When you’re traveling with a guidebook, or maybe even just on a short holiday, you don’t necessarily need to put a lot of trust in strangers. On a more ambiguous trip, however, it’s a very different case.
Stepping off the train (or plane, boat, taxi, horse carriage), you’re immediately accosted for hotel, taxi, tourist offers. Even more so if you’re alone. How do you know who to believe? Who to trust?
It’s easy. Go with your instincts. Trust yourself.
I would almost never take an offer to visit a shopowner’s family restaurant at 10pm alone, but I did in Chefchaouen, Morocco. And it was one of my most delicious meals in Morocco.
In Cairo, a friend of a friend’s recommendation landed me in a bazaar shop with a man everyone seemed to know. I was told repeatedly that I could “trust this man.” But I didn’t.
“Tommy” put on a hard sell for an expensive, multi-day tour of Egypt. There were too many stipulations (“You have to stay in this hotel—I won’t work with you otherwise”) and finally I just paid for what I’d already booked with him (just a single day’s worth of activities & hotel) to be done with him. The cost increased dramatically because of some fees he had neglected to mention (cough..scam..cough), but I was glad to be done with him and take control of my own trip.
A little frazzled from immediately being in a difficult situation (with a man I didn’t trust), I eventually found a new place to stay on my own terms. When my new hostel offered to help plan a tour through Egypt, I was skeptical, but gave him the chance to make his pitch. Even after just a half hour of talking, I could tell that I trusted this man infinitely more than “Tommy” the day before.
Now I’m nearing the end of my big tour along the Nile River and I’m so happy that I trusted my hostel in Cairo. I trusted my instincts. I didn’t take the first offer and I waited until I was in a comfortable situation before agreeing to anything.
In my past two months of travel, one of the greatest things I’ve learned is to only do things I’m comfortable with. If I’m in an uncomfortable situation, I get out of it. If I’m not happy, I figure out the problem and I fix it.
Maybe I’m taking the easy way out by escaping difficulties. (It’s pretty easy to just leave a place when you’re always moving.) But there is enough going on and so little time that it seems ludicrous to not be happy with where I am, who I am, what I’m doing… and then not do anything about it. And that’s why I trust myself today more than I ever have before.