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Why Are We Superstitious When We Travel?

Superstition: a belief or notion not based on reason or knowledge

Most of us are slightly superstitious in some way, but how far we take these superstitions can vary quite widely. For example some of us may walk around a ladder rather than beneath it, simply because it is the easier route and not to avoid having anything drop on our head. We may subconsciously glance around for the second magpie if we see one alone, simply because we remember the rhyme from our childhood.

Gary Lineker Couldn't Score During Warm Up Session

We may smile when a black cat crosses our path just because it’s cute, or absent mindedly throw salt over our shoulder whilst cooking the dinner. On the whole, we don’t really think twice about these things.

However, for others superstitions seem to turn into rituals and some people feel they cannot possibly function properly if certain routines are not followed, and before they know it, superstition has taken over their lives.

Many sports men and women have superstitions that make them follow the same routine before every big event. Match of the day presenter Gary Lineker was quite a footballer in his day, but how much was skill and how much was good luck? Would his career have turned out differently if he had not believed that scoring in the warm up would ruin his game?

David Beckham claims to suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and has to arrange the items of his fridge in a certain way, and if he has three of anything; he has to throw one away. Obsessive or superstitious?

David Beckham - OCD Or Superstitious?

Perhaps the most superstitious sports person has to be Chelsea and England footballer John Terry. He has a list a mile long of things he has to do in the right order from parking in the same bay, taking the same seat on the team bus, to using the same length of tape to keep his socks up, and even using the same toilet cubicle before every game.

Serena Williams once blamed her bad performance in a French open match on not fastening her shoe laces in the correct way, and Rafael Nadal has to put his water bottle in the exact same spot facing the exact same way between every game.

Travel is no different and many people have superstitions and rituals they have to perform, particularly before flying. They like to have a lucky charm with them, wear ‘lucky’ underwear or have a small childhood cuddly toy they have to take with them.

Many people, with or without everyday superstitions, refuse to fly on the 13th of any month and if that also falls on a Friday then that’s a definite no no.

Some airlines, including Continental, AirFrance and KLM don’t have a row 13, as too many people over the years have refused to sit there, having taken too much time to re-seat them, it was easier just to change the row numbers. Many hotels don’t have room number 13’s and also omit the floor number.

Delta Airlines Remove Rows 13 & 17

In Italy the number 17 is hailed as superstitious. The Roman numeral for 17 is XVII and an anagram of this is VIXI which is Latin for ‘I lived’. So for this reason the number 17 is left out of some aircraft and to be diplomatic, Delta now leave out rows 13 and 17.

In Cantonese, the number 4 is considered to be unlucky, as the word sounds like the same word for death. In elevators, floor four is simply marked as ‘F’ and the superstition can also extend to 14, 24, 34 and so on. Aircraft and military ships’ registration numbers will never begin with the number 4, 40, 400 etcetera.

Other random travel superstitions could also explain why people feel the need to clean their house thoroughly before a holiday, after all, who is going to see it? Well this odd quirk derives from believing that leaving a dirty home behind would constitute to a bad trip. Some people are just too superstitious to risk this happening so religiously scrub their house before travelling; to me this just seems like more work at an already busy and stressful time.

It is also thought to mean good luck if you bump into the same person when leaving on your journey, as when returning. Perhaps calling into your local shop before and after your holiday could guarantee this for you.

Whilst abroad there are certain superstitions that you may wish to look out for. If in China, never leave rice in your bowl, this is thought to be a sign of the amount of your fortune you are about to lose.

Unlucky For Some

In Spain, if you spill wine, dip your fingers in it and dab it on your neck (as though applying perfume) whilst saying ‘alegria, alegria’, translated as ‘joy, joy’, this is believed to bring good luck.

Be careful when going to the toilet in Morocco as they believe that the mythical creatures ‘Jannis’ sleep in there. If you need to go to the toilet at night then say “Rukhsa, ya Mubariqin” meaning ‘with your permission oh blessed’ in order to stay safe.

There are so many superstitions that they really could begin to take over our lives if we let them. What will go wrong if we don’t try the door handle three times after locking it? What if we put our right leg into our trousers before the left? What if we step on a crack in the pavement while walking to the bus stop? Are these really superstitions or a form of OCD? Do we just get so used to acting in a certain way that we daren’t change it? Do we really believe something bad will happen if we do? So many questions yet perhaps the answers, just like the superstitions, are based on a notion rather than reason. Perhaps the answers are just what we want them to be, so that we don’t have to change our habits and risk changing our luck.

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