There’s a lot of trouble in the world. But an expert on handling danger says almost every region is getting tamer for travelers.
If you watch Fox News every day, you’re liable to think the world out there is a super-scary place. Better buy that newly built home in a gated community and shut the garage tight.
Reality is much different. The current issue of Outside magazine has a great interview with Robert Young Pelton, who besides being a respected war zone consultant and author of The World’s Most Dangerous Places, apparently has a perforated metal business card that converts to a shiv. (Scarier part of that revelation: it’s never been noticed or confiscated by airport security. Anywhere.)
The whole interview is great, so go check it out, but here’s the killer exchange for would-be world travelers looking to reassure mom:
“People don’t believe me, but there aren’t wars anymore. When I first wrote the book, you had real wars, with tanks shooting at each other. Now there’s more democracy, less dictatorship. The first edition had 26 countries, and now I’m going to have a hard time covering 12 in the next edition.
A lot of these countries that used to be holy-shit, ass-puckering places are now sort of like, ‘Don’t go there,’ ‘Watch out,’ ‘Don’t go out at night.’
So yes, you should probably avoid Afghanistan and Somalia, present Syria and parts of Sudan. Walking into a drug gang inner city area is always a bad idea, but especially bad in Ciudad Juarez, Tegucigalpa, or Guatemala City. Walking down the street holding a cartoon of a key religious figure is probably not going to end well in countries where you can only see the eyes of the local women.
Time to Stop Acting Like Cowards
Otherwise, let’s finally bury the stupid idea that Canadians are safer than Americans so they have to wear a maple leaf on their backpack like it provides some kind of force field. Let’s stop publishing or reading articles about what women need to do to be able to travel alone without getting raped or killed. Let’s stop avoiding perfectly beautiful places filled with wonderful cities because 10 years ago there was something really bad on the 24-hour news channels. And let’s all make a pact to stop listening to advice from people whose don’t travel. Or those who think a Caribbean cruise balcony berth gives them the right to give you advice about State Department warnings.
I don’t think of myself as all that old, but I’m seeing Ankor Wat for the first time this summer because all three times I was in the neighborhood before there was a coup, a war, or a real threat of getting maimed by a land mine. Nobody in their right mind was going to Peru when I first started backpacking. Colombia, Guatemala, Eastern Turkey, Sri Lanka, and a few Stans were all on the “no-go” list for any sane traveler. There was a war in Croatia for Christ’s sake. Yes, that place where all the billionaires’ yachts are now docked. Bombs were going off regularly in Northern Ireland. Half of Africa seemed to be fighting at any given time.
Do your homework, yes, but if only 9 countries out of nearly 200 require some real paranoia these days, I think you’re going to be okay.
Watch for the 6th edition of Pelton’s book and don’t buy the old one to save a buck: it came out in 2003—when the world was scarier.
See the null page on ContrarianTraveler.com. (Here’s a fun exercise: put “travel dangers” in Google and see what comes up ahead of this. It’s usually something from Fox News.)
See Robert Young Pelton’s Come Back Alive site.