I feel compelled to write this post by events that recently struck very close to home for me.
Violence is a risk *anywhere* you go in this world. I’m not saying that to scare anyone, however, I hope my readers have realized by now that I don’t try to sugarcoat anything. I’m not concerned with just showing you pretty pictures on Instagram (though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that). My goal is to show you the realities of international travel, and why it’s still 100% worth it.
When I traveled to Mexico City by myself last year, people thought I was crazy. Mexico City at one time was a very scary place, I’m sure. And to be fair, I did have my phone stolen on the subway (the true tourist experience!). The phone was pickpocketed; there was absolutely no violence to my person. Otherwise, I had a perfectly awesome week there, met some really cool people, ate delicious food, and saw some of the most impressive sights I’d ever laid eyes on.
They also thought I was crazy for going solo to Chicago the year before that. I had a supervisor at the time literally say to me, “Aren’t you afraid that they’re going to shoot you dead?” I was there for several days, walked all over the city scouting apartments, and nobody ever shot me dead.
Last month, my girlfriend and I were in Central America for 18 days. In the weeks leading up to it, we had friends and family on both sides voice their concern for our welfare, some even trying to convince us not to go. Their fears are not unfounded; shit does happen. At the end of the day, we were very thankful for their concerns, and that they cared about us. Having said that, the fact of the matter is we were there for 18 days, and absolutely *nothing* happened to us.
On the other hand…
I’ve been home for nine days, and I’ve had shots fired within 30 feet of me. Twice.
Last week, APD surrounded my building to arrest the couple that lives above me. From right outside my dining room window, they fired two bullets from an AR-15 at their door.
Early this very morning, I was awaken by the sounds of a commotion outside. I then heard the loud crack of a gunshot, followed by a man yelling and groaning in pain. APD has tied police tape across the building right behind me.
I live in a very safe neighborhood in far North Austin, which is itself one of the safest cities of its size in the US. I go walking around here all the time, even at night.
Prior to this, I lived in a part of East Austin that was not considered very safe. I lived there for a year and a half, and heard gunshots exactly one time. In the distance.
I should also mention that the closest I’ve ever been to being in a fist fight was in Vancouver, one of the safest cities in the entire world.
Like I said, bad things can happen literally everywhere. In fact, statistics show that if you are attacked, it is likely to be by someone you either know, or who lives close to you. The next time you are visiting a foreign country, or even some new establishment in a “bad” neighborhood, know that by being a visitor just passing through, you are significantly less likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the locals. It is true, however, that being an obvious tourist will potentially make you more susceptible to petty crimes, like pickpocketing.
It’s worth noting that in many parts of the world, the US included, the local government is going to do more to protect YOU than it is the people who actually live there. I think of Chicago and it’s wonderful Loop, patrolled by police and kept clean for the tourists, while its South and West Sides suffer from extremely high crime rates, underfunded schools, and food swamps.
I’m off my soap box. As with anything, do your research, talk to locals, and be aware of your surroundings. And please don’t let fear keep you from seeing the world around you. Or, for that matter, the world in your own backyard.
Be safe out there.