When early explorers set out to uncover the mysteries of the world, they probably had a decent idea that they might not make it back home. There was no such thing as foreign embassies, police or even the complex notions of law that we currently enjoy today to keep us relatively safe while abroad, but that was part of the appeal of setting out into the unknown.
Did they make mistakes? Uhh… yeah. Tons. Like, they made so many mistakes it would be easier to say what they did right than what they did wrong, but you know, hindsight is 50/50. It’s easy for us to criticize the paternalistic, racist and ignorant ways of the past with our modern eyes but with such man-on-the-spot-ism being the norm for deciding how to act based on your own values and gut reaction, many people were behaving in what they perceived as the right way. First contact is freaking tricky – I don’t look forward to meeting aliens as it will probably be a clusterfuck in itself!
When it comes to modern travel though, many people seek to go ‘off the beaten path’ to see parts of the world not overrun with tourism; isolated little pockets that can in many ways be claimed to be unknown, even in this day and age. Maybe it’s the same urge that motivated long ago explorers to forsake the safe and the predictable – aside from those out for fame and fortune – in any case, the same pitfalls can await.
There is a temptation when you’re away from home to think of where you are as being some safe zone where you can act and do whatever it is you want without fear of reprisal. You may assume that when you’re lumbering through the rainforest of Indonesia or trekking a mountain pass in Nepal that nothing can go wrong because we live in a modern world and have access to technologies and knowledge that can defeat any foe. This just isn’t true!
You have to be very aware of your surrounding if you choose to travel to the isolated and the non-touristy spots because those very things that you think will protect you, won’t. If you come into contact with locals, be prepared for them to be very hospitable to you as a guest – or fearful and hostile towards you. You may not be introducing smallpox to them or be there to steal their way of life, but you are different and as such you may not be aware of their cultural norms and your very existence may pose a threat.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to see the things that most people never do and to recreate that notion of discovery enjoyed by sailers, hikers and wanderers from ages long past, but you also can’t be naive. The whole reason you are drawn to the less-popular means is because of that unknown factor, which also includes personal safety. Travel at your own risk!