“You’re gonna get killed over there!”
“You’ll be kidnapped!”
“You’re crazy, I would never go somewhere like that…”
If you’re a world traveler with any friends who aren’t, chances are you’ve had someone say one or some of those phrases to you. It’s one of my peeves, honestly. Party because when I first had people tell me that, I was traveling abroad for the first time and had no idea what I was doing really. When I told people I was going to Thailand, they’d sometimes say “wow, you’re gonna get yourself killed over there,” and I thought I wonder if they’re right?!
But then when I arrived in Thailand some months later, it was a joke. After all, it’s arguably the biggest tourist destination in SE Asia. Sure you could get yourself killed or kidnapped there, much in the same way you could in New York, Chicago, or even smaller US cities. In the same way I wouldn’t recommend walking through the ‘hood’ in Columbus at 3am with a nice watch and expensive clothes on, I wouldn’t recommend doing the same in a seedy neighborhood in Bangkok.
The other reason it peeves me is because of how unsupportive it is, saying something like that. There I was, already terrified of what I was about to do, and people thought it would be a good idea to say shit like that to me. Imagine if you were all set to go off to college in a new city and your father was like—”Well, you dipshit, you’re probably going to get raped and murdered somewhere,” followed by, “wish I had the guts to do what you’re doing!”
So why do these people say this?
Good question. I have several theories. One, is that they’re jealous. A lot of the people who said those things to me would never make it further from Ohio than Myrtle Beach or Florida (about a twelve-hour drive). Maybe deep-down they wished they could do something like what I was setting out to do (and really, they easily could).
Another theory is that they’re genuinely scared. This could be probable for the same people mentioned above. Maybe they really do think I’m going to get killed in those places. After all, they knew as much as I did before I set out. They had made me question myself even after all the research I’d done on SE Asia that told me the worst that was going to happen was overpaying for a taxi.
Maybe they wanted to dissuade me from leaving. Some people think they know better for you than you do yourself. Perhaps they thought everyone was better off never leaving their hometown. I’ve always said that some people are meant to travel and others aren’t, although everyone should have to give it a shot at least once to know. I have an idea that bigots, misogynists, or even just pessimists should be sent to certain areas of the world and forced to see things from different perspectives—although that’s a story for a different time.
Now here I am again…
I’m currently sitting in Ft. Lauderdale Int’l Airport getting ready to board a flight for Peru, and then travel onwards to Colombia and eventually some countries in Central America. All places I’ve never been. I’m traveling solo for the first time in my life. Surprisingly, for the first time ever, I’m not really nervous. I was about 5 months ago, when I first sat down and started typing up this article in frustration. But as the date grew nearer, the less nervous I became; until I finally found myself driving south towards the Sunshine State with nothing but a big smile.
But again, I’ve had people tell me the same thing as last time. One friend told me months ago—”I don’t know if you realize, but the world is a different place nowadays… you could get kidnapped or worse…” Bear in mind that this friend has never even made it as far as California, and certainly has never left the U.S.
So I guess what I’m getting at is this: Who cares? I’m going, and I’m going to do my best to prevent something bad from happening, but if it does happen, then that’s just the way it is.
I know, it’s harsh. But that’s what I tell myself nowadays when presented with stuff like this. It’s also what I tell myself to get over the inherent fears of travel. Who fucking cares? It’s not really as simple as that, I know, but it’s truth in its rawest form.
I knew at a young age that I wasn’t going to be happy working a 9-5 job like most people. Indiana Jones was my favorite movie, and still is for that matter, and I was labeled a ‘daydreamer’ early-on in grade school. I’ve spent my adult life reading about Percy Fawcett exploring the Amazon in search of El Dorado, Douglas Mawson vying to survive in the Antarctic wilderness after catastrophe struck his party, about Frank and Helen Shcreider driving their amphibious jeep from the Arctic Circle in Alaska all the way to the bottom tip of South America. I followed Henry M. Stanley as he trekked through the African wilderness in search of the missing famous explorer Dr. David Livingstone and found him—“Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
I would absolutely be ashamed if I spent my life avoiding all danger and sat around in my hometown, taking yearly vacations to the same beach and spending the cold winter months watching TV and waiting for warmth to return. Sitting around drinking the same old beer in the same old places and ‘playing it safe’ for a lack of better wording. I decided at some point, that who fucking cares… if something terrible did happen to me while living my dream, then it would happen while I’m doing something I love. Not that I think anything will (because unlike the aforementioned hero explorers I sensationalize, I have no desire to push the limits of human endurance and enter into such insane activities). But if something did happen, then that’s the way it is. And for the record, you would feel like the biggest dick ever for telling me it was going to.
