You've finally made it to your destination or at least your first stop (hopefully, without too much drama). Now that you're there what do you do – and what should you not do? Hopefully, you'll find at least some answers below.
If you’ve not travelled to poorer countries before you could be in for a shock (although the same applies if you're new to the tropics or the polar regions).
The sad fact is that the average person on the planet does not have the same standard of living as a criminal in a British jail.
Places where life itself is a struggle, people there often have scant regard for animal welfare.
In many countries your rucksack alone could cost more than most people make in a year.
Without being aware of it, we absorb a huge amount of data from the world we grow up in.
This can cover everything from how we refer to the elderly, to the colours that we wear, to the distance we stand from one another when talking.
These 'rules' are referred to as cultural reference frames.
Different societies have different rules or CRFs (and at least a handful of people who believe only theirs is the 'right' way).
If you are not familiar (or have not bothered to do a little research in advance of your trip) you may unintentionally create problems for yourself.
In some countries there is a strict separation of sexes. If a woman were to touch a man (never mind giving him a peck on the cheek /embrace), it may be seen as being sexually provocative – remember also that many people on holiday where they are not known tend to indulge themselves sexually. Having seen or witnessed that kind of behaviour and / or pornography may give local people an incorrect view of Europeans (crudely put: they may think you are gagging for it). Even a woman simply travelling by herself may be seen as peculiar (in some countries women customarily only travel with a male relative or other chaperon).
People in rural areas are more likely to be conservative / traditionally-minded than people in the major towns and cities.
In certain places you should avoid sitting cross-legged as pointing your foot at someone or showing the soles of your feet is a sign of disrespect.
White in some countries is a symbol of mourning. In others it is normal for people to take their caps off and / lift themselves out of their seats if they pass a funeral procession (even when sitting on a bus).
Use your judgement and common sense at all times (alcohol or drugs can impair both). Every country and society has its criminal element: you’re on holiday – they are at work in their element.
Remember you are not there to judge or pass comment on other people’s way of life. People around you may not speak any English but that doesn't mean that don't understand it – especially those dealing with tourists on a regular basis.
Remember also that you are not the only one making observations or judgements – local people are watching you and forming their own opinions about you and the country you came from.
Alcohol is likely to hit you faster in a hot climate. Also be wary of drinks that you are not familiar with. Spirits like Ouzo can have a delayed effect (but pack an extra wallop to make up for it).
Do not go mad and try and get an instant tan – you can literally burn the skin off and be left with extremely painful, red raw flesh. In particular, avoid going out in the noon day sun when temperatures are at their highest.
In a hot climate do not put your hands into a dark place – like a bin – where you can’t see what may be there – like a scorpion or a snake.
If you're camping or out in a remote area, hit your shoes or boots on the heel and shake them out in the morning – do NOT put your hand or foot inside them first.
Never carry anyone else’s package or property through Customs – even if you have spent a great holiday with them. Even apparently solid objects, like wood carvings, could be concealing contraband. One crime ring was found to be using solid wood doors to smuggle drugs in (they had been soaked in a liquid form of the drug).
Ask permission before taking pictures of military equipment or bases – in certain places this can get you in some very serious trouble.
Some trips involve climbing a hill or mountain – unless it’s a climbing holiday these are usually a day / half a day trips. However, especially if you’re starting off late in the day, if someone sprains an ankle or it rains, you could get stuck for the night. Take a torch, water and something to keep you warm (like a foil emergency blanket / poncho). Forget the movies – in real life it may not be possible to mount a helicopter rescue (depending on where you are, there may not be a helicopter in range; it may be undergoing maintenance; it may not have a winch; air currents and wind may make it too dangerous…).
You also don’t know the backgrounds or true nature of the people you are travelling with – con artists specialise in winning your trust.
People may be after things other than your money and valuables.
Don’t be paranoid but don’t be too trusting either.
Tip: don't start a fight in places you don't know. You could be in for an unpleasant surprise as what may seem like just a couple of staff turn into a horde as everyone from housekeeping to the kitchen staff wades into the fray. Something that also happens where there is a strip of bars – they often have a 'mutual assistance' policy in case of trouble. And don't expect any sympathy from local authorities weary of boozed up Brits behaving badly.
Actually, this is mainly about sex.
The 'Big S's' are a lot of people's idea of a great holiday. However, things can and do go seriously wrong. So there's an unpleasant reality of life that you need to bear in mind before casting off any inhibitions, common sense, sanity, and generally going wild.
There's a lot of holiday romances that can and do happen – although be advised that a lot don't survive returning back home to life's other realities (like doing laundry and putting the rubbish out). However, that's all part and parcel of growing up and exploring the world.
On the downside, there's always the chance of picking up an unpleasant holiday souvenir – like a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). Remember: you may go on holiday, but viruses and bacteria don't take a break – or give you one.
However, there is a far more darker and sinister side to human beings, which is frankly unpleasant to consider but you block it out at your peril.
Sometimes it is a straightforward sex attack – taking what you would normally have refused to give (if you hadn't been plied with so much alcohol or had your drink spiked).
Other people crave the good life and the trappings of wealth, and they're not the slightest bit concerned as to how they achieve it, just so long as they do.
Some people will view you as a ticket to the West and the good life – the attention and whispered sweet nothings may mean nothing to the person declaring their utmost sincerity and undying love for you (although some are just looking for a more immediate financial gain).
Sex sells, and a young, attractive person can be worth a huge sum of money in the hands of totally immoral people.
Sadly, it is now a well worn story.
Youngsters exploring the world (and that's not just about physically moving from place to place) are a tempting target for some.
First process is to befriend them. Then isolate them, dominate them. Then put them to work.
Depending on how much time they have the speed of the process can vary.
This doesn't really describe the full horror of the situation a person ensnared by these people will go through.
Once they have you isolated (having gained your trust or fooled you into thinking that they're actually in love with you) the real unpleasantness begins. Often it involves turning you into a drug addict (one of the easiest ways of establishing control). Then it's breaking your spirit / resistance – threats (unlikely to use too much violence as they wouldn't want to damage the 'goods'); rape and / or gang rape...
Then there's the 'marketing' when you're relatively 'fresh' – sold to the high rollers, and 'exclusive' clubs. Probably also used to produce pornography – photos, DVDs, online.
After constant abuse, drugs use and probably infections and beatings from sicko 'clients (and possibly from your pimp), you'll start to decline, with the resulting impact on your looks and your 'market value'. But they'll still use you as long as you can earn them money – although, in cases, you may be sold on to a pimp who works the lower end of the market.
Your chances of survival are now extremely low – depending on where you've ended up, you could get your throat cut as someone's gang initiation. Or die of an overdose, suicide or disease. Should you manage to break free your best chance is to make contact with the British High Commission or other tourists – as the local police may be in the pay of criminal gangs.
Hopefully, this potential scenario will not put you off travelling abroad. If for no better reason that it could just as easily happen (and does happen) in Britain. University towns, in particular, are a 'target rich environment' for people who prey on others – full of inexperienced youngsters, often going wild, with no parents to watch over them. And, if they can snare a friend or two, it's an added bonus – for them.
Wherever you, and wherever you go, recognise that there are some very nasty people in the world and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours (but they are also very nice ones in all shapes, sizes and colours). The trick is being able to tell the two apart. And even people a lot older and more experienced than you are fooled.