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The Fear Of Traveling Is Not Logical

I’ll start with some honesty. This is my manifesto against the illogical idea that traveling somewhere else is more dangerous, simply because it’s unknown, or because there was a story on the news.

I have a serious problem with believing something based on emotions over reason and evidence. Fear is often one of those things, and works more like a virus. One who wouldn’t ordinarily be worried about a trip can be infected with fear simply from a friend or family member suggesting that your trip is dangerous or something to fear, despite not actually knowing how dangerous it is or isn’t.

What can seem quite obvious based on your emotions, or repetitive appeals to your emotion in the new, can be quite contrary to evidence. Further more, the effects of spreading these unreasonable fears can be quite drastic.

Personally I have many people worried about my safety often because of specific countries that have lower crime rates than the US across the board. The worry isn’t based on an understanding of the country, but it is fear of the unknown.

Ignorance is not a reason to spread fear, it’s a reason not to spread fear. The unknown should leave us with neutral feelings.

Does fear make us take illogical actions?

Take for example the mistake fare to Kenya which happened to have been in the middle of the news hype of the ebola epidemic. Tickets to Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa were all available for very low prices (~200) and I heard/read dozens of people who canceled or didn’t book because of ebola.

This couldn’t be more unreasonable. Africa is a big continent and Kenya is further from the ebola epidemic countries in west Africa than London, Rio De Janeiro and most caribbean islands. Travel between west Africa and east Africa is not done by road and there are very few flights. Less flights than from west Africa to Europe.

Further more, there has been zero evidence of ebola in east Africa or southern Africa. Yet, there have been isolated cases of ebola in our own country, the USA. Imagine that, people are canceling a trip to a country that has zero cases of ebola to stay in one that has… because of ebola. What sense does that make?

 

This clearly has nothing to do with how worried someone is, and it has everything to do with how unreasonable their fear is.

 

The news wants views not reason

Take also our trip to Thailand during the coup. I honestly have never had as many emails and messages of concern for my safety as during this trip to Thailand, of all places.

I have no idea what the news back home was telling people but I know the result. Two managers of two big hotels told me that they were running at 10% occupancy, a painfully low number to even hear in person. One marketing manager (of a top 50 hotel in the world) smiled when a group came in, saying, “it’s just good to see people in the lobby”. Another GM told me that the week of the coup he received over 2,000 cancelations. I don’t know how many nights each reservation was, but at $300+ a night, one can assume the minimum impact is incredible – millions of dollars on one single business.

Despite what the news said, there were no acts of violence on tourists and civilians. The locals couldn’t have been worried less, and the easy feeling spread to the tourists also having a good time.

I can understand why it would be a news story, as it was an interesting thing to learn about (apparently it’s a regular thing there). But I can’t possibly understand what they could have been conveying to people to have such a negative impact on the Thai travel industry.

What I do know is the news benefits less from a story on the Thai political situation that ends in “but it’s totally safe to travel there! Don’t worry, there is nothing to report of violence.”

 

Stories of violence indeed “do better” in terms of views for the news, so it sometimes means that they report on tense situations, and it sometimes means that they over report on mildly tense situations.

The argument to counter my point is, “don’t you think there’s a reason there are a ton of stories to report?”… to which I’ve said, “often no”. With a single story the news can extrapolate more stories based on the popularity of the first. But let’s just assume that this idea has some truth to it. That the culmination of stories displayed gives a kind of heat map that gives the real truth.

 

Don’t base your views on the news, and be a hypocrite

And I hate to make this point, but it’s absolutely the most convincing piece of evidence I have.

Lets take for example our trip to Muscat, Oman. We heard a comment or two of concern and I decided to do a little experiment.

I seriously doubt there’s much in the news in regards to Muscat, nor is there much to worry about at all. But I decided to go to google news and see what the top stories were.

Top new stories for Muscat, Oman

Muscat news

The news is so dull that one of titles includes the words “lacking luster”. Oh come on! Not even the news can come up with a “beware” or two? Perhaps “beware of the lack luster markets” would be a big improvement.

 

The US News

And this next part I am not making light of, nor do I want to promote any political agenda. I have none. I am simply telling you what was on google news’ front page when I clicked “US”. This is the US news on the date of writing this article. All on the front page, and no jumping around or picking things out to make a point.

US news 1 us news 2 us news 3

These are my screen shots from only the first page of google news, and from one single day/moment.

