You’re going where? That sounds dangerous!

I think that everyone has pet peeves.  Something innocent that someone else does that drives you a bit crazy!  Maybe it’s illogical, maybe you think it’s gross, or maybe it’s just happened to you so many times that it now drives you crazy.  For me, it’d definitely the third one. When people ask you “Is it safe?”, it’s a sign of concern and caring, but for me, it’s really annoying.  I even freaked out at my sister about a month ago over this exact thing – sorry again!  So many people are constantly bombarded with the idea that travelling is unsafe. Don’t go to the Caribbean because of Zika, don’t go to Colombia because of drugs, don’t go to Europe because of terrorism, don’t go to Asia or you’ll be kidnapped.  Enough already!  Where exactly am I supposed to go?  People like to worry about things they see on social media, but it’s not always very logical.  Risk is an inherent part of life (any life, whether you travel or not), so I think you should keep travelling even when others are full of worries.

Here’s a preview of my latest blog on Expat Coffee Club, about why we need to to think twice about warning others of safety concerns while travelling abroad (especially solo, and especially as a woman): Safety while travelling alone as a woman


I’ve been travelling across the world on my own since I was 15 years old.  I love to explore new countries. It’s fun to travel with others, but sometimes it just doesn’t work like that and you end up travelling on your own. It can be a bit scary at first until you learn how to be independent and try new things. It’s going to be a bit uncomfortable to do things in a new way, but once you get the hang of it, you feel great!  The first time taking a bus on your own through Dhaka and actually arriving at your friend’s house. When you finally feel like the lady at the tienda down the street understands what you’re asking for in Spanish. Catching your flight after navigating a long customs line and running through an airport to make it to your gate.  These are all stressful situations, but once you master them, you feel totally accomplished – like you can do anything!

 

Then a person comes along… They may be a stranger, a colleague, a friend, or even your mom.  They say “Are you sure that’s safe?”, or “You shouldn’t go there, because you might get murdered”, or “Did you hear about that tourist that was abducted just last week?”, or “What’s a small girl like you doing travelling all by yourself?”, or “You should go back to Canada and cook for your boyfriend.”.  They probably mean well, and have the best intentions at heart, but it totally sucks. Telling someone not to explore the world just because “it’s a scary place” is not productive.

We learn these lessons most extremely from the media. Every time there’s a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or any other horrible event, we become afraid. When the only thing we’ve ever read about Colombia is the problems caused by the drug trade, we only have that one association in our head. However, some of these fears are totally unfounded. For example, the United States government recently put out a travel advisory against a whole continent (Europe) for a whole season (summer), which told Americans to avoid travel due to terrorist attacks. Perhaps that would be fine if the US was a small island nation with no crime. But to me, it just feels like hypocrisy. The US is full of gun violence, car accidents, and other problems that they warn their citizens about in other countries.  Many Americans are very afraid of travelling to Mexico, for instance.  However, over 150,000 Americans safely visit Mexico every day!  On top of that, Mexico actually has fewer homicides than many American cities per capita, with New Orleans having more than 4x the rate of Mexico City.  This must mean that what people are really afraid of is not high murder rates, but perceptions of “the other”, something different and unknown that scares them.
It’s especially ridiculous because the things that people fear are not common things. Yes, there have been a number of terror incidents around the world in recent years. But your odds of dying from a terrorist are about 1 in 50,000 while your odds of being struck by lightening are 1 in 3,000.  Do people not travel to country with thunderstorms because of fear of lightening strikes?  I think not!  Neither of these things can be controlled, yet it’s the things we see on the nightly news that scare us the most.  You’re more likely to die in your car on your way to work than in some sort of random shooting, but people drive all the time without fear.  Of course, nobody wants to be in a bomb attack, but never leaving your house is not the solution.  You never know what is going to happen tomorrow, so you just have to live your life the best you can today!

To read the rest of my thoughts on safety while travelling, read my latest blog:

Safety while travelling alone as a woman

 

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About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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