The World is Not Safe – But You Should Explore it Anyway

Inspiration at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona

There’s a lot of scary stuff going on in the world these days – terrorism attacks in major cities; a refugee crisis that’s become polarizing in Europe; out-of-control gun violence and racial profiling in the Unites States; and Donald Trump actually running for president on a ridiculously xenophobic platform.

It seems like every time I turn on the news or check Facebook, something else disturbing has happened. Bombings. Shootings. Ignorant attacks. Intolerance. Fear.

Some people argue that the world is just becoming more dangerous; that there’s more murder and rape and other forms of violence now than ever before. And, as a woman who often travels alone, I would be stupid to ignore or brush off these arguments. Because it’s true that you DO have to be a little more vigilant when traveling these days – and especially when traveling as a woman.

Amanda at Moraine Lake

Is the world dangerous? Is travel dangerous?

Well, the world is definitely not safe. But it never has been. For as long as history has been recorded, we humans have oppressed, killed, and waged war against one another. In every corner of the globe, there have always been catalysts to violence; reasons why we just can’t seem to get along.

So yes, the world can be a dangerous place.

But you shouldn’t let that stop you from exploring it.

Here are four reasons why you should still travel, even with all the craziness happening in the world:

LIFE is dangerous

Watch the news or listen to people on social media, and you might be convinced that terrorists are lurking around every corner “out there.” But, in reality, terrorism attacks are rare in most parts of the world – and to be caught in one as a tourist is highly unlikely. Here are everyday things that you are MUCH more likely to die from:

  • Cows (kill roughly 20 Americans per year*)
  • Getting struck by lightning (32 per Americans per year*)
  • Driving your car (roughly 37,000 deaths in the US per year*)
  • Your own body (in the US, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes kill more than a million people every year*)

(In case you’re curious, according to the U.S. State Department, 3,380 Americans have died in acts of terrorism both at home and abroad between 2001 and 2013 – and that includes the 9/11 attack. Only 350 U.S. citizens have been killed overseas as a result of incidents of terrorism during that time.)

Cape Town from above

I was probably much more in danger in this helicopter over Cape Town than I was wandering the city’s streets.

And for those who worry about being kidnapped, raped, or murdered while traveling abroad? I’m not saying that it never happens. But you are far, far more likely to fall victim to this kind of violence at home (often at the hands of someone you know) than you are as a traveler.

Life in general can be dangerous. But just because more than 100 people will die today in a car crash in the U.S., will that stop you from driving to work or the grocery store? Of course not. So why should fear keep you from traveling?

Travel encourages tolerance and acceptance

Travel is one of the most educational experiences a person can enjoy outside of school. And not only will it help you learn about history and cultural traditions first-hand, but travel also helps you discover the number one lesson I’ve learned after years of exploring the world: people, regardless of religion or race or cultural background, really do want essentially the same things.

No matter if you’re in Canada or Cambodia, people want to feel safe and happy and want to be able to provide for their families. It’s really that simple.

New friends in Vietnam

Kids want to play and take selfies no matter where they’re from.

The more I travel, the more I realize that we really are more similar than we are different. And that knowledge has lead to a greater acceptance of all people, and I think has made me a more tolerant person overall. There are many stereotypes out there when it comes to people from different cultures and backgrounds, and I think travel is one of the best ways to shatter a lot of them.

If only more people would be open to leaving the confines of their country’s borders…

Travel can make you LESS fearful

This ties into travel making us more tolerant, too, because a big part of tolerance is learning not to fear things we don’t fully understand. As your mind opens up to other ways of thinking and living, you begin to be less fearful of the world “out there.”

We live in a world right now where bad news seems to be everywhere. And it’s easy to assume from all this bad news that the world is only getting more scary by the day. But if you actually go out and experience that world and realize that you feel safe far more often than you feel threatened, some of that fear can be silenced.

You learn that not every person in Muslim-leaning countries hates Americans – or even Christians, for that matter. You learn that a lot of the fearmongering you see in the media is just that – we don’t have to be terrified of life beyond our borders, because not everyone is out to get us.

You become a global citizen

The more you travel, the more personal connections you make with the places you’re visiting and the people you’re meeting. So when something terrible happens in France or Turkey or any other place that you’ve been and fallen in love with, it suddenly hits a lot harder.

Travel can make us more compassionate about things happening to other people. If you never leave your hometown, it’s easy to look at victims of terrorism and violence through a screen of “otherness” – those people are different than you, and therefore you don’t feel any real connection to them. But when you’re shared meals and laughs with people from that place or culture, it suddenly makes it more real. Because those people really aren’t much different from you, and you realize that it could happen to anyone.

Standing on the Giants Causeway

Travel helps you imagine your feet in someone else’s shoes.

The term “global citizen” is one without a concrete definition, but to me it means being aware of what’s going on in the world and actually *caring* about it.

