Many of us travellers often end up planning our next big trip before we’ve even left on our most recent adventure. We’re always dreaming about new destinations and trying to find ways to see as much as possible of the world in the most practical, inexpensive way. We know that it may not always be sunshine and rainbows, and we may encounter some hardships along the way. But that doesn’t deter us from longing to explore those unfamiliar and distant places.
Believe it or not, there are many people who do not share in this excitement. Crazy, I know! The thought of traveling half way across the country to a completely unfamiliar place with foreign smells, sights and languages terrifies them. To some people it seems silly to leave the comforts of home in order to visit a country full of poverty, violence and less than desirable living conditions. Some people even fear the idea of travelling to certain countries due to what they have heard in the media or through word of mouth.
On a recent trip to Southeast Asia, we were faced with some of these opinions. We were traveling to the Philippines as part of our trip, and with the recent capture of two Canadian citizens, our loved ones were concerned about our choice of destination. To top it off an election was on the horizon which in the past had created higher than normal tension and even riots in certain parts of the country. We understood their concerns, but ultimately knew that we would return unharmed. We were determined to not let the fear of others affect our willingness to explore such a beautiful country.
Where does this fear stem from? In my opinion, the media plays a big part in creating fear in those who are reluctant to travel or in those who maybe haven’t had a chance to travel and see for themselves. Everyday when we turn on the news we are faced with another terrible story about acts of violence, hatred and destruction. I understand that it’s hard to remain positive in the face of devastation, but I also understand that if we retreat and give into fear we are doing exactly what those who are responsible for these acts, want us to do.
The recent bombings in the heart of Thailand have cast a shadow on a country that thrives on its tourism industry. It makes me sad to hear about the victims of these senseless acts, but it also makes me feel sad to think that some people will let fear get the best of them, and avoid travelling to Thailand in the wake of these incidents. They are the ones who will be missing out on experiencing the wonder and beauty that Thailand has to offer.
Now that’s not to say that we should all jump on a plane and fly to the most dangerous country we could think of, just to avoid the fear of missing out. The Government of Canada has travel advisories for countries where there is an immediate threat to our safety, which we should always be aware of. We should be smart about our choices to travel and realize that many of these incidents are targeted and isolated. Many people travel to countries where violence is a part of daily life and come back unharmed. And if you think this kind of violence only occurs in far away places, you’re wrong. Gun violence is a growing and immediate concern in the USA, nice and close to home.
So what can we do?
Never let fear prevent you from exploring the unknown. I’m happy to say that not once did I feel unsafe during our time in the Philippines and in fact, I have felt more unsafe in many other places then I did at any point in the Philippines. Continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone, because it’s in the face of fear that we learn what we are truly capable of.
Form your own opinions. Sometimes it’s not wise to listen to what someone has to say about a country they’ve visited, because your experience might end up being entirely different. What happens to be your dream destination might not be another persons cup of tea, and a nightmare in your eyes could be exactly what someone else is looking for. What better way to know what a country has to offer than to see for yourself.
Continue to explore. Ultimately, the choice to travel is a privilege and not a right that is available to absolutely everyone. It is up to us as travellers to explore these places and share our experiences with others in order to educate not only ourselves, but those who fear the unknown. In doing so we are helping to create a society that is more accepting, well-rounded and informed, and that’s something worth fighting for.
What are some of your experiences that have involved fear of travel? Have you travelled to a country with a pre-conceived notion of what it was going to be like, and quickly realized how wrong you were? Comment below!