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…
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.
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:
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.