We Need To Change How We Think About Travel Safety.

Michael Huxley Travel In Dangerous Countries

Too many people are afraid of travelling the world. They think taking a gap year is dangerous and backpacking is too risky. But is this accurate? Are travellers really in so much danger? Or it is about time everyone changed the way they think about travel safety?

Travelling the world is in general very safe. There are risks out there of course, risks of accidents, risks of becoming the victim of a crime or of something terrible happening to any one of us, that is undeniable, but statistically these risks are actually quite low and with reasonable common sense precautions, the right knowledge and the right preparation these risks can be reduced even more, even to the point where you would probably stand a better chance of winning the lottery than anything bad happening to you.

So why is it that a huge amount of people every year don’t follow their dreams of travel out of a perceived risk of what might happen? Why is it that in so many conversations about taking a gap year end in ‘it’s too dangerous’? Why are women in particular singled out as supposedly being at more risk just because of their gender? Why do so many countries have a stigma of being dangerous attached to them?

Fear. Plain And Simple.

Fear of travelling the world is a huge problem. More specifically it is fear of the unknown, with ignorance of any given destination or taking a gap year a very close second. The media scaremongering and over hyped government warnings every time someone stubs a toe don’t help much either. Yes there are dangers out there, dangers that we may face when we travel, but so what?

There are risks out there for travellers, but these risks should be prepared for, not feared. Fear should never stop anyone from taking a gap year.

Risk is just a normal part of everyday life. We can get run over by a bus on the way to work, catch a debilitating disease while meeting friends at the pub or become the victim of a crime in our home towns. in fact crime rates are often much higher in the Western cities many backpackers come from than the places they head to. Do we lock ourselves in our house, hide under the duvet and never go out? Of course not!

So why are people so afraid of travel?

Potential Risk Can Be Managed And Minimised.

There is no such thing as a totally safe place or a totally dangerous destination, active conflict zones aside of course, and there is certainly no such thing as one group or gender being more at risk than any other. Any ridiculous article or website that claims certain places are safe for specific genders or groups of travellers are wrong at best, and moronically disingenuous at worst.

And no, women are not more at risk when travelling just because of their gender. Despite what most other women will tell you.

I have known women I would trust to have my back in an active conflict zone and men I wouldn’t trust to go to the local shop without screwing something up. Gender has nothing to do with it.

Travel Safety Is All About The Individual Themselves.

Staying safe when travelling is all bout the knowledge and ability each single individual has to identify and avoid potentially dangerous situations. It is all about their own self awareness, their actions when in any given destination, the preparations they make to reduce any potential risk as much as possible or the knowledge and training they have to deescalate or deal with risky situations if they do occur.

That is how travellers stay safe, not by avoiding travel to specific destinations or even travel altogether.

Yes there are certain situations such as active conflict zones, disaster areas or even places with flashpoints of political unrest where it obviously isn’t wise to travel, but this is where common sense and research comes in, and beyond specific examples such as these there is no reason for any traveller, of either gender, to be afraid of travelling anywhere.

It is not about actively choosing to go to ‘dangerous’ places or putting ourselves in harms way, far from it, it is about accepting that risk is a natural part of life and embracing that fact.

When we travel the world we put ourselves to the hazard, we test ourselves, and we may even come across situations that will put us at risk.

That is part of the whole point.

If the risk is managed well by individuals who are well prepared, then that managed risk can actually be a good thing!

Prepare For Potential Risks But Don’t Be Afraid Of Them.

Without risk, without that adversity where is the adventure? Where are the daring exploits of world travel? Where is the challenge?

The greatest tales in history are of voyages of grand adventure, where the hero faces countless challenges and dangers on the road to their ultimate destiny. Homer’s Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, Hercules’ Amazing Journeys, even the great explorers of our time had to face adversity during their travels, Livingstone’s travels through Africa, Marco Polo’s exploration of the Silk Road, they all faced risk head on and won! And they became legends because of it!

Be the hero of your own story!

Is Your Mindset Adventurous Or Is It Afraid?

Without risk, there is no adventure. Without risk we cannot grow as individuals. Without risk, we cannot go through a baptism of fire and come out stronger, more resilient baddass versions of ourselves.

World travel is not sanitised, it will never be 100% safe, it is not supposed to be.

Backpacking around the world or taking a gap year should throw you out of your comfort zone, it should push you and involve some element of risk.

I’m not in any way saying that you should purposely put yourself in danger. Neither am I saying that getting yourself in a risky position you can’t handle is a good thing. Being attacked, being robbed, becoming the victim of a violent crime or having something terrible happen to you is obviously not a good thing. At all. And I always take great pains to advise travellers on how to minimise that risk as much as humanely possible, to the point where that risk is negligible. In fact the more knowledge and training you have, the safer you will be.

