The world is filled with countries that are seemingly off limits to any mere mortal traveller. With tales of extreme danger, endless conflict and terrorist attacks filling the headlines, is anywhere safe to travel to? And should you travel to those countries that are deemed unsafe?
I have spent the last twenty plus years travelling the world, and during that time I have visited some of the worlds supposedly most notorious and dangerous countries. Among all of the places I have been, I have travelled through Afghanistan, been to Iraq, Sudan, Mali and Myanmar, before it opened up as much as it has now, and many more. I was in Egypt at the start of the Arab spring, I have walked through various zones of conflict in Israel and Palestine, I have barely missed being hit with natural disasters in Thailand and Mexico, have met armed militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. and perhaps the most dangerous of all according to the mass media, I have even enjoyed the beaches of Tunisia and Turkey.
And this is before I even start on my stories of nearly drowning in Thailand, twice, having a knife pulled on me in Colombia and having a cat save my life in Cairo. Among others.
Guess What? I’m Still Alive!
Am I mad for doing all of this? Do I have some sort of deranged death wish? My mum certainly thinks so sometimes, as do most strangers I meet who hear of where I have been without knowing me or how or why I travel.
You would think that all of this would scare me off travel for life, but you’d be dead wrong. In fact it has only ever encouraged me to travel more, because in all that time, in all those places, with all those incidents, I have never once felt really unsafe anywhere.
You see, I never actually travel anywhere that I myself would consider dangerous.
This may sound confusing, but let me explain. To put it as simply as I can there is often a vast difference between the public perception of how dangerous a place is, and how dangerous it actually is. Perception versus reality.
Perception Vs Reality.
The media is partly responsible for this of course, carefully picking and choosing only the most dramatic, terrible incidents and crafting them into stories designed to shock, scare and make headlines.
The general public eat these scaremongering headlines up and then extrapolate a single – often isolated or contained – incident to entire countries or even regions. Add to this the exaggerated government travel warnings that seemingly revert to panic stations at the slightest hint of someone stubbing a toe abroad, and you get a situation where travellers don’t know what travel safety advice to listen to and a countries reputation is branded dangerous for decades, regardless of what the actual situation is.
So in that respect I travel all the time to countries that are perceived as dangerous. I travel to countries and regions that have dangerous reputations. But I am not stupid. I do not have a death wish. I do my research beforehand and obviously never travel anywhere that is actually, truly dangerous at that time, I don’t travel anwhere that may be an active conflict zone or somewhere where there will be a genuine risk of life and limb. Or at least not much of one!
I use official warnings as a starting point for my own research. I listen to other travellers who have actually been to a destination and know first hand what it is like. I ignore the opinions of those who have never been there and certainly ignore the mass media scaremongering.
You really do have to develop a keen sense of what safety advice to listen to, and what you can safely ignore.
By travelling to these off the beaten path destinations, the destinations that are supposed to be unsafe and treacherous, you will realise that the world is generally a very safe and very awesome place, and you will have opened your mind to experiencing all that these places have to offer simply by not following the crowd and listening to uninformed scaremongering.
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.
Gap Year Safety: The Ultimate Guide For Safely Travelling The World For Sale Now!
How Not To Get Murdered, Killed Or Kidnapped On Your Gap Year.
Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.
The Reality Of Fear And The Truth About Travel Safety.
Travel Safety Advice. The Good, The Bad And The Downright Crazy.
This is such an interesting way to look at it and it has really made me think. Thank you.
I’m really glad, thank you for reading.
This is a brilliant post! I absolutely agree that there is so much fear about travel based on nothing more than rumour or outdated advice. Backpackers need to look beyond all of that.
They really do Allen, as does everyone!
There are definitely countries that are dangerous and risky to go to but I definitely agree the media completely overblow things and create a mass panic about certain destinations, Egypt is a huge case in point.
I agree, Egypt’s reputation for being unsafe is completely unwarranted.
Brilliant article, it is so hard to determine what is real and what is overblown with 24/7 media.
It really is. There is so much speculation and outright dishonesty it can barely be called news any more.
I don’t know, you cant just say ignore official advice, they must know a lot more than they let on to warn against travel to a country.
I’m not saying Ignore it Theo, I’m saying don’t listen blindly to it. Official advice is notorious for being overblown, especially from the UK and US, and it is useful as a starting point to do your own research. Ask why they are saying a place is unsafe, ask if it is an isolated incident or a pattern, ask if it is the whole country or just a tiny portion of it which can be avoided, even ask if the information is out of date (which it often is).
So happy to read an article full of common sense on this issue. There is so much scaremongering out there!
There really is. Thank you.
Amazing way of looking at things an this is such great advice for all travellers. Stay prepared not scared! I am really loving your site!
Thanks so much I really appreciate it. 🙂
Totally agree! Too many people are far too afraid without any reason to be. Its all about perspective.
It really can be Paul. Thanks for the comment.
Such great advice! Love that you bring rational, reasonable thought to the safety debate. There is too much frightened scaremongering out there.
There definitely is.
Live free or die. I often thought of this New Hampshire license plate moto. I believe that you live by this moto, whether you know it or not. You can take all the precautions you want, but eventually the odds will get you.
I do travel, mostly to Cuba which is a very safe place for Canadians to travel. I do like going off the beaten trail while I’m there, but I’m not naive enough to know that I could meet up with the wrong person or persons on their turf. I would never think of going to countries where there are armies of people who would like to kill me because of the color of my skin or what religion I might not believe in.
I think you should count your lucky stars before you end up in the news as a person most people would say,” why would that idiot go there”. Anyways, I know you won’t.
Cats, I will talk about them as well. I’ve always had a couple of cats as pets. I live in the country so our cats were outdoor/ indoor cats. I know for a fact that the cats that went outside lived a much more fulfilling life, but normally a short one. The indoor cats live a very long boring life. So I guess we make our choices about how long we will live based on the amount of risk we put ourselves in. I wish you luck in your life.
Thanks for the sentiment Rick. 🙂