Is it Safe to Travel?

People always ask me if I’m ever afraid when I’m traveling.  At this point in my life I’m a 29 year-old American who has traveled to 20 different countries.  Friends and family members have cautioned me against traveling to certain destinations, they feared that I would get mugged, shot, or kidnapped.  I can honestly say that I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve feared for my life during my travels.  When events take place, like the one in Turkey today, where suicide bombers set off bombs in the airport in Istanbul, I automatically revisit this question in my head and I ask myself, is traveling worth it? 

While I myself have never been mugged or kidnapped, I know fellow travelers who have been mugged, kidnapped, and injured while traveling abroad.  However, I have been threatened, chased, been shown guns and knives, stuck in political strife and riots, interrogated by customs officials, involved in car crashes, rickshaw crashes, bomb scares, and I’ve even had to bribe police.  I’ve certainly found myself in hairy situations where I had no idea how I was going to get out of it.  I’ve been lost, stranded, sick, and helpless during my travels.  Whenever I find myself in one of these situations and I don’t know how I’m going to get out of it, some random stranger has always offered to help me out, every time.  The events at the Istanbul airport today made me think of one situation in particular.  I was spending two weeks in Turkey, I had just spent a week in Izmir couch surfing and I had just arrived in Istanbul without a clue as to where I was going to stay.  After asking around, I found my way to a cheap hostel that happened to be a block away from the Hagia Sophia.  Upon checking in to the hostel, it was requested that I pay for my stay in advance.  I set my things down and proceeded to an ATM so I could get some cash.  I put my debit card in the ATM followed by my pin number and the machine went right back to the main menu while keeping my debit card.  There wasn’t any amount of pounding that was going to get my debit card back from that ATM.  I headed back to the hostel, defeated.  When I told the owner of the hostel what had happened and I explained that I wouldn’t be able to pay him in advance for my stay.  He didn’t say anything, instead he disappeared into a side office for a few minutes, came back and set a stack of cash on the counter.  He told me to take it and that it should be enough money for me to be able to buy food and see the sights for a week.  He told me that if I wasn’t able to get my situation sorted out by the end of my week in Istanbul that I could pay him back in the future.  I was extremely grateful for his generosity in this situation.  He could have just as easily told me that I wasn’t going to be able to stay at his hostel until I was able to pay him.  Instead, without even asking me if I wanted to borrow money, he just gave me money.  I ended up being able to get my debit card back without any issues after 3 days and I gave the hostel owner his money back plus what I owed him for my stay. 

In Today’s world, tragedies like the one that just occurred in Istanbul are happening more frequently to the point to where it is an everyday occurrence and when these events happen, nobody is even the least bit surprised.  Along with these events though are courageous people doing remarkable things who very rarely receive recognition.  After the suicide bombers set off their bombs in the Ataturk airport today there were certainly people who immediately rushed to help the wounded without having any idea if more bombs were going to go off.  First responders to these scenes rush into these buildings where atrocities have just occurred without any regard for their own safety.  In the aftermath that leaves thousands of people stranded without food or shelter you have people who go out of their way to help strangers by giving them rides, places to stay, and food.  Today in Istanbul it only took 3 people with bombs to kill 36 people; but how many first responders and random strangers jumped into action immediately after this event to save lives and help fellow human beings?  I guarantee you it was more than 3 good people and most likely they saved a lot more than 50 lives.  My point is that while there are bad people in this world, there are most certainly A LOT more GOOD people in this world.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the bad people who make the headlines and get the press but let’s not forget the people in the shadows of these tragedies who put their lives on the line to save other people’s lives and help strangers.    

Events like this certainly make me question whether traveling is a good idea or not.  The fact of the matter is that these events can happen anywhere in the world and at any time.  There’s always a chance that you’ll be injured or killed while traveling in countries that are commonly deemed “unsafe” such as Turkey, India, Nepal, Peru, Colombia, just to name a few.  But you can just as easily get killed in a shooting spree at a movie theatre that’s just down the street from your house or while at a club or while you’re at school trying to learn.  When people ask me if I’m ever afraid to travel I just ask them what makes them any safer not traveling?  As far as I’m concerned, these events can happen anywhere and at any time so why live in constant fear?  The vast majority of the people in the world are good people and there’s a common theme that crosses all cultures which is to help your fellow human beings who are in need.  Instead of living in constant fear, go travel, meet people from different cultures and see for yourself how many great people live in this world!

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey

Posted on June 28, 2016 and filed under Soap Box.