Tag Archives: Philippines

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

Well-Traveled, Multilingual and Clueless –Third Culture Kids Unpacked

At a wedding near LA with TCK friends I grew up with in the Philippines
At a wedding near LA with TCK friends I grew up with in the Philippines

I can go from zero to awkward, mumbling mess in no time when Western pop culture predating the late 90s is brought up in conversation. I have no clue what to say because a lot of the time, I have never heard of the actor/singer/quirky 80s celebrity of ambiguous sexuality being discussed. It is painful. I sound American. My Northern European genes make me look like I’ve got straight-laced, Mayflower Puritanical blood.  But I grew up next to sugar cane fields and coffee plantations in the Philippines and I have never seen a single episode of Miami Vice.

Luckily I grew up with other expat kids who were just as lost. We were all Third Culture Kids (we’d grown up in a culture different from that of our parents.)  Instead of being perpetually bummed about the fact that we didn’t completely fit into any culture or country, we bonded over our oddball similarities.  The transition to adulthood has changed very little so here’s my list of TCK traits:

1) Most of us speak English better than our mother tongue and are stumped if some zealous patriot asks us to recite the words to our own national anthems.

2) Whether or not we’ve ever stepped foot on American soil, our accents are often, to one degree or another, American.

3) We are flakes when it came to growing roots anywhere.  I’ve kept in touch with a number of my fellow TCKs and a lot of them have kept moving, never staying in the same place for more than a few years.

4) TMI!  We are used to sharing a lot very quickly because growing up we knew that we didn’t have much time to make friends before we had to leave again. But there is a flipside to this. Steph Yiu on denizen-mag.com puts it well:  “once you get to know us, you might find that we keep you at bay. We’re just so used to leaving (or being left by) people who are close to us that sometimes we don’t want to form very deep relationships, for fear of losing them.”

5) We were raised watching cultures clash on a daily basis so we are OK with grey areas.  We don’t expect life to be black and white.

6) We may have been mature teenagers but for some reason, we take our time “growing up” in our 20s.  For more on that, check out this article by Ann Baker Cottrell and Ruth Hill Useem:  http://www.tckworld.com/useem/art3.html

7) We are unlikely to take jobs in government or the corporate world that involve a lot of red tape/bureaucracy.  Neither do we often follow in our parent’s footsteps professionally:  http://www.tckworld.com/useem/art5.html

If you are a TCK or if you know one well and care to add to this list I’d love to hear from you.  Post a comment.  Just don’t ask me about the Jetsons.


Bjorn Karlman