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Why People Do Stupid Things When They TravelHat

The Secret Traveller

rock jump


By The Secret Traveller

What was I thinking?

That’s usually the reaction when you cast your mind back to a few of the things you got up to while you were overseas. You know that time when you went “tubing” in Laos and dived into the river half-cut? Or when you ran with the bulls in Pamplona after a huge night? Or when you rode a motorbike through the Thai jungle without a helmet on?


Travellers do crazy things overseas. There’s something about the sense of freedom when you’re away that makes people take risks they wouldn’t normally dream of attempting back home.

I’ve seen mild-mannered people get up to all sorts of stupid stuff when they’ve been travelling. They jump off high cliffs into the water. They ride in rickety old boats that look like they could sink at any minute. They take motorbike taxis through busy Asian streets. They hang out in dodgy bars that look like they could get raided at any minute.

running of bulls

Why do we do it? Why do we take insane risks overseas when our at-home brain would tell us to shut that stuff down before you we up in hospital?

I have a theory about this, and it has to do with a completely made-up syndrome called “travellers’ invincibility”. This syndrome is the idea that when you’re travelling the normal rules don’t apply. Nothing can touch you. Nothing bad is ever going to happen.


The world doesn’t feel real when you’re travelling. There’s so much that’s different, so much that’s new, that you can just do whatever you want with no consequences. No one knows who you are. No one knows what you’re doing. No one is there to judge you or advise against doing anything. Go for it.

This is, after all, something people have been waiting a long time to do. New Zealand is an amazing place to live, but it also has a lot of rules, rules that can seem fairly stifling after a while.


You’re not allowed to do anything here. You can’t even cross the road in a J-shape. So you get desperate to leave and go to some country that doesn’t seem to have any rules at all and you can just do whatever you feel like.

You don’t have to wear a helmet on that scooter anymore, so you don’t. You don’t have to buy booze from an official retailer anymore, so you don’t. And even if you were a bit concerned, you’d just look around and you see everyone else doing these things and think, OK, sure, why not?

This doesn’t always work out so well. There’s story after story about travellers who’ve come unstuck overseas after doing something stupid. People get injured, they get sick, they get hospitalised, then get sent home.

But still, this isn’t something that should put you off. Travel should be about doing something different. It should be about taking acceptable risks. It should be about getting outside your comfort zone. Get out there and go crazy.

Just as long as you understand that the normal rules – including gravity – still apply.


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