Sunday, August 14, 2011

What If Your Worst Travel Fears Were Realized?

I like to think that I am a brave traveler. Maybe it's because unlike most of my western counterparts, I never really had to think about the fears you can have when you're traveling. For one thing, I was born and have lived all my life in a third-world country. So I know first-hand that safety and security in any given third-world city are not really as exaggerated as one might get from the international news media.

But once in a while you do get grim reminders. It's August 2011. Around this time last year, eight travelers from Hong Kong on a tour bus in the Philippine capital Manila abruptly lost their lives in a hostage crisis. It was witnessed by millions of people around the world as it happened. I remember that so clearly because one, they were travelers, and two, I was actually traveling when it happened.

I realized that while the world is not as unsafe as the news media make it out to be, terrible and horrible acts that cost the lives of innocent people do take place. So as a traveler, where do I go from there?

I can rationalize by saying that it's an isolated situation, that bad things can happen anywhere in the world. But you really can't fault me if I am not able to let go of that fear. It's not at all irrational. No matter how many precautions I could take, bad things can happen. Maybe the victims of the hostage crisis had the same fears that day and that same day, the worst of them were realized.

So I guess, it all boils down to choice. I am starting to accept the fact that I cannot really control everything that happens while I am on the road. I really want to travel so I am choosing to travel.

I am not saying that I am getting on the next flight to war-torn areas because they have the most spectacular views in the world. That will be stupid. What I am saying is, each one should take the most amount of precaution he or she is comfortable with when traveling and hope for the best. Chances are, I won't get kidnapped by terrorists, taken as a hostage, or whatever unspeakable act known to man. The worst that could probably happen to me is be ripped off by a local vendor.

However, I am treading with care and vigilance, and remembering the lost lives of those travelers that came before me. Not as cautionary tales, but more as commemoration. In spite of the fears, we all made the same choice to travel. The difference is, I am still here. So I am grateful and I am enjoying every minute of it.#

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