 

Honestly, if you were planning a trip to Oman and you read the news on this country and got the following stories, would you go?:

A bombing, missing baby, man with fake gun shot, a trial for a murder of 6-year-old, naked man break ins, hedge fund manager murdered, rift in NYPD over shooting of officers, death penalty in LAX shooting.

Would you go to a county where the majority of the news stories involve civilians and police getting killed?

You can either use the news to decided how dangerous a country is, or assume the news reports on a disproportionately high number of bad things.

This isn’t making any other point other than, of course you would go to the country in the pictures above, we live in this country! These terrible news stories are our own. But if these terrible stories were from another culture I guarantee you most people would cancel their trip. Heck, tons of people canceled their trips to Thailand over something that was non-violent.

 

This really drives home two points…

1) It’s dangerous everywhere

I’m not saying that danger doesn’t exist, but I am saying that the daily threat is virtually unreal basically everywhere. I’ve never been mugged or pick pocketed and I’ve been to hundreds of cities around the world.

And the irony has never been lost on me that when I plan a trip to Cancun, Thailand, or Oman, I get tons of worries. But when I plan a trip to New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, Chicago and many others with high murder rates, there are never calls of concern about safety. Never.

Statistically, these cities are way more dangerous than basically anywhere else I’ve been in the last year. I’ve already made the point that people don’t actually look into whether or not some place is more dangerous, but I’d like to suggest that people don’t care. People just prefer what they know.

The slight chance of danger in the cities you pass while traveling are likely similar to wherever you do your shopping back home. The chances of any danger are so small and insignificant that you’d likely not pass up going to the mall for ice cream. Even for places like Paris that have an increase in chances for pick-pocketing and theft, the chances are still so small that it would be inconsistent to try to use that as a logical excuse for not going. It isn’t logical, it’s emotional. Danger is everywhere, but it’s small. Your home mall, or the international city you’re visiting.

 

2) The news makes it more dangerous

Clearly the above is not daily life for people all over the US. I have never been shot, I can’t even name anyone who’s been shot. But regardless, we can all agree that these pictures make up the extremes.

Similarly, a story of a mall bombing in Kenya is the extreme. In terms of bombings, I hate to say it… but my guess is that Kenya isn’t in real competition to the US. And out of the millions of people in Kenya, and the millions of tourists a year, finding one incident years ago proves very little.

The news is an unfair look at life. It is bias towards page views. All the good people I meet while traveling, all the people who are willing to share their food (even in the poorest areas), and show us around or even give us a place to stay… none of these kind people make as good of a headline as one bombing in terms of clicks.

Saying Thailand is safe (which it is) doesn’t keep you glued to the tv, but constant terror alerts do.

Of course I assess risk and use street smarts, like any traveler should. But sometimes there is just not much to fear. In a very small town in Bali and in a small homestay the locals knew we had macbooks and cameras and yet we left our key in the door while we went to swim for convenience sake.

I’ve never had anything stolen, never been mugged nor have I been in any danger at all. So how is it that I’m the kind of guy who leaves the keys in the door?

For the record, my father-in-law leaves his car keys in his truck in case his amish neighbors/relatives need to borrow it (no, that’s not a joke). The reality is much of the world is good, but I use street smarts to decide when it doesn’t feel good. I don’t use the news.

 

The travel industry is just as bad

May I suggest that the travel industry does the same thing. I guarantee you that an article on “how to stay safe while traveling” would do better than an article on how there is no real danger. But most of the advise is ridiculous.

The day someone sees me with a money belt, please smack me and make me read this post. But not only is a money belt a complete waste of money, I can’t imagine it not being a bad idea.

Which do you think would stand out more? Me buying street food by taking money out of my pocket… or me unzipping and reaching in my pants to get money? I’ve long thought that I’m probably safer looking like someone who doesn’t have money than clearly being someone who has so many valuables that I need to hide them in my crotch. I’m not worried about muggings… but maybe it’s because people don’t see me shoving money in my crotch.

 

The “Safety” Deposit Box – the perception of safety

And although this is slihtly off-topic, I have to share a story of my friend Seth who always uses the safety deposit box. I told him in Thailand, “the safety depsoit box is only good for losing things”. Two weeks later we’re getting out of a 30 minute tuk-tuk ride to the Krabi airport and Seth’s face looks like a ghost and he says that he left his passport in the safety deposit box.

Me being me, we showed up exactly one hour before our flight. I suggest… well rather sternly suggest that he call the Holiday Inn and have them send it in a taxi. There’s no other way it could be done. We went to find a kiosk or something to print tickets and he found a help desk that called the hotel which got the passport to him.

