With everything in the news going on, it’s hard to believe that traveling to some difficult political climates might be a good idea. Compromised safety, foreboding news stories, and even accounts from other travelers can make your question whether you should visit a certain destination. Despite the fact that the likelihood of being involved in a terrorist attack is minimal and that most places in the world are quite safe, there is always a stigma of seeing places that might not have the best reputation.
However, I think we need to greatly rethink why we as travelers might have this mentality and how we can go about changing it. If some areas always remain off-limits, then nothing is going to change. It’s the people who choose to acknowledge that there are safety concerns and who choose to travel as safely as possible within the areas that make a difference.
These places don’t have to be sanctioned countries like North Korea. They can be spots that others might consider as unsafe, but have a record of treating tourists well. I’ve been to a few countries where others have encouraged me not to. Egypt was one, Morocco was another. I remember reading about tourist vans getting hijacked in Guatemala and how travelers were kidnapped and held for ransom money.
I won’t lie and say that reading about these events didn’t make me worried about my planned trip to Guatemala. I spent several minutes thinking over whether I was making the right decision or not and whether I would regret my choice to go later. I thought about the risk and balanced it with the fact that I didn’t want to let fear dictate my decision. I chose to go and take the tourist buses—and Guatemala ended up being one of my favorite destinations.
Of course, there is a line of putting yourself in direct harm and choosing to go to places where something bad has a higher statistic of happening. Egypt just bordered that line. As tourists, we were well-taken care of (after an event a few decades ago caused them to tighten security), but a Coptic church was bombed only a few days after we left. You never know when something will happen, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t venture out.
I’ve always felt that as a traveler, I have a certain responsibility to the places I’ve enjoyed and traveled to. If I’ve chosen to visit that area and partake in the kindness of the people, the culture, and the sites that are offered, then it’s important to be open-minded and willing to see things from other perspectives. It’s not always easy, but recognizing that we are all individuals and dealing with difficulties is the first step to creating a better world.
Daniel and I have a trip booked to South Korea in October. We’ll be there for a month, and many have raised eyebrows when we’ve mentioned that’s where we are going. We’re not ignoring the risks—we’re thinking about how crucial it is that we show we are not afraid in this current political climate. We received the same skepticism when traveling to Egypt, to Morocco, to Spain. The truth is that the world is not as safe as we would like it to be and not as dangerous as we imagine it is.
Travelers should always be smart, but they shouldn’t be scared. Do your research and know what you might have to face when visiting a different country, but don’t let that stop you when it comes times to make the decision to book the ticket.
Where have you traveled to that has a difficult political climate?