Travel guidebooks are like bibles for most travelers and sources of information salvation in a tight spot. Just try to avoid the horror section.
You’ve saved up some hard earned cash and are ready to hit the road. If you don’t have a firm destination in mind, you’ll inevitably find yourself sitting in a bookstore somewhere reading travel guides. Regardless of the brand, you usually get an overview of the destination and particular areas recommend by the author. Hotels, restaurants and so forth will also be set forth. This is particularly good for such establishments as they often can raise their prices above anyone else in the area!
Of course, you already know all of the above if you’ve so much as ventured out of your house at any point in your life. Our discussion today focuses on the fear factor of travel guides. Yes, I am talking about the warning sections.
Every travel guide contains a chapter of horrors. The chapter is typically called something like “stay safe” or “a word of caution.” In legal terms, these sections are known as the “CYA” area, which stands for “cover your…” Reading them is wise, but the editors go just a little overboard.
I once took a spontaneous trip to Asia. I literally walked into an airport, purchased a ticket and picked up a travel guide on the way to the gate. As the 19-hour flight got underway, I had the novel idea to actually read something about my travel destinations. Halfway through the horror section, I was ready to hijack the plane and return to Los Angeles. The various disease that were clearly going to kill me included:
1. Malaria – Okay, I already knew about this and wasn’t that concerned. Fever, the shakes, joint pain – hey, that’s traveling!
2. Japanese Encephalitis – A disease carried by mosquitoes that attacks the brain and causes neurological damage resulting in blindness, paralysis and, well, isn’t that enough? I’ll never look at Sushi the same way again.
3. Dengue Fever – Carried by mosquitoes that are active in the day, this little bugger does nasty things to your joints and there is no cure. Not to be confused with “disco fever,” an equally dangerous disease from the 70’s.
4. Schistosomiasis – My personal favorite. The larvae of flatworms burrowing into your skin cause this nasty little disease! Visions of the bursting stomach scene from the first Alien movie moved uneasily through my mind.
Being skeptical, you’re undoubtedly thinking such nastiness is specific to Asia. If so, I invite you to explore a travel guide for the location you live in the next time you’re blowing time in a bookstore. You might be surprised to learn about the nasty things all around you.
One of my all time favorites was a warning I read in a travel guide for Brazil. No less than five pages were spent discussing a tiny bug that could be found on the beaches. This aggressive little guy could be expected to burrow under your toenails if you didn’t wear shoes on the beach! I have my doubts. I seriously doubt the “Girl from Ipanema” strolled by wearing boots!
Now, I am not suggesting in any way that you ignore the various health warnings. Read the horror section of your travel guide and form your own opinions. After all, you might be the unlucky soul who gets schistosomiasis.