The good news is, the world isn’t as dark and scary as the average American thinks. I’m less likely to be kidnapped in Peru than you are to die in a car wreck on your way to work tomorrow. The moral of the story is that you can’t just sit around doing nothing because you’re scared of what might happen. That’s what it boils down to, right? Well, guess what? The craziest thing that happened to me in Thailand was a girl shooting a pickle out of her vagina at me. If I’d listened to all the nay-sayers and sat at home scared, I wouldn’t have half, or even a tenth of the memories and friends I have now (the girl shooting the pickle is included in the former, but not the latter group if you’re wondering). Ignore these people. Whether their intentions are well-meaning or malicious depends widely on the person and particular case I’m sure (and most of these people really are just genuinely—albeit ignorantly or naïvely—concerned for your wellbeing), but I’ll guarantee they all have one thing in common: They’ve never been where you’re talking about going.
Get out and live your dream and don’t ever let anyone stop you. Do your research and BE SAFE at all times, but never live anything less than your dream-life if you have the capability of doing it.
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And if you have any input, or advice for other readers then share them in the comments below as usual.
Peace and Happy Travels,
Thanks for this post!! I also find those types of “advice” unhelpful and discouraging. I have to tell myself every time not to listen and pursue my dreams no matter what the nay-sayers think. There is always going to be someone to rain on your parade, guess we travelers just have to carry an umbrella 🙂
Yes! You are right that most people who freak out over your travel plans have never actually been to the places you are going. I lived in Bangkok for over a year by myself, and it was absolutely fine. I’m now living in Mexico City, and it’s even safer feeling and more beautiful than I ever imagined. Most Americans just have no idea. They really don’t know how the rest of the world lives, but they think it is much worse than they do. I think it is a type of misinformed sincere concern for the most part… which is cute and sad and endearing at the same time. I just try to appreciate the sentiment, but my motto is basically… “Whatever, I do what I want”…
I think I’m stealing your motto dude! haha and hell yea that sounds awesome!
I honestly think people say that because they believe it’s dangerous. Just turn on the news, it’ll make you never want to leave the house.
I don’t know how ‘in the moment’ you write, but im heading to Colombia for 2 months tomorrow, so if you guys will be there then, hit me up!
Also, awesome post. When people tell me “OMG Colombia is SO dangerous though! Aren’t you scared?!?” my usual reply is to smile and in all earnest say “Oh no. Don’t worry. They don’t kill you there, they just kidnap you for awhile.” And then just wait to see their reaction. I like to mess with people a little too much sometimes.
Haha! That’s kinda the route I’ve been taking, although I admittedly lost my cool a bit with a couple friends who wouldn’t let up before I left. And I’m headed to Colombia in a couple weeks! I’m playing at a music festival called “SancochoFest” in Tulua on Feb 13th, 14th & 15th! I’d be down to meet up if you guys will be in the area 🙂
Im going to be in Barranquilla for Carnival then. But im in Medellin until the first week of March if you guys head this way. And i have a couple friends going to Cartagena after Carnival if you go that way.
Also, congrats on playing in the music fest! 🙂
I really think some people are just jealous. OR they actually just enjoy telling people that whatever it is they’re doing is stupid. The world really isn’t as scary as some people think! Enjoy your trip and happy travels 🙂
Such a fantastic post Tom and so so true… some people just love dishing out this ‘advice’ which is actually complete baloney. Love this line: ‘I’m less likely to be kidnapped in Peru than you are to die in a car wreck on your way to work tomorrow.’ Pretty sure I’ve said that to multiple people over the years. Life is for living so live it – or you’re definitely better off dead anyway. 🙂 Looking forward to following your travels.