The world is filled with countries that are seemingly off limits to any mere mortal traveller. With tales of extreme danger and endless conflict or 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 fifteen 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 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.
And you know what? I am 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 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 versus 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.
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