Important Principles for Working and Exploring in Hazardous Regions
An increasing number of people are travelling to hazardous regions and even war zones for work and leisure. Whether you are a business person seeking opportunities in a developing country, an extreme tourist seeking unique adventures, or taking a gap year, it is likely that travelling in these sorts of places will bring a high chance of danger and the low probability of access to a five-star hotel.
Even if you are just on vacation in a popular resort, sudden political unrest, a natural disaster or just a wrong turn can transform the simplest of journeys into an unwitting adventure.
Therefore, whatever your destination, there is some foreign travel advice and important principles that will aid you on your next trip.
The Scouting motto is, ‘Be prepared’ and when it comes to getting ready for a trip the information you carry in your head is much more valuable than what you have in your bag. There will come a time where you will be separated from your kit; be that by accident, negligence on your part, or through the malicious intent of another. However this happens you need to be prepared to operate without everything you may wish to have. As Clint Eastwood says in Heartbreak Ridge you will need to “improvise, adapt and overcome” and the more you know, the easier this will be.
Have you memorised the details of your passport? Do you know key phrases in the local dialect? Do you know how to contact your embassy? Answering these questions is a good starting point for any trip.
Make sure you do your research before you start on your journey. Get a good travel guide but also check with your embassy to see what specific advice they offer on your destination. It is also recommended that you search regional news channels to see what is happening locally and keep track of events; things can change very quickly.
Go Where Wheeled Cases Fear To Tread
When it comes to luggage think light, simple, and flexible.
If you take a look around in an airport it seems that most people are determined to use their entire baggage allowance whether or not they need it. This might be getting good value from your airline but it is not that helpful when you venture beyond a holiday resort. Following the mountaineering maxim of 'go light; go fast' is much more appropriate if you are an independent traveller or moving through a hazardous region.
Fortunately, with advances in materials and technology it is now easier then ever to reduce the weight that you are carrying. Reducing bulk brings a freedom of movement that you do not have when encumbered with a large bag (or bags). You can stroll past the luggage carousel at the airport, explore on foot rather than being at the mercy of a taxi driver, and move through a crowd without feeling like Moses trying to part the Red Sea.
To reduce weight you do not need to go the extremes of an adventure racer, sawing your toothbrush in half or cutting the labels out of your clothes. First investigate the main items of kit – the bag often being the primary offender – and look at purchasing a lightweight option. Even a small rucksack or over the shoulder bag can easily weigh 1.5kg/3.3 Ibs, but you can get models that only weigh 600g/21 Ozs. You will have to remove a lot of clothing labels to make up that kind of weight saving!
Keep It Simple Stupid
Remember to KISS: ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. Your luggage should mainly be comprised of basic and ordinary things. The reason is simple kit is easy to service and avoids attracting unnecessary attention.
Try to avoid fancy labels, bright colours and shiny gadgets. In the high mountains or when adventure racing it is useful to have high visibility garments but in most places it is better not to stand out. Look at what the locals wear and see what is acceptable, you don’t want to look like a tourist; a tourist can be a target.
Avoid military kit too – it may be cool to surf in camouflage shorts but it is not cool to be detained as a suspected insurgent!
Carefully consider every item you pack. If you are not carrying much equipment you need everything to work hard and operate with multi functionality. That does not mean taking a Swiss Army knife though, as this will not even make it past security in the airport.
Rather than a multi-tool, think about the uses of more simple things. For example a well-chosen shirt can be worn for trekking through the desert and yet be smart enough for wearing out to a nice bar or restaurant. A well chosen wrap can act as a towel, scarf or even a light blanket.
Take time to think about and select each thing you take.
Go Forth and Enjoy!
The final thing is to enjoy the adventure. Don’t make yourself a target but also don’t be paranoid! Remember that wherever you are the majority of people are actually similar to you; they are normal people with families and homes who are just trying to make a living. Some of the most fascinating people live in the most challenging places on the planet. Go and make some new friends.