I’ve been thinking a lot about safety and travel lately. First Sarai Sierra was found dead in Instanbul. Then it was reported this week that the travel bloggers of Two on Four Wheels died in a road accident in Thailand. And I realized it felt more than necessary to add my voice to those speaking about travel safety.
There’s been so many negative comments about the victims and their ways of travelling – that it wasn’t safe, that they were taking too much of a risk, travelling solo or without a tour, that they should have known better. I myself have had both tragedies pointed out to me as reasons why maybe I should be a little more careful, travel a little less.
Travel isn’t ‘safe’ they say. But what is?
In the travel blog community, most people are upfront about what they’ve encountered, security wise – and have blogged about it. There’s a large number of solo women travellers who have talked about the dangerous things that happened to them on the road. There’s probably plenty more who haven’t, because they don’t want to worry friends or family, be told to stop travelling. Things have happened to me that make people at home think I’m freakin’ crazy to ever leave the country.
And yet, we’ve all kept travelling.
Because all these things could – and do – also happen at home. As @AdventurousKate has mentioned in a very recent post on this same topic, she got mugged in her hometown after returning from travel – and know from personal experience she’s not the only traveller with that type of experience. Every single day we read about women being raped in their own neighbourhoods, of shootings on ‘safe’ city streets, of muggings and crimes rampant throughout North America. This morning, someone in my hometown was killed in a hit and run car accident. Every person in North America has at least several friends who’ve been raped, mugged, assaulted, murdered or died in an accident.
So how are the dangers we court every day any different or less dangerous than those on the roads?
Common sense is common sense wherever you go. If you wouldn’t do it at home – don’t do it on the road, and you’re likely to remain safe. Obviously, some places are far less safe than others both at home and abroad. Accordingly, you adjust your behavior. Yes, there are risks you can’t avoid – discovering cabs in Turkey don’t come with seat belts was a bit terrifying. A lot of countries don’t have the same standards when it comes to the conditions their transportation options are in. Trying to cross a 6-lane highway in Florence where the drivers clearly don’t believe that the pedestrian ‘walk’ light means they have to stop felt suicidal – and yet, the only times I’ve been hit/almost hit by a car in my life have either been when I was growing up in England or living here in Canada.
So you shouldn’t just refuse to travel. Saying you won’t travel because it’s not safe is like saying you won’t leave your house because it’s not safe, when people are the victims of house fires and home invasions every day. It’s completely irrational and it denies you of being able to enjoy life to its fullest.
So why DO travellers travel – and why should YOU?
Because, despite the dangers – whether or not you believe they are greater or lesser than at home – there are things you experience when travelling (especially if travelling solo) that you’ll never get to have if you stay at home.
You’ll get to experience different cultures
You’ll have a far better understanding of world affairs
You’ll see things your imagination couldn’t even come up with
You’ll know what it feels like to ‘live life to the fullest’
You’ll make new friends from different walks of life
You’ll be exposed to a wide range of different personalities
You’ll eat things and do things that aren’t a possibility at home
You’ll have memories (and photographs) that will make you smile for the rest of your life
You’ll experience what it’s like to live an entirely different type of life.
You’ll discover that people aren’t so damn afraid of everyone else around them in other places in the world – and so if you’re willing to let down some of your barriers, and actually talk to strangers (remember being taught never to do that as a kid?) you’ll receive invites to stranger’s homes, parties and cultural events that allow you to understand and experience life in ways you never could at home – because these cultures, ways of experiencing life, and opportunities simply don’t happen there.
And all this will have a positive experience on who YOU are -
You’ll gain a greater sense of self-awareness
Of your own boundaries – physical, mental, emotional
Of just how much you can accomplish on your own
Of how courageous and adventurous you are
Of who YOU really are.
And if something horrible happens to you?
You’ll either realize just how much you’re capable of surviving – just like almost every travel blogger I’ve either talked to or follow (myself included) – or at least die secure in the knowledge that you went after your dreams, and didn’t let fear defeat you.
Which means you will have met and succeeded at the ultimate challenge – to live life well.