The hour draws late, my old friend beckons and dangers await.

The night grows darker as the overcast sky steals the moon from my view.

I can not seem to sleep. Anxiety and excitement bellow like a cacophony in my mind. Conflicting feelings battling for dominance over my psyche. I toss and turn in my bed, trying to get comfortable but my thoughts rush from one thing to another.

It is nearing my departure. I get like this. We all do.

I hope.

Most of my thoughts are now consumed by my upcoming adventure. I am constantly checking and rechecking the things-to-do list that is scrawled in illegible handwriting across the forefront of my brain. A reoccurring theme is my passport. The photo makes me look like a 12 year old drug dealer but I’m sure it’ll pass. I debate whether to get a new one but I don’t want to lose all my cool visa’s.

Silly I know but they make for good talking points with airport officials to distract them from the quite obvious connotations of my heritage. Although I’m not sure my Vietnamese visa will go down too well with the Americans.

“So sir, I see you’ve been to Vietnam?”

“Why yes, how observant. Theres a funny story about that actually, the young lad who took my passport to the consolate was actually….”

“Are you a communist sympathiser sir?”

“Erm, well no not really. I just went to….”

“Your going to have to step this way sir”

“Wait, wait, wait, you haven’t heard my interesting anecdote yet! Ignore the beard, its a stylistic thing! I promise!”

Yes, I dont think it’s going to work too well. Nonetheless it is a risk I will take for the preservation of my aged and experienced travelling companion. That little maroon wrinkled fellow. He has taken up permanent residence on my bed side table and has been incessantly demanding my attention these last few days. Starring up at me, all forlorn, craving expatriation. Soon my friend, soon.

A passport is a funny little object, it allows us to do so much. I feel privileged to have the backing of a British passport and it still holds some weight abroad. Unfortunately this quality makes it a much sought after item by the type of men that don’t have stable jobs or exciting career prospects. These are the jack knife yielding, scar smothered, tattoo sporting, alleyway lurkers. The kind of men you see in movies leaning up against a lamppost or tree, waiting for that vulnerable calf to trot by. The kind of men who sink into the shadows and trail you for a few blocks.

The kind of men you do not want to bump into.

A man much like this. If, Mr Unknown Man from Hanoi, you are reading this, I apologise for insinuating you have an air of 'crookishness'.

Safety is a big concern and makes up most of my anxiety. Thankfully it is normally overcome by excitement and quickly laid to rest in the deep recesses of my mind. Along with those sceptical thoughts I have quietly shoved away. Although the things you bury have a nasty habit of making dramatic late night appearances later on in the soap opera that is your life.

In the case of worry, especially worry about safety, it is a good thing that it does these cameo roles every now and again. As a traveller you must employ a good degree of diligence. Worry is a good fuel for this. But not too much worry. Like always, life and it’s processes, is all about balance. A small amount of worry will make sure you are constantly checking your surroundings. This is important. But you are trying to enjoy yourself after all. Do not end up as the nervous paranoid wreck at the back of the bus mumbling in tongues.

There are practical ways to harness your worry and ensure your safety.

Never take your guidebook or map out in public areas. Do not look lost. This is the trick. If you are lost, strut along like you own the road, until you can make a break for the nearest shop or alcove or shaded spot. Do not be the vulnerable calf. In the event that you are the vulnerable calf, act like the confident bull. No one messes with the confident bull.

Always travel in groups. Groups are harder for criminals to target and you are more likely to have someone in your group who knows whats going on. Also you will have more eyes on the look out for dangers.

Don’t flaunt your valuables. This is common sense.

Try to act like a normal person. Keep a wallet on you but know where it is and check it frequently. I have never been a fan of money belts. I don’t know if this is good advise or not.

Try to keep your wits about you. Especially in cities. These are hubs for criminal activity.

Never be the hero, if it does come down to any hairy situations, try to comply with requests. Material things are valuable, agreed, but you are invaluable.

Saying all this, I have been lucky enough to never been in too much of a hairy situation, but you learn a lot from stories you pick up from other travellers. Use these pointers wisely, especially location specific advise.

Most importantly, let your excitement overrun your worry. I have. Just make sure you worry at the right moments and make the right choices to either avoid a place or walk away. Follow your gut instinct, they are normally always right. If you are travelling with a friend, trust their gut feeling. They might have seen something you haven’t.

This said, the risks you face travelling, are no more than the risks you face in everyday life. You are just less familiar with the setting.

I think I may have just explained why I feel anxious.

Excellent.

Now I can sleep.

≈ Buenos noches ≈

– U.Mirza

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