So, can I promise you that nothing bad will happen to you if you book that dream trip? No, of course I can’t. But I also can’t promise you that you’ll be perfectly safe driving to work tomorrow or having a drink at your favorite bar.

Life is too short to be afraid of the world – just get out there and explore it.

What’s your take? Have you let any recent events affect your travel plans?

 

Don't let fear stop you from traveling

 

44 Comments

  • Allison says:

    I left southern France a few days after the Nice attacks, so I was a bit shaken by the news on a personal level. But I’ve continued on with my travel plans, through Spain and Morocco, because fear is no way to live. The only way we can understand each other is to meet each other, and in time I hope the world will become safer so we can stop looking at each other through our TV and computer screens and actually get to know one another and discover our similarities.
    Allison recently posted..Glutton’s Guide to Pintxos in Bilbao and San Sebastián

    • Amanda says:

      Glad to hear that you continued on with your travel plans, Allison! I agree that fear is no way to live, and that definitely applies to traveling, too!

    • WanderTruant says:

      I really enjoyed this post. I’m starting to embark on my own travel journey, and with everything the media is reporting, my family does have some concerns about safety. Your points are excellent and the benefits definitely outweigh the risks. I think it’s helpful to remind ourselves, much like you did, that the likelihood of experiencing violence are far greater on your home turf than what you would/will experience while traveling.

      • Amanda says:

        I understand why people are more wary of traveling – after all, travel is filled with a lot of unknowns, and the unknown is almost always scary. BUT, the fact is that you are much, much more likely to have something bad happen to you at home than when you’re abroad. It’s good to be reminded of that every now and then. 🙂

  • Pauline says:

    I never thought I would shy away from traveling, but after hearing about the shooting at Munich, I have to admit that it’s starting to frighten me. I have plans to visit the German Christmas Markets this year with my brother and, honestly, I thought of canceling it. Then I realized that I was just being silly. I’m not going to let my fear prevent me from seeing the world. I have the opportunity and the means to travel, and I should take it. Backing away from it because “something might happen” is a mistake. As you said, I don’t know if I’m going to be safe, but then again I also don’t know if I’m going to be OK tomorrow either, so to the Christmas markets we go 🙂
    Pauline recently posted..How to Plan a Trip to Machu Picchu

    • Amanda says:

      I went to some Christmas markets in Germany last year and had a great time – I’m glad you decided to go! And, as sad as it is, places are often actually *safer* after tragic events like this, since local authorities are more on-guard and alert.

  • Dominique says:

    I wouldn’t let the news stories change my view of the world. I’m not going to buy into all the scaremongering that’s going on right now. As you said life is never safe, not abroad, not in your homecountry nor at your home. I opt for doing what I love, and what I love is travelling 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      Good for you, Dominique! I find it really ironic to listen to people in my country talk about the world “out there” as being so scary/dangerous when, based on statistics, the U.S. is way more dangerous than a lot of other places!

  • Danny says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. The world may not be the safest place, but – as you say – it never has been. Moreover, I agree that a little bit of travel would do the world a lot of good.

    I feel like a lot of things these days seem more disturbing simply because of the nature in which news is disseminated – e.g. via instant push notifications on our cell phones, realtime footage on social media, etc.
    Danny recently posted..Watching the Sunset from Stockholm’s Monteliusvägen

    • Amanda says:

      Oh, definitely. I studied journalism at university, and I blame a lot of what’s happening with the media these days on social media. Not that I think social media is a bad thing – it’s also useful in a lot of ways. But there’s no arguing that the huge shift in how news is disseminated is due to social media and people being connected 24/7.

  • Kelly says:

    This is a really well-timed post Amanda, and I agree with you completely. It would be naive to say that the world is 100% safe and that you can do whatever you want without any regard for your safety. But if you take reasonable steps to protect yourself, you CAN prevent a lot of unnecessary tragedies from happening.

    I’ll be honest, not all of my travels have been perfectly smooth. I’ve gotten sick abroad to the point of having to go to the hospital for multiple days, and I did have one really terrifying experience with a fellow male traveler (note: not a local) but the benefits of travel still vastly outweigh these rare incidences. And throughout all of my negative experiences abroad, I’ve experienced so much kindness and helpfulness from locals and other travelers that got me through the tough times.
    Kelly recently posted..Love New York City? You’ll love Mexico City, too!

    • Amanda says:

      I had no doubt that fellow travelers would agree with this post! I, too, have had down days, sick days, and uncomfortable encounters on my travels, but the positives outweigh the negatives SO much that I hardly even think about the negative moments.

  • Jub says:

    Some great words here Amanda. If people start to freak out, I asking them numbers.

    How many people live in city X? Any how many in the recent terrorism attacks how many were killed?

