“India? Why don’t you go somewhere like Italy instead?”
“You shouldn’t visit Istanbul right now.”
“Bosnia? Is it safe to travel there?”
I’ve heard endless variations of these statements again and again over the years.
And I’ve always maintained that, yes it is safe to visit [insert country], and no, I’m not crazy for wanting to travel there – despite the threat of a terror attack, despite the fact that it’s the setting of one of the most heartbreaking wars in recent history, despite what the current headlines portray.
I don’t mind addressing these types of questions and concerns, and I try to empathize with friends and family members who fear for my safety whenever I leave the country. But, I have little patience for these statements when they’re rooted in complete lack of understanding and sheer ignorance – which seems to be happening more frequently given the current state of the world.
I wouldn’t label any country I’ve travelled to as “dangerous,” but I can understand why the average person would beg to differ. Mainstream media does a brilliant job of instilling fear and panic with sensationalized news stories, continually portraying the world as a horrible, unsafe place.
That’s the unfortunate reality today – not that the world is actually filled with terrorists – but that the fear-mongering media blatantly uses propaganda to influence people’s beliefs and opinions. (Don’t get me started on this – that’s a topic for a blog post of its own.)
As major media outlets continue to spread fear and misinformation, I will continue to take everything they say with a grain of salt. I will continue to travel to so-called unsafe countries.
In fact, my current travel wish list is comprised of these types of destinations almost exclusively: Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Israel.
Apparently the “exercise with a high degree of caution” travel advisory from the Canadian government is something I look for in a travel destination these days.
Truthfully, I choose to visit “dangerous” countries because I am innately curious and inherently drawn to them. I also feel compelled to spread truth and positivity about misunderstood destinations and the people who live there. There’s nothing I love more than returning from a country that everyone warns against visiting, only to proclaim it’s one of the best places I’ve ever been.
India, for example, is one of my all-time favourite countries. It’s the only place I’ve experienced genuine culture shock, a place that made me utter the phrase “what in the actual f&#$” every single day. And I loved it. It’s the most beautifully chaotic, eye-opening country I’ve visited thus far.
That’s part of the problem, isn’t it? The most rewarding destinations are often the most misunderstood.
And in a time when terror, hatred, racism, and violence dominate the headlines, understanding is necessary. Compassion is necessary. Tolerance is necessary.
Travel is a catalyst for knowledge; it facilitates understanding, empathy, and awareness. It helps to diminish ignorance and prejudice. Travel reminds us just how similar we are; despite cultural, racial, and religious differences, we are all more alike than we realize – or perhaps care to admit.
Ignorance, fear, and intolerance are far more dangerous than the potential risk associated with travel to any of the countries I’ve mentioned.
So I will continue to travel as I always have, I’ll continue to visit “unsafe” destinations, and I’ll continue to depict them in a positive light.
And if I happen to aid in changing the perception of even a single person, better yet.
I wanted to include a quote from this HuffPost article – which I love – and which I think speaks poignantly to this topic:
“Don’t cancel your trip to Berlin or Paris or Zurich or Turkey. Or Cleveland or Calgary for that matter. Keep travelling. In an increasingly insane world, it’s a small way of standing up for what’s right.”
Have you been to any “dangerous” countries? How do you deal with ignorant questions and statements when you travel?
I travelled to northern India in May and it was a total shock to see certain things but holy moly it was AWESOME. Like you, I felt the same way about India and so many friends told me, “Why would you want to go there” and my reply was simply, “Why not?”
Next May I plan on spending two weeks in Egypt and I can’t wait. Everyone will have heartburn over that trip but they’ll get over it. 😉
My reply was very similar when people asked me about India as well! Haha, I’m sure your friends and family will be overjoyed to hear about your Egypt trip 😉 But you’re right, they will get over it eventually. I hope you have a fantastic trip!
This is really pertinent as I’m heading back to Turkey for the second time next week. I really can’t wait to go back, especially because now I have a proper camera and know basic photography…. can’t wait to capture that Istanbul skyline again! Also, our country wishlists are pretty much exactly the same!!
Enjoy Turkey! Istanbul is an incredible city – I’d love to go back! I’m glad to hear we have similar tastes when it comes to future travel destinations 🙂
Beautiful post and incredibly true. People are so quick to judge a place based on “well I read this article” or “I watched this news story”. It’s sort of like plane crashes – you hear about them because they’re big, terrifying, and often result in casualties, but you don’t hear about the thousands of planes that reach their destinations every day. The same can truly be said about travel, and it’s one of my go to responses when people mention countries they feel are dangerous.
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Thanks very much, Marni! That’s very true, and definitely a good example to use when it comes to “dangerous” destinations.