Also, may I note that he never gave them the code to the box. So who was he protecting his stuff from?

To me the safety deposit box is the symbol for travel safety. Your concerns, your money belt, your tsa locks, and safety box… they are all vanities. The hotel gives this vanity to you to help you feel safe. But it actually perpetuates a long standing stigma that there’s something to need safety from.

 

Confirmation Bias

One of the most common places for US citizens to travel to is Mexico. Tourism is huge and largely based on US travelers. A lot of people know at least one person who has had a bad experience in Mexico. A run in with dirty cops or robbed, or something. This must prove that Mexico is dangerous?

Not really.

Do you also know someone who has had a bad experience in the US? Of course, you know so many people in the US, how could you not?

But do you know someone who has had a bad experience in Somalia? I seriously seriously doubt it.

Why? It’s not because Somalia is safer than Mexico or the US, it’s not. Instead, it’s because you know less people who have been to Somalia, probably not anyone.

Your personal experiences and relationships (and the news) can contribute to confirmation bias. You hear more bad about Mexico, so it must be unsafe. But instead, the reality is that Mexico is just a popular destination and you’re bound to knwo someone who has had a bad experience.

If this doesn’t make sense look up examples of confirmation bias. Also, a fact that “psychics” use to fraud you is that you tend to remember certain things and forget others. If you think about Mexico being unsafe, you can remember examples of it being unsafe, and forget that you probably have met hundreds of people who have enjoyed it.

 

Conclusion

The more time you spend doing the typical local forms of travel the more you’ll see that there’s nothing to fear.

The next time you read up on safety, think about the numbers relatively. 12 people in one bombing does not mean a country with millions and millions of people is unsafe. You would never apply that logic to your own country.

Chances are the place you are worried about is not more dangerous than some place you visit regularly. Be consistent. Don’t be fearful of places because they aren’t where you grew up.

Consider that the news is not a good representative of daily life. Daily life in Thailand doesn’t make the news. But if you were to judge a country this way, you would be absolutely terrified of bombers and shooters in the USA. Remember that the news promotes fear and clicks. The news doesn’t represent daily life.

 

I don’t want to perpetuate fear. I want to propose reason and logic over the emotion of fear in all walks of life, including travel.

For me, fear of the unknown is itself perpetuating fear. Everything around you promotes fear of the unknown, but not knowing something is an absence of a reason for emotions. It’s ignorance. Given the powerful effects of fear, let’s not take any actions based on ignorance.

Are your fears reasonable?

  • The news is a terrible way to judge safety, or else you wouldn’t go to the US.
  • Ignorance is a terrible reason to spread a negative emotion with a negative impact.
  • Your own perceptions are biased.

Basically, don’t fear. Just be smart.

I’m not saying there aren’t really dangerous places, but most the places that are too dangerous to go, you’re not considering going. It’s hard to even buy flights to places like Afghanistan and Somalia. Major deadly conflicts do exist, but don’t assume that because a person died, or there is a coup that you’re are in danger. Do your own research.

Don’t not go somewhere because of illogical fear. The world is a beautiful place and chances are the places you are going are less dangerous than many places in your home state.

Life is short, don’t waste it on fear.

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58 Comments

  1. This article encourage me to follow my heart to go to Egypt as soon as I can. Despite my friend warning me, he don’t wanna see me being beheaded. lol

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    • I have a friend who lives in Egypt and he doesn’t understand the hype. I’m definitely going to try to visit this year. If you were going to Syria, you’re friend should be genuinely worried.

      Reply
    • I’m that friend living in Egypt. Drew nailed it on the head with this article. So much hype, and for what? The people really getting hurt are the 1 million+ Egyptians who rely on the tourism industry for survival.

      While living here, never have I felt my life was in danger or that it was unsafe for me to be here. Cairo is a mega city, so like Drew said, be smart. Don’t just go to any place and live naive, do your research and be informed.

      Thanks for the great read, Drew. Will definitely be sharing this!

      Reply
    • Thanks Caleb for stopping by and commenting. Great points.

      Reply
  2. I was traveling in Kenya this past summer after the dozen or so terrorist attacks that made the news from Nairobi and the coast, and I had absolutely no problems, nor did I ever feel unsafe.

    Then, an hour before I checked in for my flight to Uganda, I received an email from the US Embassy stating that there was intelligence suggesting that there might be a terrorist attack at the airport I was flying into about an hour after my plane was scheduled to arrive. I had no problems.

    A few days later, I read in the news that there were dozens killed in a clash between Ugandan police and tribal militias, directly in the area I was supposed to be transiting through. No problems.