Acknowledge the risk, understand the risk, prepare For The risk, travel safely.

What I am saying is that it is essential to remember that bad things can happen to anyone, any where at any time, and although there may be a slight chance of becoming the victim of an accident or a horrible crime when travelling, that is in no way a reason to never travel at all. Fear should never stop you doing anything because you run that same risk by staying at home, and surely filling your life with one grand adventure after another is worth that small risk?

Because on the very low chance that something does happen to you, it is not the end of the world.

It may be devastating at the time. It may feel like the worst thing in the world has just come down on you. You may be scared, hurt, defenceless, afraid.

Are you going to let that beat you?

The Potential Risk Is Worth The Adventure.

I’m speaking from experience here, regardless of the common misconception that it is more dangerous for women to travel, as a guy travelling the world I am statistically more likely to become the victim of all types of violent assault and violent crime bar sexual assault by a large margin, and far more likely to be killed by any single one of these crimes as a result. Do I let that potential risk stop me from travelling? No, I take steps to prevent it and go anyway!

I have been in risky situations more times than I care to remember and had my life threatened on more than one occasion.

It wasn’t the fact that I was travelling that put me in these situations, it wasn’t the fault of the specific country I was in. It was just bad luck, crappy timing and the universal sod’s law that it just happened to be me there at that time.

Some of these incidents I was the victor, or at least survived, others I wasn’t. Have I let that stop me from travelling? Hell no! I have dealt with each situation as best as I could, as best as my ability and training would allow, and then I put the incidents behind me and moved on.

I have also been the unfortunate victim of many accidents and had more than my fair share of scrapes and bruises, I have almost drowned (twice) in Thailand and have had to endure dengue fever in India. I have been the victim of attempted muggings in south America. I have been caught up in a civil revolution in Cairo, seen natural disasters up close and been in the vicinity of a terrorist attack. I have even had a cat save my life in Egypt!

Have these incidents changed my mind and forced me to think of the world as a dangerous place full of things that can kill me? No! They have become some of my best damn travel stories!

And it is important to remember that these experiences are so outweighed by the positive ones that they would not even be considered as a percentage.

All these things have taught me in over twenty years of travelling the world is that despite a few risky situations the world is still a very safe place in general, that sometimes shitty things just happen to good people and that I am an awesome god damn superhero who can deal with anything the world throws at me!

Is this masculine bravado? Ego?

No. It’s mindset.

It is a mindset that refuses point blank to be afraid. A mindset in the best British Bulldog tradition that puts myself to the hazard and refuses to back down. A mindset that tells me that all my instincts, my training, my knowledge and my preparation has readied me for anything that the world can throw at me. It is a mindset that tells me that despite any risk the world is far more amazing and wonderous than it is dangerous and that the people of every country are mostly good, and I am far more likely to encounter many of them than I am of the ones who wish to do me harm.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time.

If the worst does happen, you didn’t become the victim of a crime because you happened to be in any given country, you did not become a victim because of the fact you were travelling or because of your gender, or anything you did. You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and something horrendously shitty happened to you. That could be anyone, anywhere.

It is how you deal with it and move on afterwards that counts.

To quote one of my favourite movies, ‘it’s not how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward!’ 

So what mindset do you want to have? Do you want to believe the doomsayers and cowards that tell you the world is too dangerous? Do you want to believe that just because of the gender you were born with you are automatically in more danger? Do you want to allow that paradigm to poison your mind and make you fearful of following your own dreams of travel? Or do you want to have the mindset that you can handle and deal with any potential risk, the mindset that all true explorers and adventurers have had throughout history, the mindset that throws off the bowlines and is brave enough to explore, dream and discover, regardless of any potential risk?

I know which one I have. What about you?

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.

Is Backpacking Around The World Safe?

Should You Learn Self Defence Before Your Gap Year?

Should You Travel To Dangerous Countries.

Solo Female Backpacker Safety Tips.

Solo Travel Makes You A Superhero!

The Reality Of Fear And The Truth About Travel Safety.

Travel Safety Advice. The Good, The Bad And The Downright Crazy.

Get The Books.

Solo Female Backpacker: Guide To Safely Travelling The World For Sale Now!

Gap Year Safety: The Ultimate Guide For Safely Travelling The World For Sale Now!

One To One Advice.

Bemused Backpacker Gap Year Safety Consultation

If after reading this section you are still worried, you need more detailed information or if you want one to one safety advice from an experienced expert, then please feel free to use the Bemused Backpacker Gap Year Safety Consultation service.

You will get an hours consultation with dedicated one to one tuition designed to ease your worries, arm you with the knowledge you need to keep you safe and prepare you as much as possible before your trip so you can simply get on with enjoying your round the world adventure of a lifetime.

