We all have some kind of suggestion about something when travelling. Stuff we've learned to do and things that are definitely no-no's. This applies especially to travelling with it all on your back. You've cut the cords, burned the bridges and you're on your own.
I always feel disappointed for people who have had a bad time somewhere. They went out thinking it would be really great and it hasn't. The disillusionment just pours out of them - makes me sad for them (guess that's the way I am).
I'll start this out with some key ones I've learned. What are your tips?
Stop. Look. Listen.
Wherever you are, do this regularly.
It's saved my life several times and brought less grief than if I'd not paid attention.
Stop - What do you sense?
I always do this first. Going by appearances cannot always be trusted. If you are travelling with a female, she has got it naturally. A womans intuition is 95% spot on, the other 5% - she's in another galaxy. Us men, if we get it right 60% of the time we're doing well. So guys, ask her what she feels - and pay attention to her.
You've just arrived somewhere. Stop! Take a few moments to assess the "air". We humans have this and often do not realize it.
For instance, you get scratchy, a little irritable for no reason at all. Watch Out! Something's wrong here - it's not necessarily you.
Another place you stop and suddenly breath a kind of sigh of satisfaction (not because you've just arrived after that lousy train journey - this is different). It just sort of comes out of you. Then you might even have little kind of chuckle or smile to yourself, but don't know why. Welcome to the place that's probably going to be okay, for the most part.
Look - What do you see?
Look at the people. What are they like? Are they smiling often? Or looking sullen and wearing guns? Are they rushing around or not?
The general environment.
Is it clean? Dirty? Inbetween? Are there a lot of police everywhere? No police? Is traffic orderly or going wild all over the place? Drunks wandering around with bottles in hand? No drunks?
Does it smell like a 2 thousand year old sewer (probably is)? Is the air sweet? Clear?
Do your eyes start smarting? Do you want to take a big deep breath and feel good about it?
What you see does reflect the area somewhat but it is not a good guideline. I have been in some very nasty, crime ridden slums where I've felt fine (just a teeny bit wary) and enjoyed it immensely. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a town in South East London that: is very middle class, nice houses, clean and the single, most racist town I have ever been to (I was attacked a number of times by these "nice", white, middle class English people - just because of my accent).
Listen - What do you hear?
Is there a general sound of people who are fairly happy? Heavy traffic noise, but hardly any horns sounding? A lot of horns being used often? Children primarily laughing? Children crying and screaming a lot? Is it totally silent but you know it should not be? The sound of things being thrown in nearby houses? Music? What kind of music?
Markets tend to be noisy places, so if that's what you've stepped out into, move further away to get the general sound of the place. Basically, do the sounds make you relax or go on the defensive?
Stop, look and listen interplay with each other.
You can be walking down through a town that's absolutely fine, then you turn onto a street and bang! All of a sudden it feels bad. Or the converse - you're getting out of a crummy area and hit the edge of somewhere that's okay.
You can learn this. It does take a bit of practice, is not always 100% accurate, but in the long run you are better off learning to pay attention to these things until they become almost second nature.
The object is to be relaxed, enjoy what you are doing and where you are doing it at. Learning the Stop, look and listen thing, helps you do that.
Have you got any pointers?