    Only once have I ever felt truly unsafe, and it was when two rival gang members ran into each other and had a shootout in the street. Several shots were fired, and a couple of bystanders were shot (though not fatally). This happened in the city that I live in, two blocks from where I worked at the time.

    It’s all relative. Tragedies can happen anywhere, but for the most part, I’ve felt safer when traveling outside of the US than I have inside the US.

    Reply
    • Intense. I definitely don’t shrug off an email like that. But I’ve read the us statement for every country in Africa, the middle east, and any country near a country in the middle east and it says something to the effect of “a terrorist attack here is possible”.
      And they say the same for our own country really. It’s dangerous being born.

      Reply
  3. I’ve never let these things deter me. Last year, I went to Israel with plans booked well before the Gaza War. Despite the media, I knew that tourists don’t go anywhere near Gaza.

    I went to Ghana in Nov, there was no ebola there despite it being in West Africa. My pet peeve was all the media talking about West Africa as if it was all affected when it was only 3 countries that very few tourists go to.

    We was only affected by OTHER people cancelling their trips to the point where TK reduced their flights to TLV and caused us to arrive 8 hours later than we had planned.

    Likewise ET reduced their flights to ACC because they pulled out of Freetown & Conakry both of which stopped in ACC. Kenya Airways cut back their NBO-ACC service for similar reasons.

    My biggest fear of traveling is that airlines cancel their flights because of these stupid media stories spooking everyone, I wish they would STFU!

    Reply
    • Best. comment. ever.

      Biggest fear is that airlines cancel flights because of these stupid media stories.

      But it’s true. Like I said in Thailand. No violence. None. And yet the US media made people so afraid that people were canceling trips. In fact, Carrie wrote a post and we actually ran into people that were going to cancel their flight until they read our post saying that it was fine. Which is awesome.

      Reply
  4. I appreciate your perspective, Drew. So many people are afraid to travel to Mexico, for example, when, with certain exceptions, it’s a safe country to visit. Being afraid to go to the Yucatán because of drug trafficking along the U.S. border is like being afraid to go to Seattle because of Ferguson or being afraid to go to London because of unrest in Greece. I talked to someone recently who is afraid to go to Aruba because of the Holloway case years ago.

    Any country has specific places where it’s smart not to go if you don’t know your way around, and at any given time there are a few where the security situation in general makes it smarter to wait for another chance later, but for the most part ignore the sensationalized news and enjoy traveling. If you’re going to be afraid of everything, then hide under your bed. Of course, that may not work either, since there could be an earthquake.

    Reply
    • Being afraid to go to Aruba now because of Holloway is an awesome example. And as ridiculous as that is… it’s common though. “Something bad happened on the news there”.

      Your right though. Everywhere has a certain scale of risk depending on where you are. But it’s never zero. Earthquakes man.

      Reply
  5. I’m actually surprised that so many people come to the US as tourists. It’s pretty dangerous here compared to a lot of other places, i.e. Western Europe. You get greeted by the one of the worst immigration experiences and then you truly do have to be careful to avoid large sections of many major US cities.

    Reply
    • I realize that your point wasn’t to discourage people from visiting the US, but to point out (rightly) that we let our ignorance (and rapid for profit news outlets) amplify our fears of the unknown. I think that I’m sort of afraid I’ll arrive somewhere and not feel like I will be a good judge of where is safe and where isn’t. The more you travel, I think, the more comfortable you feel in places that are different from what you’re used to. And also, the better judge you are of what is safe and what isn’t.
      On a different note, my husband and I moved to England as soon as we were married, and then a few months later planned a trip to Paris. This was november 2005, and there was some rioting in the suburbs over economic and racial issues. First of all, I don’t think anyone was even hurt in the rioting, and I certainly don’t recall anyone being killed. And we had people wondering if we were going to cancel the trip. to Paris?!?! It’s just ridiculously safe in the center from a violent crime perspective. The thought never occurred to us that we might change the trip. I think some people just like to stir up drama.

      Reply
    • Even in the US I don’t think the dangerous parts are places tourist want to go though.

      But my first time in Hong Kong I was scared to go down this one sketchy looking alley. But what was funny is that after returning from a month of inland China travel I remember finding myself on the same alley and realizing that this time it looked like the Ritz and I couldn’t believe I was scared of it the first time.
      All relative.

      Reply
  6. Super reminder…I would rather create memories to recall fondly in later years, than to always “remember that time I didn’t go to…”.