    The percentage is crazy small.

    I can’t wait until there’s a global citizen passport 🙂

    • Amanda says:

      Unfortunately people tend to rely on feelings over facts these days! But you’re absolutely right – the numbers don’t lie if you take the time to look at them. I hope I can inspire at least a few people to do that!

  • Brian says:

    Completely agree with your thoughts on this. As I was reading it, I was thinking about how I’ve been saying things nearly identical to what you’ve expressed when talking with friends and family. There has always been violence in the world, from our earliest beginnings as human beings. But what the overwhelming majority of people want out of this life, is to live happily and comfortably, providing for their families and making the most of each day. It’s so important not to let these sorts of incidents, as bad as they may be, affect our willingness to travel and see the world when there is so much to see and do! We have a trip planned for Europe over Christmas and while I’d be remiss to say the recent events haven’t given me pause for thought, we can’t live our lives worrying about the what if. Otherwise we would never walk out our front door.

    • Amanda says:

      Exactly, Brian. I’m not saying we should ignore or make light of the terrible things happening in the world. But I also don’t think we should let those incidents dictate our decisions. I, too, just booked a trip to Europe this autumn, and I’m nothing but excited about it!

  • no, I haven’t changed any travel plans!I’ve been to France after the Paris attacks and to London and Stockholm this year.It’s quite true that you’re more likely to die in a car crash than in a terrorist attack but if we’re afraid to travel then they’ve done their part:they terrified us! so, go on and travel and love and live! that’s the only answer to terrorism!
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels) recently posted..Discovering Hampstead, London

    • Amanda says:

      I agree! I mean, there are some cases where I might think twice about going somewhere (like, I’m not sure I’d want to go anywhere that was in the middle of a coup), but I would try very hard not to cancel any plans. Don’t want to let the terrorists win!

  • Kassie says:

    I love this! It’s so so true. The world is a scary place but by making the effort to go and learn about other cultures and bring that understanding back to our own homes can make all the difference!

  • I don’t think that living in fear is any way to live. No matter where you are in the world, something can always go wrong or be dangerous.
    It can be at home or abroad, you never know.
    So you might as well keep travelling! 🙂
    Brooklyn @JustBeingBrooklyn recently posted..My Thoughts On A Classic; Wuthering Heights

    • Amanda says:

      My thoughts exactly! I know bad things can happen anywhere and to anyone. I am as alert and careful as is necessary when I travel, but otherwise I just don’t think about the bad things that could potentially happen. If I did, I would never leave my house!

  • Anne says:

    Amen, sister! I actually think a lot of it is social media pushing news in front of us so we see more of it. The world is far safer than it used to be 50 years ago (even though it’s more crowded).
    Yes, traveling is scary. At least for me. It pushes me out of my comfort zone. I keep reminding myself that the really scary thing is not to travel and not to exprience new things. Spending your life stuck in the same place without seeing the wonderful things that the world has to offer. Now, that’s scary!
    Anne recently posted..Visiting Antelope Canyon: 8 things you should know

    • Amanda says:

      I’m totally with you, Anne. Statistically speaking, the world IS safer than it was 50 years ago (well, most countries are, at least). But we see so much more of the bad news online and on TV that it often appears that the opposite must be true. But I agree – the far more scary thing would be to not travel at all!

  • Sometimes I have felt in more danger in the areas closer to home then I have felt overseas, abroad, or while traveling. Everything is dangerous these days. There is a lot more violence and craziness, but we can’t just sit around in fear. I took my mother on a Mother’s Day trip a few years ago which ended early due to someone running a red light and hitting us. It was totally unexpected and we dealt with the aftermath for years. I still cringe when passing through every light, but I can’t let that fear stop me from living. Using caution and being wise is good, but we can’t let fear stop us from doing something we love! 🙂
    Kati from Ms B Travels recently posted..What I’m Not Willing to Give Up to Travel Full Time

  • Heather D says:

    We had planned to visit Berlin over the holidays last year – had our tickets, etc. – and then the Paris attack happened. Unfortunately, we caved in to our knee-jerk reactions of “what if?”, trepidation, doubt, and fear won that round.
    A little over a month ago, the terror came to our hometown in the form of the massacre at Pulse nightclub. Not 4 miles from my home, the victims were friends of friends – one of my clients personally knew 13 of the 49 victims. A few days after the tragedy, I realized that I was angry at myself, when the thought of travel crossed my mind. The anger came from the realization that, by “caving in” to the fear, the darkness wins. And, one of the best tributes any of us could create to honor those who had perished, was to live our lives as fully and deeply as we possibly could.
    That being said – we leave for Berlin on Christmas day, and ring in the new year in Paris.
    As we say these days here in Orlando – #just keep dancing….

