A classical psychological tendency that we humans have is called ‘Fundamental Attribution Bias’.
It means that if something good happens to us we take credit but if anything bad happens it is the fault of someone or something else. In travelling, we use it a lot.
We miss a connection because the incoming flight was late or the outgoing flight closed its gates early. Our luggage goes missing because the airline messed up. Or we got a good price because of dedication in searching the Internet. Well, some of those attributions may be accurate, but as often as not we are to blame for things going wrong, and things can go right despite things we did or didn’t do.
The world of travel is fraught with potential dangers – so many in fact that its surprising really that we travel with such impunity. The risks of plane crash are far less than many believe, but the risk of bad, dangerous and frightening encounters is higher. It may be a stranger who turns out not to be who or what they pretend (there are a lot of Walter Mittys out there), or a personal theft at an airport terminal (for some reason people seem to think they are safe at airports and abandon all street-wise common sense).
Once out of the terminal building you are often a stranger in a strange land, despite the proliferation of MacDonalds and other familiar brand icons. In some countries (in my experience notably India and Hong Kong), travellers are fair game to all kinds of hustlers and con-artists. In fact, I wonder sometimes whether it is a local sport in some places, and locals feel almost obliged to see how far they can go in scams and cons.
Knowing about the Fundamental Attribution Bias is useful when reading travel books and stories. Experienced travellers have much to offer and share but they do have a tendency to maximise the good and minimise the bad – unless they are trying to impress or alarm, when the reverse is true. Close calls are incredible, chases are hair-raising and escapes from danger are by the skin of the teeth.
But as a rule of thumb, when you retrace those steps you can expect sights to be smaller, distances to be longer, and prices to be higher. And remember, we all do have a tendency towards the Fundamental Attribution Bias – so you will be doing it too.
Annie Gurton is a fully qualified Psychological Therapist and Counsellor who has been helping people in emotional pain and difficulties for many years. She’s well-travelled in the world and in life, and she’s really cool.
www.anniegurton.com (+61) 423 632 657(+61) 423 632 657