    “Everyone’s future is, in reality, uncertain and full of unknown treasures from which all may draw unguessed prizes.” – Lord Dunsany

    Reply
    • Yea, kind of like Bezos’ “regret minimization framework” I mentioned before somewhere.
      Would I regret going or not going?

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  7. Well said, my only qualms are with the statement “Of course I assess risk and use street smarts”. I would say that you are naturally be better able to assess risk and be ‘smart’ in a familiar setting, like your home country. I’d be much more likely to know I’ve ended up in a bad neighborhood in Anytown, USA than in, say, South Africa.

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    • I agree

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    • I agree with this to some degree.
      However, my street smarts is being paranoid of stuff people give me, being out at 3am in dark alleys, or not ever doing drugs.
      Really, it’s basic and I’ve VERY trusting. I leave my keys in the door in bali, have picked up tons of hitchhikers in Africa, and have hitchhiked tons in Europe, the US, Asia, the Pacific, and South America. My street smarts certainly aren’t slick, it’s just not doing drugs and being mindful of where my stuff is.
      Believe it or not, a lot of the bad travel stories you hear involve drunk or high tourists.

      It’s not some spidey sense, or instinctive way to stand on the subway. Maybe I’ve never gotten stuff stolen because I’m mindful of the right thing, but I’m not talking about pickpockets, people are worried about major crimes. And for the most part, they don’t happen to people doing regular things at regular times with other regular people.

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  8. I get people being overly cautious in an area, but I, as well, never understood people who refuse to travel because there is a slight chance something may happen to them. There is a good chance you will get in a car accident and be hurt as well, but it doesn’t stop people.

    Too much beauty in the world to not go out and see it because of fear.

    Reply
    • Yea, I’d argue that your chances of being in a car accident in daily life are much higher than something bad happening on vacation. It’s gotta be.

      Reply
  9. Most unsafe place I’ve been to in the past 2 years, or, better, most unsafe I’ve felt is leaving early from a Orioles game and walking back to the Sheraton. Baltimore was just a straight ghost town and it just looked like there would be trouble somewhere.

    Reply
    • I haven’t spent any time there, but I can totally relate. We’ve been to many cities, especially on the lakes, where I’ve felt uneasy.

      Reply
  10. Yup. I even travelled to Oman as a solo female and had no problems whatsoever (though in one village I passed through I was nervous for a moment, there had been either a fight or an accident, and it seemed like all the men from the town were out blocking the road. I was able to get by, felt bad for not helping though I wasn’t sure there was much I could do. I reflected on the fact that had a similar thing happened in the US, likely no one would stop and come to help.

    Meanwhile in the US I have had to call the police 5 times last year from within a block of my work. I even got attacked by a random crazy guy who jumped off the bus. This is in a fairly wealthy area of LA.

    Only place I feel for sure too nervous to go to is Afghanistan/Kabul, there HAVE been attacks in 2014 attacking civilians/tourists, which sucks since my old roommate was involved in a wonderful project there (he’s left too). I still however will visit the Ishkashim day market over the Tajik border hopefully this summer. If it wasn’t crazy expensive to trek the Wakkhan corridor I’d do that too.

    Reply
    • You’re our hero Dizzy!
      Yea, after traveling to Oman, it feels like a joke. I was never REALLY worried, but we got a lot of crap about it… and now I know it’s for no reason. There wasn’t even a hint of unsafe feeling, even late night markets, as they were just normal.

      There are a few places I’d decline to go. Kabol one of them. But others, I’m sure I’d be fine in. I hear Iran is great travel and that’s not exactly known for it.

      Reply
  11. Great post. I tried a different approach to convince people travel is not unsafe, using a bunch of maps showing relative measures of safety by country: http://sharetraveler.com/safe-travel-really/. Same conclusion.

    And for the record, one of the only times I used the safe deposit box I also left my passport behind.

    Reply
    • Haha. Love the 1/1 for on the safety box.

      Yea, I think the maps make a great point. Like the prison one. By that standard, the US is THE most dangerous country lol. The most criminals.

      But the most honest one is the intentional homicide rate. I’ve look at that before. The US is relatively high. The US is indeed only 50% of the homicides of a lot of central Africa. But that’s not a reason to stay in the US… or else you’d never leave Japan. By comparison, Japan has I think 4% of the murders that the US has. 4%! The US is not the safest. It’s not a reason to stay in the US, but it could be a reason to leave for Japan, Europe, Australia, or even Oman.

