At the start of the summer we sent our mate Cristina (from the other side of the office) to our Safety Course so she could check it out. She was due to head to Hondrus solo, and was slightly nervous about travelling alone. Check out how she got on below!
Hola! My name is Cristina; I have just come back from the experience of a lifetime in Honduras. I have spent a month working for a nursery in a small village on the northern coast of Honduras. Before leaving I was quite nervous, especially as I was going to be travelling by myself. Luckily the trip went exactly how I wanted it to go and nothing unpleasant happened, I was really lucky but it wasn’t all about luck, part of the merit of this success was due to the Gap Safety course attended before leaving for Honduras.
Lisa from Real Gap recommend it to me when she heard I was getting more and more worried about the imminent trip to Central America. I was originally quite skeptical about the course; what more could they teach me that I didn’t already know? By then I had already spent months getting ready for my trip and I felt like I knew everything I needed. I also thought, how can they be prepared about all the different countries where each single participant will go? I felt like that was a bit presumptuous. I soon changed my mind. First of all, there are always aspects of your trip that you will not take into consideration without the help of an expert traveler, no matter how much research you did, and secondly there are universal safety rules that you can apply to all the destination on the globe, as for example the READE process: Recognise, Evaluate, Avoid, Defuse, Extract, useful to avoid unpleasant situations during your trip.
The course includes a lovely buffet lunch, cold drinks, tea and coffee. After a nice coffee we all went upstairs and we took a seat in the training class. Charlie and Marina were the teachers for that day, but I know there are two other trainers in the company. Charlie went first to introduce himself. He explained to us that he spent his two gap years in South America & Asia; then 15 years in the Army serving in Northern Ireland, Africa, Middle East and Central America, he also visited Antarctica! Then he let us introduce ourselves and the destination where we were going to. The most popular destinations that day were Thailand, South Africa, Brazil and Australia.
The course was split into 7 main chapters: Before you go, What to take, Over there, Getting about, Medical Issues, For girl by a Girl, Keeping Safe.
The first section was all about getting to know the destination better you are going to. What’s the president’s name? What’s the political system in that country? If there is an unsettled political situation. Getting to know the reasons and searching about those. Traveling is not all about getting passionate about the destination itself but about the history, the culture, the customs and the language. The more facts you know about that destination, the better you will be able to handle a conversation with a local and handle the day to day situations. Charlie was mentioning how important is to be able to create connections with the people that surround you during your journey. Researching about the destination it also helps you to respect the local in their customs and traditions. In this section Charlie also showed us a few interesting videos about journalists in difficult circumstances, such as the Vietnam war.
Marina took over the “what to take” section. A very practical lesson about what are the most important items to take with you and how to pack them. From the more common First Aid kit or padlocks to more particular items such as the personal attack alarm (which luckily I have never needed to use but which has made me feel safer). She gave tips about packing and she showed us how many things you can fit in a backpack if you know how to use the spaces properly. Also she explained how to wear your possessions in order to secure those from thieves and how to personalise your bag in order to make it difficult to lose.
The “over there” and “getting about” sections consisted in a team work where we were split in groups. Each group was given a picture related to accommodation, coaches, flights and taxis. Charlie asked us to put together our consideration about those aspects of a trip. After the brainstorming he went through each single topic and taught us what are the best practices in different circumstances, for example as it’s important always to ask to see first a hostel’s room before paying for it or how for a girl traveling in an overnight coach it is important to not sit on the back seats of the coach. We then did a role-game, I have to admit a quite fun experience, where we need to face an imaginary situation in different scenarios. I personally had to divert a very intrusive merchant at the local food market of Rabat in Morocco.
We then proceeded with a very interesting section regarding the medical first Aid, with a simulation of an accident, where we needed to find in the shortest time the most effective way to help the person injured. The “For girl by girl” section was all about common concerns female abroad, sexual harassment, appropriate dress code etc.
The last but not least important part was “Keeping safe”, Charlie taught us how to handle extreme situations such as mugging, kidnapping, earthquakes, fire etc. Following this section, he gave us all the important links and contacts we should have with us when we travel and a list of books to read that would have helped us for the exciting adventure we were going to experience.
Overall I found the course extremely interesting and useful; every aspect of traveling was covered with details and attention. The course really makes you reflect deeply about things you wouldn’t explore otherwise. I came out from this course trusting my instinct more and feeling more prepared for my adventure in Honduras.
Why would you recommend Gap Safety Course? Because during my incredible adventure in Honduras I have had many moments where I needed to make quite important decisions in very little time and the advice and tips received during the Gap Safety Course often really made the different. And of course always following your instinct, there is no better mentor than that.
Interested in going on the Gap Safety course? Find out more on the Real Gap Experience website here. Just think, your mum will be so happy you've done it!