Reflection / Trip Planning

Why (sometimes) I’m afraid to travel

I’ve never posted anything that ever discussed the dangers of traveling, mostly because (knock on wood) nothing significant has ever happened to me. I’ve been incredibly lucky.

Before I traveled to Europe for the first time, I spent hours upon hours reading about scams, tourists getting pick-pocketed, and violent robberies in many of the cities I was planning on visiting. I practically drowned myself in this site (Street Scams of Barcelona) when I was debating taking a Spanish class there. I ended up terrifying myself. When I was actually in Europe I did witness multiple pickpocketing incidents. My hostel roommate also got the crap beaten out of him when his taxi dropped him off at the wrong address late at night. It seemed as though everyone had a story, or everyone had a friend who had their wallet/iPhone/camera/entire backpack stolen.

But it never stopped me from traveling, and it never stopped me from returning to these same cities. Most of the time I felt completely safe. I even threw out my money belt.

Now that I’m planning my South America trip, I’ve been doing some research about the dangers so I can be more aware. The things that have been coming up have been really scaring me.

Then the other day, I heard about the gang rape of an American tourist in Rio de Janeiro. Her partner, a French tourist, was severely beaten. Both were robbed and held for 6 hours.

The crime is abhorrent and I can’t fathom what they must have gone through, and what they continue to go through.

And yet…

I have to be honest (and it’s hard for me to admit this) when I say it’s given me second thoughts about heading to Rio. It doesn’t help that a lot of people have singled out that city as a place I should not visit, especially alone.

Photo credit: National Geographic

Rio de Janeiro. Photo credit: National Geographic

Then if I’m really being honest with myself, I’m afraid to visit Quito because of my friend’s bad experience there, and I’m afraid of La Paz because of deadly kidnappings that I’ve read about.

I haven’t scratched anywhere off my list. Crime can happen anywhere. I’m the kind of person who gets pissed off when people say they won’t visit a city or even an entire country because of one bad incident. However, I have to admit that occasionally it gives me second thoughts.

I’m a big proponent of solo travel, but at the same time it’s something I have to consider when making travel plans. When I think about adding a city to my itinerary, I have to decide if it’s a place I would feel safe traveling to by myself. Many crimes aren’t centered around solo travelers–I’ve come across quite a few about couples or friends–but being alone (and being female) definitely makes you more vulnerable.

When people bring up the dangers, I’m usually able to brush them off. But not all the time. Sometimes these dangers are shown to be very real. When that happens, I’m not sure what to do.  When is it smart to listen to the warnings, and when is it smart to ignore them and go anyway?

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11 thoughts on “Why (sometimes) I’m afraid to travel

  1. It’s a tough call – I think in places like South America and Africa it really just depends on how lucky you are sometimes.

    I’m sure you’ll be fine but do listen to your gut instinct and do what feels right to you! I find my gut instincts about a place are usually right!

    Also, when in doubt, PAY for safety! I love solo travel but I’m one of those who’d rather be safe than sorry – so if I’m feeling abit unsafe, sometimes I do prefer to have a friend tag along or join a tour (on my own) just to play it safe! I’ve even upgraded to a better hostel or left the city earlier if I felt uncomfortable. Just do what feels right to you!

    I’m all for being brave but sometimes I think it’s more important to be safe, than brave!

    • That’s a great way of putting it! It’s definitely worth it to pay more and have more peace of mind. I’m still looking at these cities but now I’m looking at hostels that have been noted in the reviews for their safety. Tours are a good idea, too–I like the idea of being with a group and having someone else figure out the logistics for a change :).

      • Haha agreed! As much as I love planning, sometimes I enjoy traveling in a little bit of luxury and having someone else sort out the details!!

        When do you plan to leave by the way? I know you’re saving up but do you have a rough start date in mind? (only if you don’t mind sharing, of course – I’m just curious!) :D

      • Exactly!! It’s nice to take a break once in a while and not have to stress out about how you’re getting to the next place. And I’m leaving October 6th for Santiago, I bought my ticket months ago because I’ve been a bit eager, haha :). Are you heading that way too?

  2. Oh wow, Chile!! Congrats on buying the ticket! – I always feel it becomes so much more REAL when I’ve bought my ticket. Which is why I’m also always abit impulsive about booking flights because I just want to LOCK IN that trip (if you know what I mean), before life intervenes and tells me I can’t!

    I’m not heading to South America anytime soon – although it’s definitely on the list! Singapore is really far from South America so when I do go (and pay for that expensive flight), I want to spend an extended period of time traveling there! :D

    I’m headed to US and Canada next!! My first time in the US so I’m super excited! I’m actually coming your way – since we’ll be in NYC for about a week! :D

    • That’s so true–I always get so emotional when I buy the ticket because it means the trip is actually happening, haha! Wow you’re right, I can’t imagine how much it would cost to get there! I tracked my ticket to Chile (super early) for a month or two and managed to grab it when it was dirt cheap–cheaper than it would be to go to Florida.

      That’s so exciting about your trip!! When are you going? Feel free to e-mail me since you’re coming this way (adultescence.blog@gmail.com).

      • Oh wow, congrats on that steal of a ticket!! I think you’ll enjoy the flight SO MUCH more knowing that it was a hard won ticket! I remember clinching a 2 pound train ticket in London and it was hands down the best train ride of my life haha! I’m such a cheapskate sometimes! (perils of being a student!)

        I’m heading to Taiwan in July! So still a long way to go! :D And I’m traveling with my parents this time round so might be a little tough to meet up BUT I’m 99% (let’s make it 100% why not?) that I’ll be returning to NY on my own so I’ll catch up with you then!

        And same here, if you’re headed to Spore, I can take you out to try all the best local foods! :D

        p.s. do you have a twitter? If you do, tweet me @sarahptravels – we can talk more there!

      • I love being a student!! I made the mistake of not bringing my student ID on my first backpacking trip–I never realized how many discounts we get!

        That’s so exciting, you’re going to have a blast! I’m hoping to make it to Singapore in a year and a half, if I’m back (and back on my feet!) from S.A. I deleted my personal Twitter months ago and I’ve been missing it, so once I set it up again I’ll add you :).

  3. Good luck on your trip! I have the same reaction to traveling to less-safe places, and usually end up trying to focus on the good stuff and reassuring statistics (most horrible stuff tends to be pretty unlikely to happen to you).

  4. Pingback: The real reason why travel doesn’t change you | Adultescence

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