      Reply
    • As a transplanted American, I can only say the safer living conditions are only ONE reason to move to Australia. We get free medical treatment! Plus I can get credit cards in two countries!

      Reply
  12. It may be completely irrational but my fear of traveling to certain destinations comes from the idea of being seen as a tourist/foreigner and being taken advantage of somehow because of that perception. I don’t see areas as ‘riskier’ than here in the States, but I do have (a probably irrational) fear that there is some organized exploitation/abuse of foreigners in some of these areas.

    Reply
    • Pretty often it’s still a good deal at a tourist price. True there are places you will never really blend in, and you may pay more than a local sometimes, but if I’m paying $10 for a beautiful handcraft that someone local could get for $6, I don’t worry about it. What does annoy me is when as a visitor people will not leave me alone, but try to accost me at every step with some sort of proposal to relieve me of my money. There are some places notorious for this type of hassle, fortunately not too many in my experience.

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    • It’s true. In towns in central China we’d walk into the train station and seriously hundreds of people would turn around at once and look at us! lol. Weird.
      But I get ripped off all the time.
      In Varanasi, India the cheapest I could get a tuk-tuk from the Radisson to town was like 90 rupees. Later a friend who lived there for a while, and stayed further outside of town said she paid 5 rupees for a tuk-tuk. I couldn’t believe it.

      But guess what; 90 rupees is $1.50. I can hardly care.

      Reply
    • LOL, back in the 90’s I would bargain to the death for a loaf of bread! It was a competitive thing. Nowadays, at least for handicrafts while I still bargain I do cut them some slack. That $1.50 means a helluva lot more to them than it does to me and at the end of the day I want to encourage the people I buy stuff/services from to keep doing what they’re doing and not go back to poaching wildlife or whatever.

      Reply
  13. If you are an irrational fear person, you shouldn’t read the state department warnings. They sound really scary.

    I think fear of violent crime and terrorism is actually a form of narcissism. If you think you are super important and great, then surely you will be the one who is attacked or kidnapped. I went to a country with a bad reputation once with a friend and she was constantly afraid of being kidnapped just because she was American. The locals we were with reminded her that kidnappers target people with lots of money and that certainly wasn’t us.

    Reply
    • I agree. Every place on the .gov sites is in danger of terrorism. I sometimes look and basically, there’s nowhere safe.

      That’s an interesting take. It’s probably more true in some places than others. Like I said, everyone in China notices us. Now certainly I was never in danger for being American, but I stood out. The only non-chinese people many people had probably ever seen in person.

      But certainly kidnapping is an interesting phobia. Maybe her family told her for sure she was going to get kidnapped.

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    • I’ve often wondered what the State Department warnings would say if they did a piece about my own hometown, a midsized Midwestern city with its share of problems, but probably on nobody’s radar as a “dangerous” destination. I’ll bet it would be just as scary as the stuff they put up on everywhere else. A lot of CYA there to fend off the “but you didn’t warn us” accusations if something would happen. They’re worth reading to identify specific issues, but in general you need to take everything with a grain of salt.

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  14. Your father’s neighbor is not “Amish” if he’s driving his truck!

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    • No they don’t have their own. 😀
      But it’s only the nephews who are 16 and in rumspringa. Some of the amish have tractors though, so they are only so strict on certain things. But all of their “neighbors”, meaning other people on the lane, all are amish accept one… who is also ex-amish. Most are relatives.

      Reply
  15. I am in nairobi right now on that mistake fare and i am totally not even getting ebola.

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    • As long as you don’t eat anything, or go near people, you’ll totally be fine!

      Reply
  16. Actually the fear of traveling is quite logical. Fear is a healthy reaction that helps keep us alive.

    If you are in a routine, or a pattern, such as you would find at home it is often easier to spot the ‘unusual’ however when everything is new (as in when you travel) then your ability to spot the unusual (including genuine risks) is diminished.

    The bigger problem is that people think fear is a bad thing :)

    Reply
    • Good perspective. I agree that doing things that make you feel uncomfortable can be huge for personal growth. And that even things that feel different can be a good experience.

      Still, natural and logical are two different things. Being worried about going to Europe because it’s unsafe is illogical when you look at murder rates, and crime rates. There’s nothing logical about it.
      BUT I agree that’s 100% natural. It’s natural to be scared of the unknown. But venture into the unknown anyways.

      Reply
  17. Hello, Drew!

    I would like to thank you for this amazing blog where I can find only useful information and not only *sign up for this – sign up for that* posts.

