Does sailing in foreign countries worry you? Are you scared of travelling far from home? Do you believe what you read online and see on the news, or do you want to find out for yourself? We bust some of the myths that are constantly being fed to us in the media, alternative media and social media!
“Here in the US there is a lot of talk about people going missing, getting robbed, raped, or murdered, i.e. the world is not a safe place outside the United states. Have you guys ever felt this in foreign countries?”
Robbert ‘Mr Sailing With a Dutchman’, Patreon supporter
For the last fourteen years we’ve been living and travelling in some pretty remote places. For us, this is exciting and challenging, but it occasionally puts us outside our comfort zone. We hear often from some would-be cruisers who have a fear of stepping ashore into a completely foreign culture. Is it justified?
How safe are you?
So, just how dangerous is it to sail in some of the most remote parts of the world? Danny, on Patreon, asked if we fear for our safety, Shamus on our YouTube Community Tab, wonders how we know who to trust? PNWesty, another Patron and long-time viewer takes it a stage further, ‘Right or wrong, I think I am a bit overly aware of the concept of the “Ugly American” and might tend to overcompensate the other way. Even just dropping the hook at a small non-touristy village and taking the dinghy in to have a “look” like you guys do, would make me a bit uneasy – like I am intruding.’
“Common sense and treating others the way you want to be treated dissolves those comfort zone issues.”
Grady, on Patreon
And that’s a key factor in our approach. Respect for others, their culture and way of doing things means earning their respect in return. Arriving armed with some basic knowledge and a big smile can put you at ease pretty quickly. Pete and Werner on Patreon both say smiling goes a long way, and we couldn’t agree more!
It seems obvious, but don’t draw attention by behaving loudly, getting drunk or being rude.
Dress more smartly than your sailing or swimming gear, particularly in populated areas or when clearing in and out. It’s useful for women to cover arms and upper legs, and dress in loose clothes (and that’s not just in Muslim countries). For men, it is sometimes a requirement to wear long trousers, particularly when visiting government offices and when clearing in and out.
How do you find out about all this?
Danny on Patreon and Da Prez on YouTube want to know if we study the customs and habits of local places before we get there. Yes! We use guide books and spend time before on the internet gleaning information about basic cultural traits.
You may have heard that in Thailand it’s rude to bare the soles of your feet, and that means don’t put your feet up on the table or gesture with your foot. Don’t ruffle a child’s hair, it’s seen as condescending. And DO NOT EVER RAISE YOUR VOICE to a Thai, it’s game over the moment you do.
We’ve encountered some cultures where it is not permitted to touch a holy person or a member of the opposite sex. So if someone refuses a handshake, it’s not necessarily because they don’t like you. Liz uses the universal palms together gesture to greet and say goodbye to people if she is not sure 🙏
We ask Patrons to post their questions on a given theme most weeks. If you’re not a Patron, you can post your question via our YouTube Community Tab, which you will find our our YouTube homepage.
Engaging with local inhabitants is a useful way to overcome your fear of a new place, and learning a little of the language is a really great way to break the ice and connect. It usually produces smiles and laughter, and people will always appreciate your efforts:
- Learn polite phrases like: please, thank you, how are you, see you later,
- Learning numbers, just counting to 10, is useful,
- Opposites are good too, like yes, no, left, right,
- Types of food comes in handy when provisioning in markets or shops.
Here’s an odd one you may not have considered. Many folks don’t understand the concept of living on a boat, so learning the word for sailboat, and showing them a picture on your phone is often a quick way to get your story across.
We use Google Translate to aid communication. Downloading the local language offline has got us out of a pickle many times.
And if you’re planning to be a world cruiser, get used to being asked:
- how much does your boat cost?
- how much is your camera?
- how old you are?
- where is your house, how much is it worth, what is your income etc
In many cultures these are not rude questions! We’ve become used to not being offended. Sometimes we answer, sometimes we joke and often we change the subject. But it’s best to be open and honest about who you are.
Health is a major concern for many would-be cruisers. In the episode we see Liz getting treatment for conjunctivitis, and 24 Hour Travellers asks if we have medical insurance.
- Not at the moment, because medical attention over here is cheap compared to the west, and many of these countries have enviable healthcare services. Westerners come to Penang (and other places) for medical holidays. Liz’s treatment was free!
- We are covered for medical emergencies and repatriation through our boat insurance.
- Things will be very different when we head to the US where we know we’ll need to take out some kind of comprehensive medical insurance.
- If anyone has any advice on this, we’d love to hear it!
Many of the brands and foods you might regard as essentials in your home country, are just not available abroad (the same thing goes for beer)… So we try to eat what the locals eat ashore, and provision the boat with what we find. It’s fun trying new foods and being adventurous. After all, what we’re doing is adventurous, isn’t it?
SomeDayBlue on Youtube asks what it’s like for vegetarians. We are pescatarians – we eat fish, but not ‘land’ meat – and it has been easy because fruit and vegetables, along with staples like rice and noodles, are the food of the poor and therefore available everywhere. Meat is for the rich in many countries, and we understand from meat-eating friends it’s more difficult to get decent cuts in SE Asia. Chicken, of course is available everywhere, as are eggs.
What is your comfort zone?
We received this Yoda-like brain-twister from our very first Patron and friend, American McGee:
“To be outside your comfort zone you must first define a comfort zone. As you’ve been living a life of adventure for so long… what exactly is your cultural comfort zone?”
Liz defines her “comfort zone” as her home…
“After all this time, my home is just three things: Jamie, Millie and SY Esper…and it doesn’t matter where in the world they happen to be.”
Thank you for keeping us motivated to tell our story!
Do share your thoughts and comments below.
Peace and fair winds!
Liz, Jamie and Millie xxx
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