Yes. Travel is Safe.
The recent terrorist attacks in Paris were a frightening reminder that the world is not always a safe place. People were killed while they listened to music, ate at cafes, or were otherwise going about their business and enjoying life.
The horrible images that are currently being splashed across televisions and computer screens worldwide do not do a good job of telling one important thing, however. The world, and travel, is safer than it has ever been.
It is easy to see these images and think that the best thing to do is hunker down in your hometown or city and never leave. The thought is that if you don’t go to these places, you won’t be a target.
But, it is so important to realize that you really aren’t much of a target anyway, no matter where you are.
In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, the United States State Department reported that, in 2014, 24 U.S. citizens were killed as a result of terrorism. To put that in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control reports the following for causes of death in 2013.
- Heart disease: 611,105
- Cancer: 584,881
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
- Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
- Diabetes: 75,578
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149
Oddly enough, hippos kill over 300 people globally every year.
Quite simply: you are not at risk.
Rick Steves, my own personal travel hero, had an interesting post on his Facebook page after the Paris attacks. The message was the same as mine. At times like this, it is important to separate the cerebral from the emotional and recognize how minimal the chances are of dying in an attack of this sort.
If anything, as Steves points out, Paris and France will suffer economic blowback from this so, if you really want to support the people and the country, and show that your life will not be dictated by hateful people with a bankruptcy ideology, book your flight to Paris now!
The comments section to Steves post was typical of most comments section. People agreeing and people disagreeing, often not very nicely. Steves wrote another post responding to some of the comments.
One woman said the following:
Our travel days in Europe are over. I do not have faith in the ability of the police to protect my family. We are in a World War. These so-called isolated incidents will increase and become more sophisticated.
Really? The continent of Europe has 500 million people and approximately 50 countries. This woman is prepared to write it all off because of her fear.
At the same time, I bet she doesn’t think twice about getting in her car (32,719 fatalities in 2013), going for a swim (an average of 3,533 fatalities per year from 2005-2009), or eating a meal (3,037 food poisoning death in 2011).
I think this gets to the crux of the problem Because the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack are close to zero, when it does happen it makes for sensationalist news. News that our ratings-hungry media outlets can’t wait to drive into the ground, exaggerating the threat, and terrifying viewers.
I think the quickest way to rebut the terrorists’ presumption that it’s an us-against-them clash of civilizations is to do exactly as Steves suggested: travel more.
When I travel I am consistently amazed at how similar I am to so many of the people I encounter. We all want the same things: a roof over our head, a good meal, a cold beer, someone to enjoy life with.
Travel breaks down barriers. It helps people on both sides realize how alike we are and how small a place the world really is.
Yes, there are scary people who want to hurt you in the world. That is undeniable. But the numbers of those people pale in comparison to the numbers of people who want to share a smile and shake your hand, who will pay for your tea if you practice English with them a bit, and who excitedly ask if you have pictures of your family that they can see.
Despite what the news has you believe, by and large, the vast majority of the people in the world are not out to harm you in any way. Travel helps you bust through the artificial media lens and realize this firsthand.
So, where are you going next?