    I did not find your email to contact you so I will write here.
    This summer I am going to St. Petersburg, Russia only on miles and hotels points. I already booked everything and would like to contribute a short article to your blog. I am originally from St.-Petersburg so I can include some useful information. Please, email me if you are interested. I am not asking for anything – I just want to “give back” by writing this article. This year is great opportunity to travel to Russia – last year it was 35RUB per 1$ and now it is 60!!! Amazing exchange rate!!

    Reply
  18. Drew writes: “Maybe I’ve never gotten stuff stolen because I’m mindful of the right thing…”

    We’ve seen your pictures man. Maybe some of this has to do with you being like 6’5″??? Talk about confirmation bias! :-)

    Reply
    • That’s funny! I’ve seen Drew in person, though, and I don’t think he looks particularly intimidating. He’s probably also including Carrie in that statement, who is tiny and looks sweet as can be. Definitely not intimidating. Though maybe Drew looks a lot taller in pictures where he’s standing next to Carrie.

      Reply
    • Yea, it’s quite an ironic thing to say. The reason I look 6’5 (when I’m not even 6′) is because I’m standing next to my wife who isn’t even 5 foot tall.

      Reply
  19. PS – Can I just say how hilarious the idea of somebody taking money out of their crotch is?!
    Just so you know, I think that the idea with a money belt is that you store your passport and large stash of money and credit cards in there. But when you buy something you just use the smaller amount of money or one of two credit cards in your pocket/wallet.

    Reply
    • In areas where I am worried about pickpockets, I will have our passports and main stash well concealed under my clothes and my every day spending money in my bra. Even the local African ladies keep their money in whatever they are wearing that passes as a bra.

      Reply
    • Tara, that’s awesome! :-) So, I think that what your’e saying is: taking money out of your crotch is suspicious, but taking money out of your bra is “doing as the locals do”. :-)

      Reply
    • So you reach into your bra every time you want to make an everyday purchase. That’s gotta be real low key and nobody notices, I’m sure. Way to be “local”

      Reply
  20. These irrational fears are not just about violence. Back is 2002 I was in Bangkok and scheduled to spend a few days in Hong Kong before flying home to Ontario. This was during the SARS outbreak. I had heaps of pressure put on me from work colleagues not to go to Hong Kong because of SARS. Eventually I gave in a flew via Tokyo to Toronto where I spent an unscheduled weekend before driving home. When I got to work on Monday I had many, many colleagues come to me and say “I hope you didn’t risk going near Hong Kong.” I replied: “No, I gave up a weekend in the world’s Number 1 SARS city to spend a weekend in the world’s Number 2 SARS city.” My facetious response sailed right over their heads. This was the perfect example that people perceive a problem in a far off city as making travel dangerous while a similar problem in a city at home doesn’t even register as something to make travel a concern.

    Reply
    • That’s true. Similar to what I said about Ebola and the “Africa”.

      Reply
  21. I’ve been through a few things abroad as I’ve lived in 3 other countries, stories too hair raising to tell. I’ve heard bombs go off and had friends get blood splattered on their video equipment. I also know people who have had guns to their heads in the US so yeah, the world can be VERY dangerous. I’m still going to travel, but I can understand if other people don’t really have the stomach for some stuff.

    Reply
    • This is not a normal thing of living “abroad”. There are very few places on earth that are this dangerous, and I can count the countries on my hands – so attributing it to “abroad” is too broad of a statement. Sounds like you lived in a dangerous part, during a bad time.

      Also, to say I know people who have been in conflict, or heard it is no different than many people living in big cities in the US. Watch the news for your closes US city. No different.

      Consider that we spend most of our year not in the US. Consider all the people who live “abroad” and don’t feel danger. Consider the friend I mentioned above who lives in Egypt (commonly considered dangerous) and doesn’t feel danger. Danger is not related to “abroad” at all. Please consider reading the post.

      Reply
  22. Very true, and great article. Alot of people are scared of what’s “happening around the world” and let that dictate what they will or will not do. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend heading over to Syria or Iran as an American nowadays, but the examples you gave about Thailand or Kenya are spot-on. Many, many places in the U.S are way more dangerous than the “dangerous” spots in the world. I know that many of my foreign friends are scared of the U.S because “anybody can have a gun.” I guess I see where they’re coming from, if the roles were reversed I wouldn’t want to be a tourist in a country where you have no idea who is carrying and who isn’t.. I guess here in the U.S, we are OK with it because while it sounds scary, in reality, we really don’t just see guns everywhere. I think it is rather rare that we as Americans see guns out and about.

