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Island View: Travelling responsibly

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: The recent incident involving Grace Taylor, a British backpacker in Krabi who made a frantic phone call to her family alleging that people were ‘trying to hurt her’, sparked a lot of debate on social media about the ethics of travelling responsibly. Fortunately, Ms Taylor’s family was able to get to her in time and she was soon in safe hands (story here). However, this may not always be the case.

My intent is certainly not to blame the victim in these situations, but there are numerous instances where teenagers and young adults visit Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the like, completely unprepared for what to expect, or how to fend for themselves. I feel that most parents in such situations think that having adequate finances are enough to ensure that their offspring will have a safe and comfortable journey.

However, this is quite far from the truth.

The first and most imperative aspect of preparing to travel is getting travel insurance. Most people think insurance is about as necessary as having estranged long-distance relatives stay with you for a month. Admittedly, nobody believes (or wants to believe) that they may be victims of a freak accident. However, such accidents, when they do occur, come without warning or preamble, and are sometimes severe enough to mar you for life.

Case in point: British backpacker Natasha Hutchinson, who left her parents with GBP35,000 (about 1.8 million baht) worth of medical bills, after the uninsured 24 year old was involved in a gruesome moped accident in Phuket. Ms Hutchinson had been travelling around Thailand for six months and has reportedly been told by doctors that she may not walk for another nine months.

Next – research, research, research. Taking an adventurous, spontaneous holiday is all well until you actually get there and realize you are completely unfamiliar with the customs and language of the place. Being culturally aware is important if you are planning to spend anywhere from one to six months living in a country where customs and traditions are drastically different from your own. This is as much for your own convenience as it is out of respect for the people who will ‘host’ you for that period of time.

Finally, families must ensure that their children have had enough exposure or street smarts to handle themselves in unfamiliar situations when sending them out to face the world, so to speak. If your child has never seen the outside of his or her college or home town before an adventure in Thailand, is it a wild leap of the imagination to say that there is a chance they may not fare well?

I know that part of the charm of backpacking is to experience unfamiliar and exciting situations, but there is a fine line between ‘finding yourself’ and being found on the side of a road as the victim of an unfortunate accident.

— Sahar Aftab Paliwala

 

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