Is it safe?
Over the weekend we were having lunch with some friends and as always the subject of travel came up. We were discussing where we would like to go next on our travels. Various countries got mentioned during the discourse and the number one question that cropped up was, “but is it safe?”
Now if we mentioned Afghanistan or Syria I would have expected such responses but we were talking about major tourist destinations. It’s funny what we consider as “safe”. Would you consider a car safe? Most people would say yes. In 2011 there were 1,901 road deaths in the UK. That’s 158 people dying every month. Imagine if there were 158 British tourists killed a month in one destination. The newspapers would be in uproar.
When we travelled for 18 months there were various countries on our trip that I was slightly wary about. Russia was the first “unsafe” country we visited. The reasons why I was apprehensive was most probably because of negative news stories. All we ever seemed to read about was Russian mafia.
It turned out unsurprisingly to be an amazing country to visit. In fact my preconceptions disappeared before we even entered Russia. We were on the Berlin to Moscow train and to our horror discovered that there was no restaurant carriage. We faced the prospect of travelling for over 24 hrs with no food. Word went around the train that there were 2 idiot western travellers without food and lo and behold a Russian man knocked on our door and gave us half of his food! So my first encounter with Russians was positive to say the least.
A lot of our preconceptions come from newspapers and television. I have always wondered why 95% of news coverage is negative stories. Why can’t the editors split the stories 50/50? I would much rather that format. Some would say that bad news sells. I disagree. If all of a sudden your favourite newspaper starts publishing more positive stories would you switch to a more negative publication?
It’s the same when people choose travel destinations. I never forget the first time I went to the wonderful island of Bali. I went 1 year after the first terrorist attacks there. Lots of my friends thought that I was crazy to go so soon after the atrocities. After meeting the beautiful Balinese people and seeing how grateful they were because I visited their island, I knew I made the right decision. The people were really struggling because of the lack of tourists. At the time the UK and US foreign offices were discouraging their nationals to visit Bali.
After the 9/11 attacks they actually ENCOURAGED people to visit New York. Funny that.
When we were in Laos we met this lovely French couple in their 60′s. They had sold their house in Marseille and had been travelling for 3 years by the time we met them. First they travelled down the whole of Africa by land, then they flew to India and did the same! After going around South East Asia they were going to go back on themselves and do the same journey. I asked them “was it safe?” travelling down Africa by car. Their answer was a resounding yes. They advised me not to focus on the negative stories.
Now I am not advising you to be reckless or totally care free. I just want you to question what you really know about a destination. Are all your facts correct? Is the place any more dangerous than your own city or town? Are you focusing only on the “dangers”. If we did that with car travel we would never get on the road.
Look at the image above. I took that photo when we were diving on The Great Barrier Reef. Now to most non-divers, any talk of sharks and the Jaws theme enters their head. Yet I could not wait to enter the water knowing there were sharks near our dive boat. Crazy? Nope. Was it safe? Yep. I knew that there was a minuscule risk that the shark might attack us but that was all it was: minute.
So as Mark Twain famously said: “Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Have a great day.
Peace & Love
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