    Reply
    • You must not live in the south.
      I kid. :-p

      But it’s true and that’s a good reverse example. It’s all what you’re used to that makes you comfortable. People often really just want comfort and call it something else. Trying uncomfortable things is a quick way to grow as a person, imo.

      Reply
  23. I have only been out of the US once and I was too little to remember my families trip to London. My brother went to Mexico for a mission trip and all anyone could talk about was how dangerous this would be and drug cartels this and drugs that. We were told the border crossings are extremely dangerous and to avoid big cities. He ended up in some small village nowhere near anything and they did their trip and came back fine.

    I have hopes of going to Italy in the next two years with my wife and plan to go to the Tuscany Region and spend most of the time in Portofino. I can’t help but feel anxiety and fear related to this future trip.

    I am not familiar with the area and therefore don’t know proper safety protocols and I don’t speak Italian. I don’t know the areas to avoid either. How can I overcome these issues and fears? Simply google areas to avoid in Portofino Italy?

    Reply
    • What if one day someone came to you and said that they have a pain in their back and are therefore worried that they have cancer? You would likely say that the specific fear of cancer is largely based on nothing and that many people get pains that have nothing to do with cancer.

      What you would not do is recommend googling “pains caused by cancer”. You will of course find something somewhere that would perpetuate the irrational fear.

      When you ask about being worried about visiting an incredible beautiful and well visited part of Italy, I say it’s irrational. The point of this article is to convince you that these fears are irrational, at best. Likely completely unfounded.

      What I would NOT recommend doing is googling “dangerous things in Italy”. If you do this for any country, even Japan or Norway, you will find something to worry about, regardless of how rational or likely it is.

      If you were going to Afganastan, I would say, “friend, you really need to read up on what parts you should be in without being escorted”. But in this case, the only cure is to go without planning for the irrational. Don’t take precautions more than smart things for daily life.

      The street smarts I mention above are things like not doing drugs, not leaving your stuff unattended, or being mindful of your stuff.

      It is not knowing where to go and not go. I don’t not worry about this, especially not in Italy. And any place that you likely want to go is almost surely low in danger… even though the risks are already low enough.

      If you go, you will see that it’s no different than a beautiful place near you (unless you’re from El Paso). Once you are there are see how friendly they are, and how ungaurded the locals need to be, you will be at rest.

      When I travel from Charlottesville to Richmond, I don’t google “how to stay safe in Richmond, VA” because I know Virginia. I am a Virginian.
      I now do not google “how to stay safe in ____ [Egypt/India/China/Kenya/etc…]”, because I’m a child of the world now. Not because my street smarts are so keen and sharp, and not because I speak any other language except English. But because I know that these places are filled with people just like me. They have the same motivations for life and same priorities as me. People are kind, extremely motivated by caring for their families, helpful to strangers, and scared of the samethings as I am.

      Also, 90%+ of my travels are planned after arriving at the airport. I wrote about how my last trip to Italy I had a oneway ticket and zero plans. Not even the first nights hotel. I started talking to locals at the airport about where to go. So my lack of fear is also not because I’m familiar with the area.

      Truly, I’m not sure how to convince you not to be worried, other than the above article. However, I’m absolutely convinced that a week of independent (and better yet, care free) travel would help. If there’s absolutely any way I can help you make this trip a reality, sooner rather than later, please contact me. I will give you my number.

      Earning the miles for a flight to Italy could happen in one card.
      If you get back to this comment, I hope this comment wasn’t too long but you’ll surely know it’s sincere. 😀

      Cheers,
      Drew

      Reply
  24. I’m glad you had a great trip to Oman, and that the “nattering nabobs of negativity” you encountered about your trip in advance were unheeded.

    That said, your comparison of news flow from Oman with say D.C., while fun, is less than convincing. To be sure, international travelers would be foolish to not travel to Washington DC, if they looked only at daily DC crime reports. On the other hand, I would not want to make an assessment of the “safety” of a relatively closed society solely based on the lack of news of anything nasty in their controlled press. (Caveat applies esp to Egypt under Sisi….)

    Yes, I’m with you in urging readers to not be overly dissuaded from international travel, based on standard media refrains or omnipresent warnings about political instability. On the other hand, dismissing or banning any such concerns out-of-hand as “fear mongering” may be as unhelpful as the disease you seek to overcome.

    ps, If not sooner, see you in Esfahan. :-) (fyi, we can get there with AA miles — via Qatar Air/OWA) I’ll be really impressed if the ole Hilton’s in Iran (Esteglal, etc.) renew international partnerships. :-)

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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