    • Amanda says:

      That’s a pretty incredible story, Heather, and I hope you’ll continue to spread this message! I’m so sorry about what happened in Orlando, and can only imagine how difficult it must be knowing people who were directly affected. But I’m glad that it encouraged you to set aside the fear and live life to the fullest.

  • Melodie says:

    I travel as often as I can and generally prefer countries in Asia. I use the same caution I would while traveling anywhere in the U.S. I have never been afraid and in many cases find I feel much more safe than in areas of my city at home. Travel has afforded me experiences and friendships I cherish more than any material possession. Thank you for your blog! I sincerely wish young people would spend their money traveling the world rather than spending it on games, expensive clothing,etc. I truly believe it would make our world a kinder, gentler, more living place!

    • Amanda says:

      I agree with you, Melodie! If everyone was required to travel away from their home country at least once as a student, I think the world would be a much better place!

  • Courtney says:

    I love this article. I’ve been traveling solo through Central Europe and have always been one step ahead of problem in Germany: the ax attack on the train, the mall shooting, the massive protests. People at home think I’m equal parts crazy and brave.

    • Amanda says:

      I think it always takes at least a little bravery to leave home and go to a foreign place you know nothing about. But you’re definitely not crazy. 😉

  • Oh, yes…the looks I’ve been getting when I say I’m going to Mexico City (alone) next month. Probably the same looks some poor Mexican girl is getting from her family when she wants to visit Chicago (my hometown!) – you can’t just judge a city by what the media tells you – Chicago has a horrible reputation, yet I regularly wander the streets of my neighborhood. I’ve even gone through bouts of severe anxiety over flying, but I never let it keep me from traveling.
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

  • Great post and so true. After all the world may be dangerous but even if you stay home, you’re still a part of it. LIke that saying, wherever you go, there you are! Except wherever you go, you’re still a part of our world. I’ve lived in just a few places but it’s very true that everywhere, people mostly just want the same thing, safety, happiness, shelter, food, family, friends. And it helps to see it first hand when you travel.

    I do think it’s pretty awesome that you’re brave enough to travel yourself. I think although I might die crossing the street, I’m not actively worrying about it, but I still actively worry when I find myself somewhere alone, late, unexpectedly. Something to work on!

    • Amanda says:

      Traveling alone isn’t really all that scary! BUT, I, too, would be a bit on-edge if I found myself in an unfamiliar place alone at night. I’m not afraid to travel solo, but there are definitely situations that I would rather avoid if possible! You do have to be a little more careful/vigilant when you’re on your own, especially as a woman – but that applies to ANYwhere in the world.

  • I love this! Danger can happen anywhere, even at home, so we might as well get out there, explore, and make the most out of life! Thanks for sharing this post 🙂
    Art Travel Eat Repeat recently posted..Cheap Accommodations While Traveling

  • Jay says:

    Great article, Amanda. One must do what they like in life. If we let fear scare us, especially when it’s very unlikely, then we’d just stay at home and what kind of life would that be? I’ve been in several “dangerous” places and never had a problem, simply because the risk was not that high. One must assess the situation before heading to a destination and know what is safe and what is dangerous. The media often makes places seem far more dangerous than they are. I’m off to Istanbul in a few weeks, despite the attacks there, I feel the risk is very low. One must look at their city. More innocent people are being shot in my city each year. So, is it more dangerous to travel to most destinations? Probably not.

  • Jake says:

    This is a really great post with many important points. I think there are a lot of countries that have been given bad press over the years in terms of their safety for travellers but a many of them have made changes because of this.

    Brazil, for example, has increased security in many hostels because of a reputation for being unsafe. Now they’re possibly some of the safest in the world. The only issue you might find is that they’re not identifiable, for that you should use an app like Triporia that has a street view facility built in.

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, there are definitely countries that have unfairly received a bad reputation thanks to the media. But I still maintain that if you do your homework and just use common sense, most places are perfectly fine!

  • Natalie says:

    Great thoughts on a very timely subject. Unfortunately the scary things that happen in the world are broadcast far and wide and that coverage can give us a skewed view of the reality of how uncommon these things really are.

    We travel as a family and when you travel with kids, people can be BRUTAL about their thoughts on you taking the kids somewhere ‘unsafe’. When we traveled to Turkey, I got the comment, “Are you CRAZY?” over and over again. In fact, we did our research very carefully and found that at the time the areas that were truly unsafe (like the border between Syria and Turkey) we avoided. Other than that we had the most incredible time. I, too, address this topic on my blog as spreading TRUE information, instead of just fear mongering, is worthwhile, too!!
    Natalie recently posted..Choose the best travel shoe

    • Amanda says:

      Definitely worthwhile! I visited Russia for the first time this year, and it’s the same there – in the US we hear all these awful things about Russia. But the reality is that it’s not nearly as intimidating or unfriendly in real life as the media makes it out to be!

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