Wednesday, July 08, 2015

What Is A 'Safe' Destination, Anyway?

Decision, decisions...
It’s been just over a week since 30 British tourists, and a further 8 holiday makers from around the world, were gunned down in an attack at a holiday resort in Sousse, Tunisia.  Yesterday marked 10 years since the terror attack in the centre of London, where 52 people lost their lives while travelling on public transport in a series of coordinated attacks. 

While thinking about planning your holidays abroad, or within the UK, the question is now asked constantly: where is it safe to go?  The answer is different for everyone.   Most people will steer clear of well-known areas fraught with difficulties, but are we now at risk of keeping away from otherwise ‘safe’ destinations out of fear?  And what impact does this have on popular destinations, such as Tunisia, in the longer term?  

It was wonderful to hear the stories from British survivors in Tunisia, explaining just how much was done by local residents and workers to try and keep them safe.   There are fabulous people all across the world that wish no harm on anyone and would, ideally, like to live their lives in peace and quiet.  Unfortunately, there’s also the flip side of this, where a small number of people and established organisations wish harm on people, and do their best to ensure they inflict injury and suffering.   Luckily, these are in the minority.

After discussing where we’d like to travel to later in 2015, it has to be said that the recent attacks have had a small impact on our chats about potential destinations.  We weren’t considering Tunisia at this time, anyway, but Egypt was touted as a contender.   I’ve travelled to Egypt several times and have always been treated well and never felt the slightest threat to my safety.   This is the same for any African or European nation, or for my travels further afield.  The only time I’ve ever felt worried was during the mass protests in Bangkok, which spilled over into the streets during my time there.   It didn’t necessarily have a negative impact on my travels, but it did stop me from venturing further into the city that I may have under normal circumstances.

We recently spent time in Madrid and entered the city through the Atocha Train Station, which was the site of a series of bombings in 2004.   Madrid isn’t necessarily the kind of place (if there is such a thing) that I associate with terror attacks, but I don’t expect this kind of thing to happen full stop, although I’m well aware that attacks can strike anywhere and that nowhere is really immune.   On the whole, Madrid was a safe and fantastic city and, at no point, did I ever feel worried or concerned about my safety.   As I stated previously, I rarely ever feel worried, regardless of where I go.    And I’m going to stay that way.   

I follow simple safety advice, such as:

Never carrying all my money around with me
Having different sources of money (cash and cards)
Making sure I don’t go out at night on my own
Not accepting assistance from strangers
Always having travel insurance.

Aside from insurance, these are things I do at home anyway and are just common sense to me, as they are to millions of others.  

Every travel destination carries its own risks but, equally, so does everyday living.  I am determined to continue travelling, as I’m sure most travellers are, and not to be swayed by the heightened fear being played out in the media.  The stories from Tunisia are utterly heartbreaking, but the recollections of support and joint sorrow make you realise just how many wonderful people there are in the world.   After all, it’s not just terror attacks that can strike when you travel and, thankfully, these are rare.  I have friends who once went to Jamaica and came home to report that they hadn't left their complex because it 'wasn't safe'.  What's the point in travelling all that way to sit by a pool and do nothing?  If you're not going to experience the place you're travelling to, why go?  I just don't get it.  I darted around Jamaica in the back of a taxi and had a wonderful time, never once thinking it 'unsafe'.  What comprises 'safe' anyway?  

I visited Manhattan 6 months after 9/11, while the emergency services were still pulling bodies out of the rubble at the Twin Towers, and the sense of community around the districts in the city was incredible.   People tend to pull together and, in the main, are very conscious of their tourism industry and want people to love their cities and countries as much as they do.   That’s certainly how I feel when I speak to visitors coming to the UK.  I want them to love it and experience it like I have and go home and share their experiences with friends and family.   Isn’t that what travelling is all about?

How do you keep yourself safe when travelling, and have recent events changed your perception of ‘safe’ destinations?

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