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Worried about travel warnings?

If you listen to all the chatter about what could possibly happen when you travel to foreign destinations then you’ll never leave home. Travel books devote pages to health and safety issues. U.S. government travel advisories are particularly discouraging. You really need to put these warnings into perspective.

There are travel snobs who see themselves as intrepid and don’t want ‘just anyone’ to follow in their footsteps. A co-worker of mine kept saying I was a ‘brave girl, brave girl’ for planning a trip to Ecuador, a country he visited frequently. Being unduly fearful will keep you inside the travel bubble.

Yes, you should weigh dire warnings and indeed bad things can happen. But incidents that you hear about from home can be isolated and not impact on your plans. If they do you may be able to make alternate arrangements.

Sometimes concerns are exaggerated or misunderstood. I recall (with some embarrassment) asking the customs officer at the New York City international airport if it was safe to travel across the city to the bus station. I asked him this as I handed over my passport with visas in it for Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, countries I had just visited. I suspect he thought my question was insulting and told me rather sarcastically that I had a “50-50 chance of making it alive.” Well, in those days we were bombarded with warnings about New York City but I had obviously failed to put them into perspective.

Before we went to Peru an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale caused considerable damage to telecommunications, transportation routes and general infrastructure in the country. The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs recommended deferring travel to the area. We altered our itinerary so that the city that was hardest hit was our last stop and sure enough, most of the damage had been cleared away by the time we arrived.

On another trip, an erupting volcano threatened to block the highway between Mexico City and Oaxaca but the bus just drove around it. Floods prevented our overland travel from Malaysia to Thailand so we took a plane over them. A tornado flattened the Darwin airport in Australia where we were to catch our flight to Indonesia so we made alternate arrangements.

Terrorist bombs have gone off in the United States, Britain and Spain, countries much like ‘home’. Australians seem to get a thrill out of telling tourists that a bite from one of their poisonous snakes can kill a hundred sheep. This is not to trivialize the bad stuff but to suggest you not over react. And if you remain calm and flexible you will usually find a way to overcome logistical challenges.

By Sylvia Fanjoy

© Riding the buses 2010

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