ISIMEME UGHELE identifies five misconceptions about travelling and has some advice on how to overcome them
One of my favourite quotes about travelling comes from Saint Augustine of Hippo: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page”. For me, those few words perfectly summarise the enormous benefits that travel offers.
In the course of my work and recently discovered wanderlust gene, I have undertaken a few exciting trips, many within Africa, and often encounter these questions from well-meaning family/friends: “Did that trip not cost an arm and a leg?”; “How were you able to communicate with people over there?”; “Are you sure that country is safe for visitors?”
Yes, myriad misconceptions about travel abound – especially on our continent – but having travelled to a few countries around the world, I have chalked up some tips to overcome them.
Common Travel Myths
YOU MUST BE RICH While travelling can be expensive, it is not so in all cases. If you’re on a budget, options such as Airbnb, staying at hostels and even couch-surfing are friendly alternatives for accommodation. Two years ago, my friends and I stayed with a lovely family in Nairobi, Kenya and that saved us about $1 500 on accommodation alone.
Planning ahead and researching various travel sites for best deals is another effective cost-saver. By booking six weeks prior to a trip, you’ll also secure lowest airfares; while public transportation within the destination country is usually affordable. As it were, locals are always happy to assist with useful advice.
IT IS DANGEROUS Of course, there are parts of any city or country best avoided but nowadays, information is at everyone’s fingertips and through social media live stories on happenings around the world are shared. Before embarking on a trip – local, regional or international – gather as much information as possible about the socio-cultural norms, customs and the political climate.
Twitter is my favourite travel research app and a random search for a city’s name reveals a pool of unsolicited reports that give you personal stories and real-time information about the general climate, neighbourhoods, unsafe travel times and the like. Again, once there, the locals – especially hotel front desks and information centres – provide valuable guidance.
TRAVELLING MUST BE ABROAD A day or weekend trip to a new town, state or province in your own country can offer the same adventure and experience as travelling to another country. Local festivals and cultural events can be great fun. In 2014, for instance, my friends and I departed Lagos to attend the Calabar Christmas Carnival in southeastern Nigeria. When we returned home, our friends and families asked if we’re sure we hadn’t just returned from Barbados – apparently teased by the infectious satisfaction they gleaned from our faces, stories and pictures.
TRAVEL IN A GROUP OR WITH FRIENDS Some folks regard solo travels as lonely journeys. What a big misconception! Travelling alone can be quite a rewarding experience of self-discovery, personal growth and accomplishment. You step out of your comfort zone, make your own decisions without relying on anyone, meet new people, absorb new cultures and generally discover more about yourself. Solo travel goes a long way to buoying self-confidence and independence and is a growing trend around the world.
YOU NEED TO SPEAK THE LOCAL LANGUAGE “How will I be able to communicate in a foreign land?” is often a big concern but shouldn’t dissuade you from travelling. These days resources such as the mobile app Duolingo, plus good old non-verbal communication are always helpful. Also, learning important basic words/ phrases in the local language including “hello”, “yes”, “no” and “thank you” earns the admiration of the locals, making them more willing to assist.
Think of travelling as a form of education. There’s so much to see and experience – you would be doing yourself incalculable injustice by being put off by travel myths that are largely unfounded. As with most things in life, there is always risk but, to end off with another quote – this time from the late Anthony Bourdain – “Without experimentation, a willingness to ask and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”
Isimeme Ughele works for a multinational telecommunications firm in Nigeria and is passionate about education, charity and, of course, travel.