Should you travel in 2017?
Bombings. Hijacked airplanes. Mass shootings. Terrorist attacks. These past few years have seen a rise in tension on the international scene. This year has been particularly bad, with war still raging in Aleppo, shootings in the US and Europe struggling with hate attacks.
All this makes you wonder - should you really travel around with the world in this situation?
I'll be honest, I usually book flights headfirst, and don't let this stuff get to me. Sure, I take precautions, but the events we see everyday on the news rarely affect my travel plans. However, sometimes it does make me stop and think about things for a minute. Should I avoid that country? Should I wait a bit to see how the political situation develops?
Is it safe to travel?
The question you should be asking yourself is - are you safer where you are? I don't mean to make you paranoid, but the truth of the matter is that attacks can happen anywhere in the world right now. I'm fairly sure that the people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice this summer were not feeling particularly at risk, and neither were the people enjoying themselves at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Sure, some countries are experiencing more instability than others, but as we've seen this year, anything can happen anywhere. Feeling safe is an incredibly subjective matter and it depends entirely on our own experiences and opinions. Maybe avoid backpacking through warzones, but don't let this issue hold you back.
Is it really that dangerous out there?
Now, I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but the media has a huge role in shaping our opinion on current international affairs, and sometimes, we have to take the news with a good pinch of salt.
Journalism is going through a tough time. Online is taking over and revenue is going down, resulting in less resources and newsrooms doing all they can to attract volatile readers to their sites. The technique adopted by many is the despised clickbait. When clicks = money, who cares if a story is slightly exaggerated, or even at times false? It is known that tragedies and disasters attract our attention more than happy stories - schadenfreude is real and the media exploits it as much as it can to get more views.
A few months before I went to Istanbul earlier this year, the failed coup had just happened and Ataturk airport had been bombed. The news was full of how the city had become a dangerous hell hole for residents and visitors alike, and governments were (and still are) issuing warnings to avoid traveling to Turkey. What did I find when I landed in Istanbul? The same gorgeous city I had visited before, the same friendly smiles and helpful people, the same memorable experiences. The place was sadly a little more empty and the airport security a little more armed, but not much else had changed.
My point? Don't let news reports scare you from seeing things for yourself.
Consider what you're missing out on
Throughout my years of travel, I've done countless things which I know I would never have been able to do had I stayed in my tiny neighborhood. I met some incredible people with the most amazing stories to tell, I saw for myself the wonders of Renaissance architecture in Europe, I partied until dawn in the Greek islands, I witnessed Sufi dancing ceremonies, I biked around Turkish coastlines and crossed rickety bridges on the Northern Irish cliffs, and made more memories than I can recount.
Had I decided to wait or to put it off, all these places would have remained stuck in the books I read or the shows I watched. Is a little risk worth all this? A hundred times yes.
In short, my message is, don't let fear stop you from exploring all the wonderful, beautiful places our world has to offer. Obviously, be cautious and sensible, but do not miss out on opportunities that will undoubtedly change you for the better. Here's to a more peaceful and even more adventurous 2017!
What experiences made you want to travel? What's holding you back right now?