Well, if I had spent the last four months at home in England the most unsafe thing I would have done would have been to get in my car and drive to work. However, the last four months I have been travelling in India and SE Asia. I´ve walked with wild elephants, swam in shark ridden seas, fallen off a motorbike, gone white water rafting, been driven at high speeds by people who should never be allowed a licence (and probably didn’t have one) and got tattoos and piercings! Yes you do things travelling that you would never do at home but that´s what makes it the incredible adventure it is!
When Joe (my husband) and I decided that we would embark on a year long travel experience the day after our wedding we were really excited to tell our friends and family the news. 98% of reactions were a mix of excitement, joy, sadness and jealously…2% was a slightly negative reaction with questions and comments like ´aren’t those countries really unsafe´, ´make sure you don’t take any valuables with you´. We didn’t let the comments bother us as we knew most were being made out of genuine love and worry for us. I also appreciated that these comments came from people who hadn’t done any travelling. The truth is, in the four months we spent in India, China and South East Asia I never once felt unsafe.
On the second day of our trip we were in Bangkok, Thailand and as we headed out for a lovely meal we noticed the awful traffic and an unusual number of emergency vehicles attempting to get past the stationary traffic. We thought nothing of it until we had finished our meal and were in the lift about to leave the restaurant. A gentleman in the lift then started chatting to us about a bomb attack that had just occurred down the road. We rushed back to our hotel and were greeted with a number of missed calls and messages from friends and family who were desperate to hear from us. Of course we were lucky to not be involved in the awful terrorist attack, but I couldn’t believe only two days into our travels and our family and friends were worrying about our safety.
Our first experience of a stranger’s kindness and friendliness was in Munnar, India. We asked a man from a local village to take us for a walk up their mountain so we could see the beautiful views. He met us at our hostel and as we walked past his village he picked up a packed breakfast for us. I commented on his lovely home to which he asked us both in for a cup of tea with his wife and daughter. Their home consisted of two small rooms, one was the kitchen, the other the lounge with a bed in. You could tell how proud he was of his home which had electricity and a TV with 100 channels. Moments like these are my favourite thing about travelling. Seeing people in their own culture, usually with a lot less than we have, and happy to share their pleasures with you. I wonder if this is where most of the stigmas stem from when it comes to unsafe travelling. Maybe people in first world countries assume that those in poorer countries will be desperate for what we have and will want to steal it from us. This certainly wasn’t our experience in SE Asia.
Whilst in a shop in Goa, we started chatting to someone who lived in the Himalayas, Kashmir. We told him how we wanted to visit his hometown and by the following afternoon we were at his home in Goa being cooked a gorgeous meal by his brother, shown beautiful pictures of their home in Kashmir and being offered a place to stay if we were to ever visit. We were waited on hand and foot by his brother and friends who finally showed us how to eat the proper Indian way using your thumb to shovel the food into your mouth.
The day after the Paris attacks I was feeling slightly unnerved and disgusted in some of the human race. We were in Indonesia (Lombok) at the time and we received more emails and texts from friends and family about staying safe. That day we needed a taxi so flagged one down from the road. We had a lovely journey with the man and ended up booking with him to take us to the airport the following day. He asked if we would like to be picked up earlier so we could meet his family and have some coffee. Now ask yourselves honestly, if a taxi driver in your own country asked you to go to his house and drink coffee you´d probably think he had alternative motives…so why is it different in another country? It just is! These people haven’t lost the trust and love in humanity that seems to come in our more sophisticated first world societies. They make time for new friendships, they are honest and they don’t think the worst about strangers like we so often seem to. So, the next day he picked us up and sure enough we had a lovely afternoon meeting his wife and kids, picking mangoes from his garden and drinking home made coffee. His wife enjoyed our company so much she then came to the airport with us to see us off onto our flight.
Now I’m not completely naive, I know bad things happen to some people when travelling, I know things get stolen, and sometimes worse, but don’t these things happen in your home country too? France, which has always been viewed as a really safe place (especially by our family members who holiday there every year) has had some of the worst terrorist attacks in Europe in the past few years. Does that mean people should stop going on holiday to France?
In a flat where Joe and I lived in Sheffield a girl’s murdered body was found two weeks ago. Awful things happen in the world in every country but is that a reason not to travel? If so, maybe it´s time we stop leaving our front doors?
So is travelling safe?
Our experience in India and SE Asia suggests it is! Of course, you will do some crazy activities and meet some people you won´t like and who are only after getting money out of you but generally, the people we met were beautiful, kind, special people who have been a huge part in creating some of the most magical moments and memories we will ever have.