Howdy all! You know, there are things we did, things we wish we did but never did, things we’d like to do but probably will never do, and then we have the things on today’s list – things that I have done which in retrospect I wish I hadn’t and will never do again. You know I think back through all my adventures and I think I can honestly say there isn’t a country I wouldn’t return to. A city? Less sure. But when travelling there are things I have done, I have chosen to do, that in retrospect were either ill-advised or I think there was an ethical problem with doing. So today I’m going to talk about three instances where I either learnt my lesson, or I realised after the fact that what I did wasn’t a good thing to do.
- Plough through a curry when I didn’t know what was in it.
So okay. I was in Bangladesh and one day I went to a little curry house where no English was spoken or on the menu. I was with a group of friends and we ploughed into the curry. It turned out that there were peanuts – to which I was allergic – in the curry and in the end one of the friends had to administer my epipen and I was rushed to hospital.
The thing is, my allergy plan is to slowly eat stuff I am unsure of. Instead I didn’t, thinking the tingling was because the curry was spicy. And what followed was my most serious anaphylactic experience in my life. This is not just a case of lesson learnt, but also I realised that if I had approached the situation with more caution it wouldn’t have happened. And this is important because I didn’t just put my life in danger, I caused a great deal of anxiety for those I was with and that wasn’t fair on them. I found out later the person who administered my shot of adrenalin (the Epipen) in fact knew someone who had died from anaphylaxis. Before my incident. When my family heard, they freaked out too. When you have a serious health issue, it’s not just you you have to think of.
- Go somewhere without a return flight
Which I did back in 2006. I went to West Africa with connections to the UK. The plan was to live and work in the UK, which never happened because I got malaria pretty bad and in the end returned home. But because of the nature of the trip, I felt a return flight was not needed. But in the case of returning home early, the only tine that’s really happened to me, well, I had nothing booked and needed a last minute return from Burkina Faso to Melbourne.
It wasn’t hard to get a ticket, and it wasn’t overly expensive to be honest, however, I didn’t have the money and so I relied on my parents to pay for it which wasn’t fair. On top of that if the return leg HAD been booked, well, travel insurance would have covered it all, but in this instance I think they may have covered flying Ouagadougou to Paris, but certainly not Paris to Melbourne. And was over $1000 for that leg of the flight. It may seem like a great idea to have an open-ended itinerary and no flight home, you may feel a great sense of ‘freedom’, but often it’s little more to pay for a return flight than a one way flight and that return flight you can usually change the dates of as suits. And the result is peace of mind for every one. Even if you think you’ll be more than a year. If it’s a points booking you can often, depending on your airline, keep pushing flights back for well over a year.
- Ride elephants
I rode an elephant on one of those famous treks from Chiang Mai, Thailand back in 1999. It was a great experience in many ways, but for me, not for the elephant. And I was young and naïve and didn’t realise until a year or two ago that the process of ‘breaking in’ young elephants to train them to carry humans is apparently cruel and basically torture. It’s even called ‘breaking the spirit’ according to some critics. Which makes it a lot different from riding a horse. On top of that I can’t imagine having a wooden platform strapped to your back with people on it is any fun for the elephant. Such beautiful animals, I genuinely feel sorry I ever rode one.
- Going to ‘Tiger Kingdom’
Another Chiang Mai experience, I feel even worse about this one because I should have known better. Despite what the people who work there tell you, that the tigers are treated kindly and are trained to be ‘tame’, I should have thought about it and realised straight away that this couldn’t be true.
Regardless of WHY tigers at Tiger Kingdom are so chill you can pose with them, they are wild animals kept in cages for the purpose of making money. It seems most likely they are drugged. Even if they weren’t, well, it’s still not right. These are beautiful, endangered creatures, large and capable to rip you apart. And they deserve dignity. And by going there and standing and sitting and squatting for photographs, I denied them this. I really REALLY encourage you if you are in Chiang Mai to NOT go there, and to NOT ride an elephant either. Please. I am literally ashamed that I was so ‘wowed’ by the idea that I did it. I’m going to swear. I was a fucking dickhead.
Well folks, have you ever done something and looked back and thought ‘I really shouldn’t have’? I would love to hear your stories, if only to make me feel ever so slightly less guilty (lol). Thanks for reading, take care, and May the Journey Never End!