23 May 2017

Reddit Travel Rants, No. 7: Is it Safe?

I have come to the realization that Americans have a very warped sense of safety outside of their borders. Every destination just screams "unsafe" to them. So you have a lot of travel newbies asking questions like "Is it safe to visit Stockholm?" or "Is it safe to visit Berlin?" I wonder how these same people would react when someone asks "Is it safe to visit Orlando?" or "Is it safe to visit California?" After all, bad things also happen to these places, like shootings and other terrorist acts.

I don't want to immediately dismiss these concerns. But I think it is better to educate oneself and really do research regarding the safety of a potential destination rather than blanket dismissing the whole world as a place that is unsafe. Heck, some people even dismiss a whole continent like South America and Africa as unsafe, only visiting places like Europe. And I think that is just a loss for the person who has that mindset, as there are so many places that are worth visiting.

Sometimes, I wonder, whether thinking of a destination as unsafe is just a manifestation of one's ignorance and lack of knowledge about how a place operates. Imagine that you find yourself teleported to a foreign place and you don't speak the language. You are unfamiliar with the culture either. So perhaps as a defense mechanism you would assume the worst, and think that everyone there is out to get you and wants to do something harmful to you. Then you'd think that a place is unsafe. The problem is that people would rather just dismiss places as unsafe rather than actually doing research and figuring out how things work in the foreign destination.

I started traveling because someone told me that I shouldn't go to South America because I would be kidnapped otherwise. I wanted to prove that statement wrong, so I made that as my project. I did my research regarding the safety of my destination, and made sure that I didn't get kidnapped. I enjoyed it a lot so I did it again, and again, and again.

I am not saying that one should be a daredevil and just simply go to war zones. Of course there are places that I wouldn't go now, like Syria. I also wouldn't go to places that have social unrest, like Venezuela. But Syria and Venezuela are a far cry from Iran, Guatemala, and other "dangerous" destinations, let alone from Paris, Brussels, and Berlin.

So yeah, do your homework. Hopefully by doing so you'll enlarge your oyster.


  1. I gave up on arguing with people who claim "Ottawa isn't safe". Like, seriously... I got hell from some strangers for backpacking (first red flag) with a kid (second red flag) in Latin America and China (final red flag). I KNOW what I'm doing. Seriously.

    I'd avoid active war zone and places where terrorism is a major issue (although arguably, lately, terrorism can happen anywhere). But what people consider "dangerous" are often country where, shockingly, the population is different and poorer. Gee...

    1. Zhu,

      Yeah, I remember in the beginning when I needed to assure quite a few of my friends that I would be fine. Every time I head out for a trip they would ask if I would be safe. Now I guess after coming back from various "unsafe" places they stopped bothering.

      And yes, it really is a perception issue, and somehow these perceptions correlate more with wealth than with actual safety.