Totally agree with your points, Ashley. I’ve travelled to some “dangerous” places and have felt safer there than I have on the mean streets of Sydney or London. Also, get theeself to Kyrgyzstan pronto! I think you’d love it.
Glad you agree, LC! I’ve also felt safer in certain “dangerous” countries. Yes, I’m dying to visit Kyrgyzstan. Your posts definitely helped to spark some Central Asia wanderlust.
Great post! I think it is hard for me to identify what is considered dangerous or not dangerous because I live in Germany currently and I feel less safe here than anywhere I’ve ever traveled. I’ve been to Kyrgyzstan eight or nine times and never had an issue. Been to Ukraine three times and spent extensive time there- no issues. I’ve been to Abkhazia, an unrecognized country that the US gov’t won’t even offer consular services in if their citizens go there… no issues. I’m glad people out there are foregoing some of these ‘warnings’ and seeing what is really up in these places. They often turn out to be some of the safest and most amazing places on the planet.
Thank you, Megan! Really interesting to hear you’ve felt more safe in places like Abkhazia and Kyrgyzstan than in Germany. Your sentiments definitely reiterate the fact that even destinations perceived as “safe” aren’t necessarily safe. And I agree wholeheartedly – “dangerous” places are often some of the most amazing.
I haven’t been able to go to places that have been deemed ‘dangerous’. But man, are there many. On my list includes Egypt and Israel. Funnily enough, I went to Cancun (!!!) and my family was like “What?! Don’t you know there are drug cartels?!”. I’m like, “guys, chill. It’s Cancun.” XD
Egypt is on my list as well! Haha, I tend to react similarly when friends and family overreact about Mexico.
Love this kind of strong inner perspective, and yes agreed that it’s worth being able to understand a place through one’s own eyes!
Thanks, Kyle! Seeing a place with your own eyes definitely makes a world of difference.
Oh, what an inspiration! I agree with you that you can’t simple label this or that country as dangerous, and despite popular opinions, you always have to follow you dream and heart for that sake. I haven’t been to India, but like you I really want to visit this country. Most likely I would be as shocked as you were, but I think it’s totally worth it.
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Thanks, Zhanna! Glad to hear you feel the same. India is a crazy place, but in the best possible way! I hope you make it there soon 🙂
Traveling educates you on the culture and people of the country and I think it’s important for us to all go out into the world and learn about each other. I have places like India, Pakistan and Egypt on my list of place I want to travel and when I tell some people they are shocked and ask why in the world would I want to go there. Well why not? I tell them =o)
I wholeheartedly agree! And I often receive the same incredulous reactions when I tell people where I want to travel 🙂
‘Love the post Ashley. Very inspiring!
I travel to “dangerous” countries all the time as my motto is as long as it’s not life-threatening, I’m good to go! I’ve been to Egypt 3 times! I went to India solo back in 2005, and I’m going again in 2018.
Last year, I went to the Philippines. Solo!
My favourite destanations are to Eastern Europe and I live in Berlin! I went to Stockholm a month after the bombing, I went to London a week after that bombing, we were supposed to spend the enture summer in France, and my original hometown is Manchester, which was also attacked by terrorists.
Like yourself, I spend a considerable amount of time encouraging people to travel to those very same destinations that are considered “dangerous.” My argument is that fear will trap you not to leave your front door, and the most common way to die is actually crossing the road in your original home country! Basically, if you can live with those odds, then you can travel abroad.
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Thanks so much, Victoria! I love your motto, and I’m so glad to hear you continually choose to visit “dangerous” destinations. I was also in London shortly before the bombing in March, but I would head back anytime without hesitation. Letting fear dictate your decisions is no way to live, and you’re right – if you look at the statistics, travelling abroad really isn’t so dangerous after all.
You definitely need to go to egypt. I looooove it, never felt unsafe there. No problem walking down the road alone, in the middle of the night. (something i wouldnt do in certain parts of Berlin)
Always warm, and awesome food, too.
Egypt is definitely on my wish list, and you’re making me want to visit more!
Great post, and we have similar travel wish lists! I’ve just spent time in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the past year, and am looking to Africa in January – not the Congo but Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt.
It’s interesting to hear people react to where we choose to travel – I have folks sending me travel warnings pretty regular. My response to them is that I typically feel less safe in the USA than when I’m traveling, no matter if I’m in Italy or Eastern Ukraine. 🙂
Happy to have found your blog!
Thanks, Nick 🙂 I hear that same sentiment from so many travelers, and I definitely agree! Enjoy your Africa travels in January!
Always wanted to visit Egypt and more recently Iran, alas a visit to Iran makes it very difficult to visit the US which is required for my job…
I would love to visit Egypt and Iran as well. Such a shame that’s the case now!