Stupid Ways to Die When Travelling

Hospital Full Moon Party

During the Full Moon Party on the Thai island of Koh Phangyan, seemingly intelligent twenty-somethings jump into a skipping rope made of fire. For absolutely no reason. In fact, all travellers, from loose-trousered European liberals to lads on tour, tend to agree that things which seem life threatening when at home are an essential part of going native when abroad. Seven children on a moped with the family dog in tow becomes a symbol of an easy, carefree lifestyle away from the overbearing nanny state. Couples will happily tow their three-year old around barefoot in a 40 degree meat market, while anxiously checking for E numbers at home. Backpackers down a bottle of home brewed whisky before going for a land rover trek to a magic mushroom bar, but tremble at the thought of cycling in London. Plaintively citing the tired complaint of extreme European health and safety regulations, many feel that travelling is the time to take some risks. Obviously; that’s why we go.

There are some things, however, that are blatantly stupid in any culture. If the locals do it, chances are it’s because they have no other option. If in doubt, imagine your gravestone; “Died from heat exhaustion after seven rum buckets, RIP” may cause awkward scenes at your funeral. Here are the main culprits:

 

Alcohol

Much like the ability to attract the opposite sex, many assume that tolerance to alcohol is hugely increased by crossing a border. This is never true. Even less so because it turns you into a pissed, sweaty target of a tourist who is as likely to fall off a cliff while dancing creatively to ABBA as pay £20 for a five minute cab fare. Basically, drinking five times more than you usually do at home makes you into a prize idiot, while sticking with your usual habits makes you have fun. What also needs to be taken into account is that alcohol abroad is not as nicely regulated as it is in Europe. Last year, villagers outside Siem Reap dropped like flies from a poisoned rice wine, while tourists in the Balkans had a particularly unsavoury end to their life engineered by raki made of pure ethanol. Essentially, avoid drinking clear liquids from old coke bottles, and you should be fine.

Full Moon Party Buckets

Vehicles

Earlier this month, the Phnom Penh Post produced an illuminating report into the three main causes of death among Cambodians. These were named as ghosts, love and helmetlessness respectively. Spirits and affairs aside, riding a scooter with your hair blowing attractively in the wind is a particularly effective way to increase your chance of a horrible death. This is especially true if prior to arrival, the closest contact you’d had with a motorbike was watching Easy Rider. If you think Hells Angels are scary, and can only drive an automatic, there is categorically no chance you will be able to ride a 250cc motorbike straight off the bat. Particularly in a country where road safety simply involves swerving out the way of whoever’s going faster. Wear a helmet, and at least you’ll be able to consider your mistakes as your leg is being amputated.

motorbike crash

The victims were blind drunk, but apparently still ok. Photo by Gavin White – Flickr Creative Commons

Heat

When travelling to tropical countries, most Europeans aim to up their suaveness by getting bronzed. Full of hope, they run from their beach huts to fry pallid skin into submission. Suncream, after all, is only for when it gets above 20 degrees in Milton Keynes. At best, they end up burnt and sweaty, at worst, they get heat stroke. This is a singularly unpleasant condition, where you lie shivering and perspiring on the floor for hours as some unfortunate soul is charged with pouring water on you. You then spend the next few days simultaneously freezing and acutely burning under a wet towel in your room. At least though, this outbreak of stupidity will only affect you. Parents of all nationalities often seem to completely lose it as soon as they board a plane. All of the carefully accrued knowledge from ‘Health and your Toddler’ disappears during check-in, meaning that after landing they happily leave a two year old in the burning sun covered in baby oil with only some raw shrimp to snack on. This is not a good idea. Put a large hat on them, and they will at least live.

first aid full moon party

18 Comments

  1. Maria on August 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    “…some things, however, that are blatantly stupid in any culture…” So true and while I often chuckled while reading this, it is sad that some have ended in truly dire circumstances.  

  2. Maria on August 14, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    “…some things, however, that are blatantly stupid in any culture…” So true and while I often chuckled while reading this, it is sad that some have ended in truly dire circumstances.  

