There is a lot of fear floating around the world these days. Each time I turn on the news, there are images of destruction and unrest all around the world. It's no wonder people are fearful of travel. When all you see are countries in turmoil, you want to hold up in your own little corner and wait for things to settle down. But if you hold onto that fear of travel, you'll be missing out.
Recently we spent some time with my parents in Florida. Mom and dad had 24 hour news stations going on whenever we were in the house. It was a barrage of constant negativity and destruction. They could filter it out and not let it affect them, but I felt depressed just watching it. When we told them our next stop after Florida was Dubai, my dad's question was, Is it safe? As I read Rick Steves latest Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times entitled , I thought of my dad's question. Rick Steves first line states “I miss the days when people would say “Bon voyage” to travelers heading off. Today, Americans instead say “Travel safely.”
Fight the Fear of Travel
Dave and I have travelled the globe for 15 years. We've been to 105 countries, and in that time we've travelled through many places that people are afraid of. Places like Sudan. We visited Sri Lanka during an election following a 30 year civil war and we were in Myanmar during the reign of the military junta. I don't think we ever had anyone say “be safe”, or ask us” is it safe to go there” more than we have these past few years. But does a riot in Baltimore stop you from traveling to New York or LA? Of course not.
If I went by the images on my TV set, I'd never travel to the United States. Last year there were shootings at Canada's national parliament. The images on the news were terrifying, but that hasn't stopped people from visiting our country. So why do so many people decide not to travel abroad when something happens elsewhere?
Enjoy our: 6 Tips to Help you Face Your Fears
We have always believed that travel breaks down barriers and opens people's minds. That is why when we saw latest interview with Rick Steves talking about the fear of travel we were excited to share it. Rick Steves is a travel icon. He has been traveling through Europe for more than 30 years and has seen it all.
When we first travelled to Paris in 1998, we watched his videos on VHS to get an idea of what to see and do. He says, “It is really no more dangerous now than it was before.” And we agree. Sadly, human nature hasn't changed. There has been violence and corruption since the dawn of time and I don't see anything changing any time soon. However, through our travels, we have seen and learned that the majority of people in the world are kind and good.
Rick Steves Discusses the Fear of Travel with TripIt
Now don't get me wrong, Dave and I don't go looking for trouble when traveling and we aren't saying you should travel to unsafe places. We avoid places that have unrest or are in the middle of a military hotspot. We didn't know elections were going on when we booked our flight to Sri Lanka, and when cycling through Africa, we made sure to steer clear of the Western side of the country and Darfur. As it turned out Myanmar, Sudan and Sri Lanka are the three countries that touched our hearts the most. The people were friendly and welcoming. They loved to talk to us and they made us feel safe. We aren't saying to seek out areas of unrest, but we are saying, don't let the images flashing through your TV screen scare you off leaving your house.
Need help overcoming your fear of travel? Read Gise and Andy's Post: Top 10 Fears of Becoming a Traveler
What is Fear?
Fear is the unknown. Get out there and educate yourself and learn about other cultures and religions and you'll see that we are all more similar than you think. Rick Steves says, “The flip side of fear is understanding, and we gain understanding when we travel.”
Travel stays with us for years to come. We have never learned so much as we have during our travels. I think we are better people because of it. Travel is the best education. You can read all you want in a text book or look at photographs and research online, but until you visit a place and experience the sights, the smells and the sounds, you won't understand it.
Travel to Places People don't Understand
Many people worry about Iran, but we have only heard incredible things about the people there and it's been high on our list of places to visit for some time. But looking at the news, one would never consider a visit to Iran. We were happy to hear that Rick Steves visited Tehran and talked about how he was nervous to bring his big camera. He didn't know how the public would react to an American video crew. It turned out, he has never encountered such friendly people anywhere. This is a man that has been everywhere.
So the message is, don't let your fears stop you from traveling. It's a big world out there filled with beautiful people. Isn't it time we started celebrating the diversity of the world rather than fearing it?
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