Party Safely

Although I have had many holidays to destinations in countries all across the world, I think it could be said that I don't as much travel to places as I move there. The longest trip I have ever taken without having a job was for one month in Thailand. Even my round the world tour ended abruptly in my first stop off in Hong Kong where I got a teaching job and ended up staying for 8 months.

Years on and I now have the privilege of living split between the US, UK and Peru in my role as the Director of a charity, SKIP – Supporting Kids In Peru. SKIP works in a disadvantaged area located on the outskirts of the city of Trujillo, on the North Coast of Peru.

We enable children to access educational opportunities and support families to take control of their lives and pull themselves out of poverty. In this role I work with around 150 international volunteers each year which has provided some extensive insight into experiences of other travellers, in addition to my own.

Having lived in South America for the past 5 years, I always forget this is a place that people believe is really dangerous. Even my own mother, two years ago when I said that I was going on holiday to Colombia during one of the breaks, looked horrified, muttering under breath that perhaps it wasn't as dangerous as it used to be. I laughed, reminding her I'd already been living in Peru for years, I really hadn't thought for a second about safety issues in Colombia when I was planning the trip.

I remember that before I went to Peru I read the guidebook stories about the airport, which spoke of crowds of people waiting there to grab unsuspecting tourists and rob them of all their possessions and I felt vaguely terrified about arrival. I responded to this sensibly, finding a hostel in the city which provided an airport transfer and there was my taxi driver waiting for me, identified by the sign he was holding with my name on it. Nowadays, having entered the country so very many times, I know that there is a registered taxi desk by the door and so I use them. I would never use the random taxis waiting outside, no matter how enticing their reduced prices, because there would be no record of who they are if anything did go wrong.

Travel Blog - ParaRisk taking is something that we all probably do from time to time. We jump the amber light, we don't wait for the green man, we creep over the speed limit, we don't wear a bike helmet, we drink that extra beer, we talk to a stranger in a bar. All these actions can have consequences, but we take the chance because so much of the time nothing happens, so it feels silly to worry. The fact that we know where we are and feel comfortable in our surroundings, helps us to minimise the risk that we are taking....what are the chances.....

I feel that risk taking when you are travelling is exaggerated for this reason – because you are out of your comfort zone in unfamiliar surroundings. Travelling is all about the experience of trying new things, pushing the boundaries, being brave, so what could be seen as “risk taking” is now framed as “being adventurous”. Suddenly people find themselves heading off to a party with a group of people they've never met, and no idea where they are going. They don't have a phone and no one to call even if they did and there's a dawning realisation as they sit in a car full of drunk people, that this was a terrible idea.

Truth be told, most of the time, people are probably going to be friendly and you are going to be okay. When you think about it, this is like playing Russian roulette with your safety, and the consequences if it all goes wrong could be really serious. It's better to stay with people you know, especially if you are going to be drinking. It is worth remembering, though, that even people you may have known a few weeks are still relative strangers. Similarly, there can be a danger of becoming over complacent once you've been staying somewhere a few months, you feel settled and at home – and suddenly you're in the car full of drunk people in the same scenario as described above.

Travel Blog - Nep The thing that people can forget as they get swept away in the travelling dream, is that if you do end up in trouble in a developing country, the services there to support you through that are unlikely to be very sophisticated. In the case of sexual assault, for example, there may be no forensic testing, limited police investigation and if drugs have been used to sedate you, there can be a lack of understanding that you did not willingly ingest them yourself.

Please don't misunderstand my message – I love travelling and I'm not trying to put anyone off going to South America or taking the step to get out there and see the world, it will almost certainly change your life and you will learn so much about yourself. I could not recommend it more. The only caution I would encourage is just about making sure you don't get carried away. Think about where your boundaries are, make some clear rules with yourself about what you are and are not willing to do and don't let anyone persuade you that you are boring if you don't want to do something crazy, be brave and say no. Speaking as someone with a huge amount of experience travelling, I can assure you, my greatest and most spectacular memories are not from wild nights out, they are from the amazing places I've seen; hiking to Machu Picchu, the view from Mount Sinai at sunrise, Boracay beach in the Philippines, paragliding in Nepal, diving in the Red Sea..... and I'm still adding to the list!