Risk Tolerance When Traveling

Picture of Tasmanian forest

Is there a trail here?

We were on our third visit to Tasmania, a land we knew and loved well.  One of the regions we hadn’t visited on prior trips was the northeast, which is even more sparsely populated than the rest of the island.  We found a potentially nice hike, drove to the parking lot, found we were the only ones there, and headed on down the trail. The trail was fairly poorly marked- stakes with little colored tags were the only indicators.  We followed those for a half mile before some clouds started to blow in.

Not too long after, it started to lightly snow.  The snow became progressively heavier and the wind picked up, and we started to envision our future.  Stranded on a mountain in the middle of the Tassie wilderness, unable to find our way back or shelter on this rocky, exposed mountain, and appearing in the headlines the next week, “Clueless American couple found frozen to death one mile from their car.”  We stopped, looked at each other, and turned back while we could still see the trail.

Risk tolerance is an interesting trait which we don’t discuss and think about much in our culture outside of the stock market.  But travel raises the question and challenges your risk tolerance constantly. Will you venture alone down an unknown dark road?  Will you eat at a restaurant where you can barely understand the locals? Will you get into this van full of strangers and go to who-knows-where?

We believe discussing risk tolerance is a key component to relationships which is often not done until it becomes a problem.  Traveling as a couple highlights this: when faced with an opportunity, will you both agree to take it, agreeing to take on a similar degree of risk?

Fortunately, Susan and I agree on risk tolerance almost perfectly.  This makes decision-making while traveling much easier. On another hike in Tassie, we were somewhere our guidebook _definitely_ told us there was a trail, but it was evident the authorities hadn’t kept it up in recent years.  We trekked on, following what we thought was a trail, until we both paused simultaneously, looked at each other, shook our heads in tandem, and started hiking back. We’ve heard amazing stories from friends who took chances we never would, and we’re so happy for them. For us, the chance of those experiences isn’t worth the anxiety we feel imagining more unfortunate outcomes. We love our quiet, less adventurous adventures, and have found they suit us the best.

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