If you spend 17 years in the travel industry you end up talking to a lot of travelers, and over time you learn some interesting things about them. One of the most intriguing things I’ve found is that when it comes to thinking about your next vacation, it’s just human nature to spend some time worrying about the stuff that can go wrong. After all, many people only take one or two vacations per year, so they put a lot of pressure on the trip for it to be perfect.
What’s fascinating is that many travelers spend more time worrying about spectacular events that rarely happen (a plane crash, a tsunami, a terrorist incident) than about the small-scale nuisances that are far more likely to spoil a trip (food poisoning, losing your wallet, slipping and falling in the bathroom).
Travelers’ fears are often irrational
I’m not sure if the people who worry endlessly about an earthquake happening during their trip to California or a suicide bomber striking while they’re on the London Underground are quite as paranoid about events in their normal daily lives. It seems that the excitement and anticipation of an upcoming trip brings along with it some negative emotions as well, including worrying about work, loved ones who aren’t coming along, and so forth. All those concerns are worthy and understandable. But some of the concerns I hear discussed time and time again… they make no sense at all!
Why are we more afraid of travel risks that we have no control over (say, flying) than of those that we have the illusion of control over (say, driving or skiing), even though a car or ski accident is far more likely than a plane crash? And why do we fear things simply because they are unfamiliar to us? (You’d be surprised how many people have told me they wouldn’t consider going to Australia because of the spiders.)
But this isn’t just about faraway places with strange animals. A shark attack in Florida will cause vacationers in San Diego to avoid the ocean, yet those same people will order cheeseburgers and fries, discounting completely the fact that heart disease kills many more of us than sharks ever will. Man-made dangers also receive elevated status in the fears of the travel paranoids: travelers avoid Egypt because of civil unrest (even though no tourists died in the tumult of Tahrir Square) yet when they finally land somewhere “safe” for their vacation, they fail to apply sunscreen and court the extremely high dangers related to skin cancer.
Focus more on common risks
People who worry incessantly aren’t going to stop doing so anytime soon. But they should maybe consider shifting the focus of their concerns just a little, asking themselves which risks have the greatest likelihood of happening, and what they might do to prevent them. Volcanic eruptions while you’re visiting Pompeii? Unlikely. Pickpockets near the Spanish Steps? Well, yes, 100%. But now you’ve focused on them, and not the volcano, maybe you can avoid both! Happy worrying!
What are some of your biggest worries (silly or not) when planning a trip?
– Rod Cuthbert
You may not be able to forget all your worries on a trip, but you shouldn’t have to worry about the quality or reliability of your tour guide. We vet all our private guides and allow you to read reviews of other travelers so you can rest assured you’re choosing the right tour for you.