Covering everything from what you need to know before you go, how to stay safe on the road, how to deal with and avoid danger or difficult situations and what to do if something does go wrong, this consultation service is an absolute must for anyone about to embark on their first gap year or round the world adventure!

Learn More

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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Posted in Solo Travel, Travel Safety
31 comments on “We Need To Change How We Think About Travel Safety.
  1. bcre8v2 says:

    Thanks for a great article! Solid, sensible advice. I hope this inspires more people to ditch the packaged tours, gated resorts, chain hotels, etc, and add a bit of adventure to their travels, even if the first step is small.

  2. Andy says:

    Inspiring words indeed!

  3. Jonathan Bentley says:

    I loved reading this, such a powerful post and I absolutely agree with you that risk is out there but it can be managed. Travel is just like anything else in life, one long risk assessment, and with the right tools we can all be safe in anything we do, including travel.

  4. Anna says:

    I get your point about not being afraid, but it is harder for women out there. That’s just a fact. And that extra risk does mean that there is more to be afraid of. .

    • I’m afraid you missed the point entirely if you think that Anna, because you are entirely wrong. What exactly are you basing that assumption on?

      • Anna says:

        I’m basing it on simple common sense, women are more vulnerable to rape and sexual assault than men and we have to live with that. It’s a fact.

      • Well okay then, let’s break those common sense facts down shall we? First of all women are at higher risk of rape and sexual assault yes, but men are at much higher risk of all other types of violent crime including homicide, murder, assault, battery, aggravated assault, robbery, aggravated robbery etc, and are much more likely to be killed as a result. I am not saying women don’t have risk factors, but let’s stop with this whole women are in more danger than men thing. They simply aren’t and that just perpetuates this myth that women are weak and it is too dangerous for them to travel. Both genders have risk factors, and they can ALL be managed. Second of all even if we discount all other crimes and just focus on rape and sexual assault do you know how much risk you are actually in? According to the latest statistics available out of the 4 million plus UK travellers who went abroad in 2014 – 2015 (the latest stats available) there were just 106 rapes and 152 sexual assaults that required consular assistance. Worldwide. Less than 300 incidents combined, out of 4 million. So yes there are risks, but let’s keep them in perspective too. And all of these stats are from the Home Office, The British Crime Survey and British consular statistics if you want to look them up yourself. I know it is true that women’s perceived fear of crime is far higher than their actual risk, again from my own research and others, but your feelings are not a substitute for actual fact. THAT is a fact.

    • Mark Harrison says:

      Bemused Backpacker nailed it there! You can’t take ONE crime out of dozens and apply that risk to everyone, and THEN dismiss the dozen or so more risk factors men face and say you are at more risk. There is zero logic in that, you can see that can’t you? Men face MUCH more risk but don’t have a victim complex about it. You don’t see men going round saying travel is so dangerous, especially for men!

  5. Dave Chambers says:

    Im with you. Yes there is a small amount of risk in anything but being so afraid of it you never do anythkng is just stupid.

  6. Another great perspective! You never fail to inspire, and I agree so much with you that preparation is key to reducing risk.

  7. BIGtinyWorld says:

    I completely agree with you here. In my hometown, you could definitely find yourself at the wrong place at the wrong time, or get hit by a car, etc. All of these “scary” countries really are not all that bad, and many are surprisingly better than you would think. Americans especially are surrounded by a culture of fear, so many of them think we are crazy when we say we will travel to 5 continents next year. There are good and bad places anywhere. Preparation is key.

  8. Veera says:

    Definitely! There is nothing to fear as long as you are prepared.

  9. Paul says:

    Well said. I can understand people being afraid to an extent but there is a big difference between fear and actual danger.

  10. Alec says:

    Totally agree with you! Especially on the focus of fear being on women all the time. There needs to be a big rethink definitely

  11. Angela says:

    Some really thought provoking points there, it has genuinely made me rethink a couple of things. Thank you.

  12. Caroline says:

    I loved reading this, thank you. It really did make me think and you are so right. Im going to stop being so afraid and start planning my trip. Thank you so much.

  13. Hannah says:

    Could not agree more! A well thought out and reasoned article, thank you.

  14. Mark Harrison says:

    Totally agree man, I hear all the time that travel is so dangerous ‘especially’ for women. Give me a break! It is a total victim mentality and the women especially I hear say things like that believe themselves and more importantly ALL women to be perpetual victims at all times, but then they are also the type of people to believe that disagreeing with them is an assault so of course they see everything in the world as out to get them. It just doesn’t stand up to common sense.

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a former nurse turned published author and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent over twenty years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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