…and the best way to respond to it when you’re abroad
It is not an option to stay at home and not pursue your dreams because you are scared! Most backpackers don’t even have any noteworthy problems anyway. Nevertheless, there is always a way to prevent certain situations from happening and it comes in handy to know what to do, if they were about to happen to you.
Robbery/ Loss of documents or money
It is never a bad idea to have a back-up and this goes for all of your travel documents. Before going abroad, you should make a copy of your passport, bank details and medical documents and keep the copies separate from the originals. As an alternative, you can also give them to your friends or family and they can send them to you if necessary.
That way, you will always be prepared if you lose them.
Added to that, you should always save the most important contacts, like the one of your bank, on your phone. In case your credit card gets stolen, you can always call them to make sure it gets blocked.
Loss of passport:
If you lose your passport go to the local police station and let them know about it. After that, you can apply for a new one at your country’s embassy. Having a copy of your passport will speed up the process!
Loss of credit card:
If you lose your credit card call your bank and make them block your credit card, before anything can happen. It won’t be a problem to get a new credit card real quick but it is going to cost you – the prices vary depending on your bank. It is best to talk this scenario through with them before your departure.
Source of money:
Make sure that you get your money from more than one source, especially when travelling alone. This is going to help you if you lose your credit card. For example, you can get money from travel checks but that’s just one alternative. If there is no other way, you can still ask your family to forward you some money on Western Union.
Make sure to call the police, if you are in an accident. They will collect all the necessary information and explain to you what is going to happen. Anyway, you should always ask for a copy for your own and take pictures of the damage if possible. That way, you will be prepared for further steps. Before going abroad, find out what kind of damages your insurance will cover and what the process would look like. If you’re planning to buy a car when you’re abroad, then plan in advance what possibilities in terms of insurance you have here. Added to that, it is never a bad idea to put some money on the side, so you won’t have to worry if there is an accident.
It is quite normal to get sick once or twice when you travel for a longer period of time – nothing special, maybe just a cold or the flu. You normally visit the doctor at least once a year at home as well, right? For this a travel health insurance is absolutely necessary. Inform yourself which insurance company offers which options and compare them. This is extremely important when travelling countries like America or Australia, as it is not mandatory to have a health insurance there, which makes a visit to the doctor even more expensive. You can easily pay $1500 for a night in the hospital. Often, you have to make an advance payment and then your insurance will pay you back later. To avoid unnecessary worries, plan ahead and find out which hospitals or doctors have partnerships with your insurance company, so they won’t charge you in advance.
But in every case: Keep calm! In western countries, there is really no need to worry as the health care system is very good and everyone is willing to help you.
There was also one case, where I had to go to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe properly – I guess an allergic reaction. But it took me way too look to seek some help as I didn’t know enough about my travel health insurance in advance. When I finally decided to go, they gave me a morphia infusion (much more drastic than it would have been in Germany, but I heard it’s quite normal there) and I had to stay the night. Unfortunately, my English wasn’t good enough to understand the medical terms, so the nurses had to do their best to pantomime. But it was all good in the end.
Another time, I caught a virus infection but this time my insurance company was very helpful and forwarded me to a doctor. One of my friends had food poising – I took her to the doctor and stayed all night until she could leave – and another one had an appendicitis. He didn’t get an insurance in advance and everything got way more complicated than necessary – so be advised to choose the right insurance for you!
Missing your flight/ bus/ tour:
It always depends, who was responsible for missing the flight/ bus/ tour. Generally said: Always keep an eye on the departure times! But there’s always the possibility that something will go wrong. It also happened to me – I missed my bus and therefore missed out on my Frazer Island Tour. It was my fault and so obviously, I had to pay myself, but I still got an offer for a one-day trip. Even if it happens, just try and make the best out of it. Most of the companies are very kind and will try to help you.
In case you’re not responsible, you should try to make them pay – at least some of it. And don’t be discouraged if there’s a “No” – keep trying! When I was stuck in Dubai, because they pulled me out of the airplane, they offered me a flight on the next day, but they didn’t want to pay for the hotel. I insisted and at the end, it got paid by the airline.
They can happen everywhere – animal attacks, natural catastrophes or terror attacks. In case they happen, try to act like the locals. They know their country and the things that can happen there.
When I was in Australia, people told me to get out of the water because shark or crocodile attacks were quite likely in that area. If you’re at a beach and there is not a single Aussie in the water, you should be curious why!
If you get bitten by a poisonous animal, it is mandatory to see a doctor, especially in Australia. Don’t try to fix it yourself – don’t touch the wound and let someone with more knowledge do the work. Take a picture if the animal is still close because that might help – otherwise try and memorize the way it looks. At Australia beaches, there are first-aid kits with antidote – doesn’t mean you don’t have to go to a doctor though!
For any further questions, you can always turn to the agency abroad.
Countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada are some of the most secure countries to travel so there is really no point in stressing out – common sense will help you a lot. Don’t get drunk on your own in the wilderness, don’t trust every random stranger that you meet along the way. Just don’t do things, you wouldn’t do at home – like walking home alone at night. Bigger cities are very safe most of the time but still, you shouldn’t rely on that and do your research in advance.
More remote places, like the Outback, you should never be on your own. If a crime is to happen to you, call the police and talk to the (German) agency abroad.
A lot of people that travel for the first time do get a little homesick and want to go back. Especially, when you don’t have a lot of friends yet and everything is still new. But don’t let this drag you down. Instead of isolating yourself, try to go out, join a group, make use of offers for backpackers and get to know people. That’s how you get rid of homesickness and even have the feeling that you don’t want to leave ever. But you don’t have to feel ashamed if you do feel homesick – loads of people struggle with the same problem and maybe you can exchange tips and tricks.
My tip is to cook your favorite meal or skype with your family. Especially on days like Christmas or your birthday, homesickness waits around the corner. Planning something special with your friends for those days and exploring the advantages of being right where you are can help a lot. How does spending your day on the beach with a Christmas tree and hats sound like? If the day completely differs from your normal routine at home, it makes it easier for you.
Two other triggers for homesickness are lack of sleep and too much stress- allow yourself some time off and maybe even get a room just for yourself in a nice hotel.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”