Travelers and computer hackers have remarkably similar mentalities and by borrowing a bit from the hacker rulebook you can to travel smarter than you ever have. Computer hackers aren’t all bad, in fact most aren’t (I was one for 6 years); primarily they want to understand how a system works to manipulate it to their needs. That’s a process most travelers do as well – basically each time you go to a new place.
Here’s how to take that one step further and keep these 6 hacker rules close to your traveling chest.
1. Security Is Never Absolute
Whether you’re protecting systems or attempting to break them, no security is perfect. The same principal is true for travel as well, even beyond safety. You can do your best to plan every detail of any trip and yet things will still go wrong. Travel planning is all about weighing probabilities and a plans a framework to follow, not a tightrope you’ll surely fall off of.
The key is to be flexible, the best hackers and travelers are, in fact, just that. When it comes to crime rates, despite wide variations around the world, most are highly localized, which bring me to the next point.
2. Preparation And Disaster Recovery Is Key
As security is never absolute, that means your pocket can be picked, your camera snatched, and a taxi driver take you for a (very indirect) ride anywhere in the world despite your best precautions. Rather than avoid an entire city or walk down streets in fear, simply have a good travel security and backup plan. Distribute your money, lock down your laptop, and have an idea of what to do if your bags or passport is stolen.
Being prepared isn’t being fearful, but rather mindful. Don’t miss out on opportunities for unique experiences like taking a local bus or shopping at a nearby market because something might happen. Even if it does, you’ll be prepared for the minor headache and be back on your traveling feet in no time.
3. Know The System
Computer hackers often seem like digital magicians, working their way through firewalls and breaking wireless passwords with ease. The reality is that hackers (good and bad) typically spend hours, days, and weeks researching how a system works before trying to break it. As a traveler you don’t need to take anywhere that amount of time.
Anyone can use these 4 things travelers without a plan should be prepared for – which is basically know how to get from the airport or bus station to the place you’re staying. Learn ahead of time how much it should roughly cost and once you get to where you’re staying you can get the personal advice from your hosts. The real fun is discovering everything else firsthand.
4. Don’t Focus On The Outliers
Human beings overestimate the risks of things that get attention – plane crashes, murders, and terrorism can all give travel an unnecessarily bad reputation. The truth is most people survive plane crashes and car accidents are the number 1 killer of travelers. Hotel terrorism security plans are a waste of time and you should rationally change your travel plans as needed.
A common practice like wearing a seat belt (even if the locals don’t) is akin to locking your front door. Buying a bunch of expensive travel gear to protect you from every weather condition known to man is then like boarding up your house windows.
5. There Is Always A Way
Want to go to Galapagos, take better travel photos, or learn basic Chinese two weeks before your trip? For a hacker, there is always a way in and out of the system. This relentless mentality is one that travelers can use to push their boundaries and overcome any obstacle. In between you and any goal, there is a path.
Some are easier and others harder – all you have to do is find it. Having the right information or asking for it helps – don’t be afraid to do so.
6. Most Hacks Are Minor
Truth be told, most hacks are minor and generally regular good-practice security is good enough when it comes to computers. That same philosophy applies to travel and travelers. Things can and do go wrong but much more often than not, those things that go wrong are inconveniences that you’ll get over quite quickly.
The world isn’t a scary place and losing a passport isn’t like losing a leg. Late flights and the occasional pair of forgotten socks are going to be more common hiccups.
Break The (Right) Rules
Even when things go wrong while traveling, it’s a valuable lesson you can take with you on other trips. The more you travel, the better you get at traveling. Still you can let yourself off the hook however by considering how many times you use a computer in a week. With all of the threats and traffic going around online, most people browse the web without many problems – and those problems that do pop up are quickly fixed and relegated to our mental recycle bins.
[photos by: byte (hacker shirt), Lara604 (woman shaking finger), rubygirl jewelry (keys in hand)]
What a great article!! I gained insight- and related to much of what you said. Interesting how you tied in the hacker mentality and the traveler’s mentality. This was appropriate to read today after things going ‘not so right’ on my present trip yesterday- ha ha!! Well, as you say- be prepared for whatever may or may not happen- and roll with the punches. (or in my case back up your car at top speed when you realize you’ve turned into oncoming traffic…because you are so used to driving on the ‘other side’ of the road- hee hee)
haha, I’ve done that too once in a country where they drive on the “wrong” side of the road 🙂 Hopefully no harm done though?
I agree 100% with #4. Too often people get freaked out by one time events that won’t ever effect them. There some things to worry about, but with a most valid concerns can be researched fairly quickly before arriving.
The better we can visualize something and remember it, the more we tend to fear it. That’s why singular events like plane crashes or terrorist attacks seem so threatening – much easier to imagine than a generic car accident for most.
If all people had to worry about were plane crashes and terrorism, there would be far, far, far less people getting hurt in the world.
My favorite is #5: There is always a way! Never give up on an idea, no matter how crazy, because there will always be a way to get it done.
I’m completely with you on that one 🙂
Excellent insight as usually Anil. Hacking isnt such a bad thing when you look how you can prepare yourself for the things that are possible to happen. Have a back up and spread your money across your things rather than carrying everything in one place.
That’s an important point, distributing your money and valuables; and generally having a backup for emergencies so you have the means to recover quickly.
great tips, I love #5: There is always a way! I strongly believe that too, with everything in life.
The motto of my life as well 🙂
That would mean the Travel Bloggers facebook group is like the IRC for travel bloggers. Got a good script to generate Alexa bots, Anil? Heh
I had my days of.. erm… breaking things online…
I like that – IRC for travel bloggers.
As for Alexa, there are a few ways to do it. You can fairly easily get under 30,000 if you really wanted to. Don’t see the point though, might as well try to do it naturally.
…we’ll have to swap stories next time we meet up 😉
“Learn ahead of time how much it should roughly cost and once you get to where you’re staying you can get the personal advice from your hosts. The real fun is discovering everything else firsthand.” I totally agree with this, I always get excited when I’m on a playing and reading the flight brochure or travel guide trying to figure out how to reach the town paying little and without wasting time, plus getting insights on the city. A good analogy, and I’d say that at the end situations usually fix themselves!
I’m a big believer that over-planning is overrated. Traveling is much simpler than most people assume. Once you arrange the basics, change and circumstance take over, making for memorable trips 🙂
“losing a passport isn’t like losing a leg” – this is going to be my mantra! Great article Anil!
Thanks Sherry 😀