire Asia.
“Before leaving Bangkok, we went to the hostel to get our bags else we would have missed the check-out time. As part of the trip, we had an allocated taxi driver. He seemed really keen and friendly on the way there,” she said.
“We spent three hours in the floating market while the taxi driver waited (with their bags) in a nearby café.”
Logic tells you that if the taxi driver planned to steal their belongings, he would have done so while they were in the market. However, logic forfeited on this occasion and on upon returning to the taxi, their belongings were still there, alongside the enthusiastic taxi driver who insisted they went to another market.
Tired and shopped-out, Lucy and Charlotte insisted on heading back to their hostel, this was when disaster struck. “About 20 minutes into the journey, he pulled over and stopped for petrol,” Lucy explained.
“He said we all needed to get out, and we obliged. About five minutes later, he said he was going to pay for the petrol, but instead got in the driver’s seat and sped off, with all our belongings still inside.”
Fortunately, the pair were helped by the gas station owners. They canceled their debit cards and called the British embassy.
“As the police arrived, I remembered the taxi driver had insisted on taking a photo of us all on both mine and his phone.” The girls showed the police this picture, and they were able to identify him via the name badge on his shirt.
Three hours later, the same taxi driver pulled up with the bags still in the back seat and simply insisted that he had “forgotten” about the girls.
The case went to court, and the verdict is still pending. However, in this rare case, the two travelers received all their belongings back. Others are not so lucky.
If this unforeseeable and very unfortunate event happens to you, contact the police straight away and give a clear statement, also let your embassy know when you’re in the country and try to never carry your passport and all your money with you.
Thankfully, these four intrepid travelers have shared their stories to let you know that disaster can strike without warning. But a problem shared is a problem halved, so don’t be embarrassed if it happens to you, because it would have happened to others thousands of times before.