  3. Bobbi Lee Hitchon on August 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Three great tips. I love that you point out that just because the locals do it doesn’t mean it’s safe. Mopeds have always made me nervous on my travels. I wouldn’t dream of not wearing a helmet on one-especially on unfamiliar roads.

    • Michael on September 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      I liked that in Vietnam, they were very strict that foreigners AND locals had to wear helmets at all times on the mopeds. I still saw quite a few without helmets but the majority of the people did wear them. If only other SE Asian countries were more strict like this.

  4. Bobbi Lee Hitchon on August 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Three great tips. I love that you point out that just because the locals do it doesn’t mean it’s safe. Mopeds have always made me nervous on my travels. I wouldn’t dream of not wearing a helmet on one-especially on unfamiliar roads.

    • Michael on September 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm

      I liked that in Vietnam, they were very strict that foreigners AND locals had to wear helmets at all times on the mopeds. I still saw quite a few without helmets but the majority of the people did wear them. If only other SE Asian countries were more strict like this.

  5. Sky Fisher on August 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    It’s good to go outside of your comfort zone while traveling but stupid ideas are stupid ideas, no matter what country you’re in.

  6. Sky Fisher on August 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    It’s good to go outside of your comfort zone while traveling but stupid ideas are stupid ideas, no matter what country you’re in.

  7. Daniel McBane on August 15, 2012 at 4:13 am

    From the headline, I was half expecting a post about Vang Vieng.  In all seriousness though, the motorbike situation has always been hard to understand for me. I’ve seen so many backpackers who’ve clearly never been on a motorized two-wheeled vehicle get drunk and fly down the road looking every second like they’re about to wipe out. If you want to kill yourself, there are easier ways and if you want to live, there are easier ways to do that as well.

    • Michael on September 3, 2012 at 5:15 pm

      Vang Vieng probably has the dumbest people in one place outside of the full moon party in Thailand. I will never understand it either.

  8. Daniel McBane on August 15, 2012 at 5:13 am

    From the headline, I was half expecting a post about Vang Vieng.  In all seriousness though, the motorbike situation has always been hard to understand for me. I’ve seen so many backpackers who’ve clearly never been on a motorized two-wheeled vehicle get drunk and fly down the road looking every second like they’re about to wipe out. If you want to kill yourself, there are easier ways and if you want to live, there are easier ways to do that as well.

    • Michael on September 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Vang Vieng probably has the dumbest people in one place outside of the full moon party in Thailand. I will never understand it either.

  9. Andi Perullo on August 15, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Gosh, I hope someone reads this and it saves their life!

  10. Andi Perullo on August 15, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Gosh, I hope someone reads this and it saves their life!

  11. GoatsOnTheRoad on February 10, 2013 at 2:30 am

    I just saw this post now and was laughing throughout the whole thing…not that overseas death is a laughing matter, but the way you wrote it was awesome. Everything you said is so true, we tend to lose all sight of responsibility when crossing borders. I think that there’s a fine line between letting loose and experiencing new things and being an idiot! Thanks for the post. Cheers.

  12. GoatsOnTheRoad on February 10, 2013 at 2:30 am

    I just saw this post now and was laughing throughout the whole thing…not that overseas death is a laughing matter, but the way you wrote it was awesome. Everything you said is so true, we tend to lose all sight of responsibility when crossing borders. I think that there’s a fine line between letting loose and experiencing new things and being an idiot! Thanks for the post. Cheers.

  13. Jenneil Parks on March 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Very good points… although I am still laughing at your bio at the end.

    “I hold very strong convictions on the pointlessness of quick-drying towels.”

    After my rtw, my quick dry is something I would not leave home without. I love it 🙂

  14. Jenneil Parks on March 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Very good points… although I am still laughing at your bio at the end.

    “I hold very strong convictions on the pointlessness of quick-drying towels.”

    After my rtw, my quick dry is something I would not leave home without. I love it 🙂

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