New Year is a popular time for many to re-evaluate life and future ambitions, and for some it is a time of reflection and change. Some will have already made plans to skip university for a year and jet-off in 2013 for new destinations. Those who started university last October will either feel more settled in their chosen environment or may have decided that the degree course or direction they have chosen wasn’t the right one for them after all. Either way, January remains a popular time of year for young people to embark on gap year adventures.
Beginning such a life-changing journey can be an exciting but daunting one at the same time; the prospect of idyllic far away shores, new languages, exotic cultures and experiences, not to mention meeting all kinds of different people is just a plane ride away. But gap year safety is understandably a topic of concern for young, often inexperienced, travellers (and their parents) and yet despite being in a foreign place with little understanding of the local language or customs, people tend to take more risks when they travel overseas compared with when they are at home.
In most cases, gap year travellers will have a safe and pleasant experience abroad, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Many people forget that they are about to experience completely new and sometimes complex cultures with special traditions, different languages, religious beliefs not to mention new laws and regulations in terms of what is deemed to be acceptable behaviour. Being unable to communicate in the appropriate language puts travellers at an immediate disadvantage.
That said it’s a common issue across the UK, most of us aren’t fluent in worldwide languages and so understanding the different risks associated with travelling to certain parts of the world where you don’t speak the language is advisable and following some simple steps to stay safe and keep out of danger can help:
1. Make sure you understand the customs before you go; this will save you from misunderstandings, embarrassment and negative attention which you will be unable to adequately respond to, should you find yourself being challenged by a local or the authorities.
2. Follow the cultural traditions – wearing revealing clothing is not usually a good idea, besides causing offence in some parts of the world it could also generate unwanted attention.
3. Learn some of the local lingo if you can – or at least a few key words and phrases for your own safety. This will be especially important in an emergency situation, and remember you can always use a telephone interpreting service like i-interpret4u should you need to communicate more fluently in another language at any given time.
4. Emergency contacts - make sure you give your family back home all of your contact information and make a note of emergency contacts such as your travel insurance provider, embassy and your bank or credit card company.