Mistakes of an Overconfident Traveler

I’m the kind of girl who gets nervous before traveling, but once the journey begins, the excitement gets to me and I become an over-confident traveler.  Third Culture Kids tend to have more travel experience than the average Joe, so confidence while traveling would be an understandable trait.

It’s like my brain suddenly says, “You survived the plane ride, so you’re basically invincible!”

And then I just make really really stupid decisions.  Please tell me I’m not the only one!

When I tell you this story, you’re probably going to think, “I would NEVER do that!”.  I would have said the same thing.  The problem is, when you’re feeling a little too excited, you become a little too confident.  And when you are too confident, it becomes a whole lot easier than you think to make some bad decisions…

This is me when I travel.  Sorry friends, please don’t’ follow me over the cliff! Image retrieved from:


Story Time:

Last year I went on a short-term trip to Thailand with my church.  I had lived in Chiang Mai before, so when we arrived, I was ecstatic!  On our first night, jet lag had me awake at 4 in the morning.  I didn’t want to waste any more time, so I got up and got dressed.  My roommate Roxanne caught me as I was about to leave, and since I was considered the team’s “Thailand expert”, she trusted my decision-making and decided to join me.

I had a huge grin on my face as we left the hotel compound and walked down the dark and empty streets of one of the largest cities in Thailand.   I was confident and happy and set on finding the fruit market to show my friend.  We turned down another abandoned street.  Not even cars were coming down this road, and all the shops were closed.  I needed to find out where the fruit market was, so I located the only other living soul on the street and walked right up to him.  With butchered Thai, I managed to learn from the old man that the fruit market was nearby, but probably too far to walk.  And then he offered to give us a ride in his car.

At this point I responded, “Yes, strange Thai man that i don’t know, who is mysteriously the only person on this dark abandoned road… I would LOVE to get in your personal vehicle at 4 in the morning with my friend, even though our team has NO idea we are here, we have no phones, and we are conveniently carrying around a fair amount of cash.  THAT sounds like a fabulous idea!”

Do you think I’m kidding?  You’re right, I didn’t say any of that…because I don’t know that much Thai.

I knew as soon as he offered us the ride that this was what I had been warned about all my life.  “Don’t get in a car with strangers.”  The warning was nagging at me now, even as I accepted the man’s offer and slid into the back seat of his car.

Roxanne questioned the decision as soon as I made it, but I assured her that we were perfectly safe.  I was the “expert” after all, and Roxanne, unfamiliar with the culture, had trusted me so far.

I was in the midst of living life to the fullest, my emotions high on joy at being “home” in Thailand again, and my eagerness to find my beloved tropical fruit was pushing me to take a “fun” risk and abandon safety for convenience and more excitement.

If it gives me any credit, once I was in the vehicle, my mind finally convinced me that I was guilty of a mistake that could potentially put both me and Roxanne in serious danger.  I spent the whole 5 minute trip locating the door locks and imagining the best way to jump out of a moving vehicle.

Praise God, my idiocy didn’t kill us this time. The man who drove us was harmless and, true to his word, taxied Roxanne and me to the unopened fruit market (it was 4 in the morning!!).  We walked home after that, though I DID manage to find a couple of market stalls that were open and bought some yummy fruit to share with the team.

I am embarrassed to admit that this is not the only story of me making rash and potentially dangerous decisions as an over-confident traveler.  But thankfully, bad decisions of the past help us make good decisions in the future.

Are you an over-confident traveler?  Do you find yourself taking more risks than usual when you’re on the road?  Do you find it a little too easy to sacrifice safety for convenience?

In my next post, I want to offer some tips to traveling safely (while still enjoying the trip). So stay tuned!

Evidence that Roxanne and I survived the trip.  We still had lots of fun, stayed safe, and even enjoyed a couple of trips to Swensen’s Ice Cream.


2 thoughts on “Mistakes of an Overconfident Traveler”

  1. Nice story. The most challenging thing I find in a new location and/or culture is knowing what is risky and what is not. Does this guy look sketchy or is this just normal around here? Is this a dodgy part of town or do I just have a foreign standard of dodgy? What part of town does “everybody” know is bad? I certainly don’t. So just through ignorance of my new environment, I probably take risks because I don’t know what is risky.

    But YOU are funny, getting into a car with a stranger at 4am. But I can totally appreciate being psyched to be back in Thailand. I always have that feeling after being away for a long time.

    1. yeah, I totally feel the same way Karl. It’s hard to tell what is considered risk or not when you’re in an unfamiliar culture. When I was a baby, my mom would hand me over to the Thai ladies at the market who would pass me around like a potato while my mom did all of her shopping. At the time, it was culturally okay to do that without too much concern for safety. But here in the States, the situation is completely different.

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