But It’s So Dangerous! Don’t Let Fear Stop You Traveling.

Less than a week after my family moved to the Philippines in the late 80’s, we were burgled for the first time.  We lived on a campus patrolled by shot gun-wielding guards.  Once one of them fired a warning shot at a would-be robber as he took a metal saw to the bars outside my bedroom (luckily, I was out.)  Within two years of our arrival there was an attempted military coup in the Philippines that I distinctly remember because of the bombs that could be heard in the background of programming on local radio.  Also, my favorite Manila supermarket turned out to be one of the temporary rebel strongholds.

Shortly after we moved houses, the father of the family that moved into our old house was tortured, shot and buried in the sugar cane fields that stretched for miles behind my house.  Reports of murders and kidnappings were not rare.  As a kid I was not allowed to tell my grandmother some of the stories from the Philippines because they would freak her out too much.

Having said all this, I would not trade these growing up experiences for anything and I would fully recommend travel to the Philippines.  Does that make me a reckless adrenaline junky?  Am I ignoring lessons that my earlier experiences should have taught me?  I don’t think so  Here’s my list of reasons not to let “dangerous” travel conditions put your off world travel:

Trouble spots are usually easily avoided
Just like any major American city, there are parts that are safe and parts that you avoid.  Guide books, locals and some basic street smarts will help you dodge the problem areas and enjoy the majority of the country.  Chances are that, with the exception of particularly war-torn countries, you’ll be about as safe overseas as you’d been staying at home.  You’ll find that reality is rarely as bad as the rumors you’ve heard.  Which brings me on to the next point…

Media hype
The media thrives off of sensationalizing any story.  The pictures, statistics and quotes of overall despair sell newspapers and the public eats it up.  So often, dangers are blown out of proportion.  A riot, skirmish or other security risk will happen in a specific area and the media will portray the whole country as being under siege.  And it goes both ways.  I have European friends who are afraid to come to the US because they know people carry guns and we have school shootings .  Based on hearsay and media hype, they’ve convinced themselves that they are in danger of being shot while visiting the US.

Local friends
I’ve been able to navigate many potential problems just by having local friends.  Locals will often appreciate your friendly overtures and will take special care of you.  They typically want to make sure you have the best experience possible while visiting their country so they will tell you what to say or not to say, how to travel and how to conduct yourself

Use the resources available to you in order to plan effectively
Some useful sites to check out for travel advice and warnings are:

U.S. Department of State International Travel Information

UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Travel Advice by Country

The cost of NOT traveling outweighs the risks involved

The greatest risk of loss associated with travel is not taking the trip.  Outside extreme case scenarios, you are generally better off taking a trip and growing from the experience of adventure, exposure to new cultures and exploring a new way of life than you are staying at home and trembling at the thought of something different.  So go ahead, be adventurous.  Be smart in your travel but also learn that you are far better off taking risks and experiencing the world than you are staying put.



Bjorn Karlman

6 thoughts on “But It’s So Dangerous! Don’t Let Fear Stop You Traveling.”

  1. This applies in reverse as well – my husband and I recently hosted a couple of cross-country touring cyclists that we had met on a cycling hospitality site. My co-workers were shocked. Was I sure these cyclists were who they claimed to be? Weren’t my husband and I afraid of being stabbed to death in our sleep? Not surprisingly, the cyclists were wonderful people and we thoroughly enjoyed hosting them.

    And don’t get me started on the typical American attitude towards women traveling alone. Acquaintances are often shocked by my “dangerous” solo travels… a day of cycling, a weekend kayaking trip, a three-day road trip or *gasp* international travel. (And I’m not talking about politically unstable or even terribly exotic locations.) The people I’ve met on these journeys have been helpful, friendly and not the least bit threatening. Agreed- the costs of not traveling far outweighs the risks!

    1. Thanks for your stories Jennifer! There are always going to be risks but that goes for absolutely anything in life so why not take some that will drastically enhance quality of life? What was the cycling site?

  2. I wonder too about people who relocate somewhere, temporarily or semi-permanently (5+years). While going to school in DC I lived with a couple from our Great Northern Neighbor who’d been in the states for over a decade and had no real desire to get to know their neighbors and thought their relatively affluent neighborhood was dangerous because some guy sold drugs once at a nearby park. They hadn’t thought to check local crime stats or be smart about where they were—they saw their location on par with a ghetto. Anacostia it wasn’t, but a safe Maryland suburb and their fear of having their house invaded by ambiguous minority thugs was completely unfounded. Anyhow, I think your post touches on something that we Americans have a hard time facing: fear of the unknown, and more importantly, the fact that we’re so used to having things come to us. Most Americans are not used to broadening their own horizons to increase their experiences and knowledge. I remember a few years ago when Rick Steve’s went to Iran to film a special on Iranian society and culture to help debunk ignorance and fear and show his audience what real Iranians are like and not what they’re portrayed as. I’m not sure how successful he was—or any person who works to debunk ignorance–as I think those who really need to have their ‘demonized’ perspective of other people would never actually tune into something that contradicts what’s convenient for them to believe.

    I agree with Jennifer about travelling solo as a woman. I wish I’d put away a dollar for every time I’ve been lectured about it…I’d be well on my way to funding a trip somewhere 

    1. Great to hear from you Alyssa, fear of the unknown is clearly an obstacle for a lot of people and when you live in the wealthiest country on earth and watch FoxNews, you can be forgiven for simply falling into a cycle of fear, consumption and weekend religion. The same, of course, goes for people anywhere… from your time in Britain I am sure you have some memories of the anti-Americanism that is so prevalent there. I remember working with a guy who was aggressively anti-American yet had never stepped foot stateside. It was crazy making.

      1. I think people can be forgiven up to a point–willful ignorance and apathy are two of my pet peeves! Yeah being in the UK during the invasion of Iraq was unbelievably difficult some days. The thing that always cracked me up was how vicious and easily some people could spout anti-Americanisms but often when they’d ask where in the US I’m from (CA) they’d start to coo about how great it must be there and if I’d seen famous people.

        1. Ha! How true… I was talking to a friend of mine who has learned that the way to be truthful about where he is from while traveling Europe is to simply say he is from California. Somehow there are enough positive associations with California to put claims of residency on par with Canadian flag patches on backpacks.

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