What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

June 11, 2012 | By | 4 Replies More


The probability of getting hit by lightning in your lifetime (assuming you’ll live until 80) is 1/10,000. The risk of dying in a plane crash is 1/11,000,000. The probability of dying in a car accident is 1/98. Death from heart disease is 1/6 and cancer is 1/7. Knowing that there’s risk in everything we do from driving, flying, or just living what’s really the worse thing that can happen to you traveling abroad?

If you want to travel but are afraid to, the risk can be worth the reward to have an experience of a lifetime when you venture outside your comfort zone. You’ll challenge yourself to grow personally. Imagine the places you’ll see, people you’ll meet, and memories you’ll create. Whether you’re vacationing for a few weeks or embarking on a long term around the world trip, you can minimize risks by being familiar with possible scenarios that may or may not happen.

The influence in media may scare you from traveling abroad, but why let that stop you? While there’s a chance something might go wrong, there’s still probability that things will work out better than expected.

Here are few things that have happened to me and other travelers I’ve met on the road that experienced misfortune.

Getting robbed

It’s possible that you could get robbed. I got mugged by three guys in Rio de Janeiro who cornered me on an empty street while exploring the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. The street had uneven cobble stone that protruded high so if I tried to run the chances of me tripping were pretty good. It wasn’t a good feeling at the time as I felt violated, scared, and helpless. Prior to visiting, I’ve heard many stories about tourist getting robbed in Rio. I actually prepared myself by bringing a fake wallet with 30R$ Reais which was equivalent to about $12 USD in 2005. I happily gave it to the muggers to make them feel like they got my real wallet. They also took my daypack which had my journal in it, but I was able to negotiate Lonely Plant travel guide back. After they shook me down, I ran as fast as I could. I didn’t let this incident stop me from traveling again.

Getting pick-pocketed

Knock on wood, but I haven’t been pick-pocketed yet. I’ve heard countless stories of travelers that were savvy and street smart, but the criminals still got the best of them. During one of my trips, I met one guy that told me he was riding a jam packed train in Moscow’s subway. As the train was pulling into the station, he was standing by the door waiting to exit. Once the train came to a complete halt, the door opened and someone pushed him as he was getting out while passengers on the platform were rushing to get in. After the train pulled away from the station, he noticed his wallet from the front pocket missing. He told me that he suspected that the pick pocket was working with an accomplice.

Usually, robbers and pick pockets work in teams. You’d be surprised that some are even children who are trained in the art of stealing.

While I’ve heard of stories of kidnappings by taxi cab drivers to bring victims to ATM machines to withdraw money, buses getting hijacked by bandits, and robbers making you strip off all your clothes taking everything, I was pretty lucky.


There are a number of scams tourists encounter and get taken advantage of. Everything from taxi drivers, street hustlers trying to make a quick buck, and getting charged higher prices at markets because you’re a tourists are a few.

I was on Copacabana Beach in Rio on my way to Pão de Açúcar. It was a hot morning so I bought some ice cream from a vendor on the street. Afterwards I started to walk a few feet, a guy came up to me an pointed out that I had shit on my shoe. There was a brown blob on my white Puma sneakers that looked like crap. He happened to be a shoe shine guy and pulled out a wooden stand where I propped my foot on as he cleaned away. I stood there eating my ice cream and was happy to get my shoes cleaned until he finished and showed me the price. On his wooden shoe stand, he pointed to 50R$ Reais ($20 U.S. dollars in 2005) that was written in chalk. Sticker shock hit me over the head. In my broken Portuguese, I complained and told him that it was expensive and he was trying to rip me off. My friend that was with me and I we’re about to walk away. Before you know it another guy on the street who spoke English walked up to us and said “this guy worked hard to clean your shoes, you owe him 50R$.” At that moment, I was thinking about who else on the street was watching us waiting to beat us up if we didn’t pay. So, I paid and walked away upset that I got scammed.

I should have asked for the price before hand, but my mind was obviously in vacation mode. It’s funny because I’ve read about this “hot mustard” trick or variations of it as I was planning this trip, but didn’t think it would happen to me. Everything happened too fast and I let them get the best of me.

In researching all sorts of scams targeted for tourists, I’ve read in guide books, travel sites, and blogs about the flying babies as well as picking up wads of money from the ground (or jewelry) only to get hustled.

Run out of money

You could come back home from a trip broke. Sure, it would suck not to have any money left in your name, but you can always find a job and get back on your feet.

I was running low on funds while in Peru, but I wanted to extend my trip an extra week to see the Nazca lines. It wasn’t part of my original itinerary, but I decided to push my return date back to the U.S. because I wasn’t sure if I would ever be in Peru in the near future. I called my sister to ask her if I could borrow money and deposit a few hundred dollars into my bank account. She wasn’t too happy or supportive about my decision, but I promised to pay her back which I did.

When I returned home I found a job at a temp agency while I looked for permanent work. Within three months I was able to land a full time job since the company I was a temporary employee at hired me on full time.

Getting sick

I’ve been lucky about staying healthy so far while traveling. I haven’t had any major stomach disasters, just the minor travelers diarrhea. When I travel I make sure to drink bottled water, order drinks without ice since it may be made from tap water, eat cooked food, and eat fruits that has skin that can be pealed off. These are a few precautions to avoid Moctezuma’s revenge and make my stomach happy.

Other risks

I could go on and on about what might happen such as replacing lost or stolen credit cards, losing your passport, getting into accidents, political uprisings, disease outbreaks, and natural disasters. While things beyond our control may happen, it doesn’t make sense to stress over something that hasn’t happened yet. At least we can have an idea how to handle certain situations to prepare in case of emergency.

The worst thing that can happen

The absolute worse thing that can happen traveling is that you’ll die. I don’t mean to sound grim. Death is inevitable because from the moment we’re born we don’t know how much time we have on earth. I know this may be difficult to think about. I admit, it’s scary. Many people live a long healthy life, but there are also young people that get sick without warning.

The second worst thing that can happen is that when you turn 80 years old, you’ll regret not trying when you could have.

If you’re okay with dealing with these risks and overcoming your fears, you can take the trip of a lifetime or can create the life you want to live!

If you’ve traveled abroad, what have been your worse experiences? How did you overcome them?

Category: Travel tips

Comments (4)

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  1. Izy Berry says:

    It’s ironic, in a sad way. But before I left traveling my aunty was so worried about me. She’d constantly send me little updates telling me to be safe. In my home town, in 2011 there was a devastating earthquake, just short of 200 people died… and she was one of them.

    Put life into perspective for me.
    Izy Berry recently posted…I Hated LaosMy Profile

  2. Hi, thank you for commenting on my post about my fears and worries, I saw the link after replying to it, but now I have the answer to my question :)
    I’m actually very afraid of regretting not doing enough in my life when I’m 80 years old, so that’s why I’m starting to take care of it now. See you around! :)
    sofia the traveler recently posted…Package!My Profile

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