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

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There's a lot of scary stuff going on in the world these days – terrorism attacks in major cities; a refugee/immigration crisis that's become polarizing in Europe; out-of-control gun violence and racial profiling in the Unites States.

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.

Virginia Kendall Ledges at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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 (47 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.

Sailing on Lake Erie

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

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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68 Comments on “The World is Not Safe – But You Should Explore it Anyway

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  1. It’s so true that anything could happen to you, whether you’re at home or abroad. So you might as well travel! We don’t realize how “unsafe” our day to day lives are anyways.

      Definitely. It’s just that we hear about people who get hurt abroad on the news much more often than we hear about car accidents and other things that happen to people when they’re going about their daily lives.

    Thank you for your response, it was very helpful because I have a lot of fears and anxiety.

    I don’t know about the world “NEVER” being safe. I’ve been outside the USA 4 times with family and never came close to terrorism (plus I don’t think there was even terrorism in the countries we visited) we felt very safe and doubt there was any harm presented to us, If my family thought that travelling was dangerous we wouldn’t even have come close to going. My family takes safety very seriously especially since 9-11. My uncle thinks San Francisco isn’t safe, I think he’s totally wrong. But all I have to say is: “IF YOU THINK THE WORLD IS SOOOO DANGEROUS… THEN STAY IN AMERICA.” My family quit travelling after ISIS and Ebola. I don’t know if it safe to travel abroad “right now.” But I do know it was safe at one time.

      It’s absolutely safe to travel abroad “right now.” In fact, if you tell people to stay in America instead of traveling, you’re actually giving them much more “dangerous” advice! The US has a far higher rate of violent crime than most countries that people would travel to. Statistically speaking, you’re much more likely to get hurt or killed here than if you went abroad. Just some food for thought…

    Love this post girl <3 thank you

    One thing that’s always lurked at the back of my mind is coming across aggressive hatred because of where you come from being connected to some historical wrongs.

    I’m not a U.S. citizen myself, I come from a different country entirely (don’t want to say which), but there have been some shocking things done in its name, and I don’t condone those at all, in fact I took a lot of time to read about them and understand them properly. However, I’ve always been a bit worried by friends of mine (and media figures) saying ‘everyone hates us worldwide’ sometimes as if it’s a good thing, which I’ve never understood. (And when it comes to Islamist terrorist attacks, they change their tone and say ‘you can’t hate the majority because of the actions of the few’.)

    Of course, when coming across some of this hatred on an internet forum by mistake about 11 years ago, it left me feeling kind of scared, because now I’m worried that I’ll face that kind of hostility, abuse, aggression or even violence when visiting a foreign country – including the ones in which the wrongdoings were done, not to mention the ones with big Islamic populations for fear of terrorist attacks on foreign tourists.

    I don’t really know how to react to it because I just try to be a good person and treat others the way they’d like to be treated themselves (and as for these wrongdoings I don’t really see what I can do about them anyway). The most painful thing is that I want to travel and meet new people and new cultures and see new places, maybe even make new friends, but this fear of hatred is holding me back, and it’s gnawed at my mind for years. I haven’t really told anyone because I’ve assumed that people would laugh at me and say that it’s OK for them to be hostile. Or that I’m being silly or something.

    Any thoughts?

      I remind myself all the time that I am very lucky to be a white woman from a western country. Sure, there are some countries that I might be more wary of than others, but overall I usually don’t have to worry about being racially profiled – either when I’m traveling or in my daily life. I’m very aware that I am lucky to be in this position, and can’t begin to understand what it must be like for someone who DOES have to worry about those things. So don’t let anyone say you’re silly for worrying about something like this.

      I of course can’t speak for anyone from other countries and do not know your whole story, but one thing I always observe when I’m traveling is that *most* people from other countries are able to separate people from their government. Even when I traveled to Vietnam, where many people still dislike the US for what we did there during the Vietnam War, no one treated me poorly because I was American. I know this is only one anecdote, but I think it’s true in most places – even if people don’t like your government, they can usually realize that YOU are not the government, and that you’re traveling because you are curious about their country.

      I’m not saying that there aren’t shitty people out there, because there are in every country. But you can also find people who will be kind. I hope you’ll try to travel at some point, despite the fear. And I hope that the world shows you that it is more good than hateful!

        Hi Amanda. Thank you for your response, it does settle my mind a bit. Truth be told, I’ve been to a few countries outside of my own, and met people from even more countries, without trouble. A friend of mine once had some trouble because of his nationality, but nothing other than that. It’s probably the fear that it MIGHT happen rather than it DOES happen, but it sounds like what you have to say is correct. I still have some places on my plans to visit, and I think I will make plans to visit them in the future. Much appreciated!

    […] Travel and Fear: The World Is Not Safe, But You Should Travel It Anyway. As we’re beginning to plan more international travel — and as things get crazier and crazier here in the United States — travel safety is more and more on my mind. (That’s especially true as our travel involves more airplanes and fewer remote campsites.) The world can be scary, but it’s also beautiful, and I never want to let fear keep me from seeing it. […]

    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!!

      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!

    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.

      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!

    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.

      Yup, that’s exactly how you have to look at things. And the media does make everything look/sound so much worse!

    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 🙂

      Thanks for reading! That’s definitely my attitude: you may as well see the world because bad things can literally happen anywhere!

    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!

      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.

    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.

      You are so right! Any big city is going to have its “bad” parts – but that’s not an excuse to not travel to cities!

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