I was scrolling through the segment of the British government website that offers British citizens advice on which countries are currently too dangerous to visit. It cities killings, political instability and theft as some of the reasons why one should not go to a country. Many of the ‘dangerous’ countries that were listed were far from the West — destinations seemed to get more and more deadly further east.
The ironic thing is that my Singaporean family is always trying to warn me about how ‘dangerous’ the West is. They read headlines about stabbings, shootings and violent protests in the West and fear for my safety. However, having lived in England for two years now, I can assure them that these foreign lands are not actually that dangerous. There have been reports of violence, crime and political chaos while I was in the UK, but these are things that one might find in almost any other country.
I have had someone come up to me, say they want to visit Asia, and then ask, ‘but is it too dangerous?’ My first instinct is to laugh, because people back home ask me that in regards to England all the time.
Sometimes, you never know how safe or dangerous a certain place is until you’ve been there yourself. People fear the unknown. The more fearful you are of a place, the bigger the chance that the country is vastly different from yours. But once you learn to embrace those differences, it is liberating to know that you don’t have to fear the rest of the world. It makes you more self-confident, it empowers you to push yourself.
Even if a destination truly is dangerous, putting yourself in risky situations for a short period of time is eye opening. As a tourist, you get to leave a country after your visit is up, but you would have experienced what people who are living there will go through for the rest of their lives. This will open up your world view and help you to become more empathetic to people who have to fear for their lives every day; you might even start to think about what you could do to help people living in these danger-ridden countries.
So why not expose yourself to truly meaningful travel experiences, go beyond your boundaries and literally put yourself out there? You’d be surprised at how much you can learn by stepping out of your comfort zone.