“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty-his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.”
– Aldous Huxley
The two dumbest reasons to travel
Before traveling I always like to read up on all the different ways that tourists and adventurers can get killed, robbed, or raped. It is a pretty fun exercise and one that will keep you vigilant for weeks on end. Will some poorly washed vegetables in your salad give you a rare bacteria that liquefies your guts? Will the taxi at the airport by operated by a vicious kidnapper? Or will your idyllic day at the beach end with some hobos stabbing you to death? Travel really does open you up to all kinds of new experiences.
Having gone on numerous adventures in the past, and having been robbed once, I’m actually not too worried. At worst I’ll probably get pick pocketed or held up for my phone. In the grand scheme of things I’m pretty safe. In fact, from all of my research, most people are fairly safe when traveling. There are some really dorky people who go abroad and everything ends up fine for them. If some 65 year-old from Kansas can travel to Rio without dying, I’m probably going to be just fine. With that said, there are two really easy ways to get into trouble while abroad. Unless you want to win a game of “Who can die the fastest” I’d suggest avoiding both of these.
I’m always perplexed at how many people travel abroad just to buy cheap drugs. One of my friends actually went actually went to Jamaica last year just so that he could get high on their fabled ganja.* Since I’m not your dad I won’t try to give you a lecture, however its pretty stupid to visit a potentially dangerous location just so that you can get drugs for a fraction of the price that you could at home. Aside from the fact that you’ll probably end up dealing with some shady narco-terrorist faction of militants, you’ll also end up buying products that are potentially made of garbage, and you put yourself at risk of being thrown in the local slammer or executed by some local authorities. A quick Google search for “Third world jail” turns up some unpleasant results.
When I was in Belize some dudes who were staying across from me had a story about a friend who had bought cheap drugs while in Mexico. He ended up having to fork over something like $500 as a bribe afterwards when the dealer ran around the corner and told some cops who were in on the whole racket.
Flying to the middle of a war zone to buy some three dollar cocaine from an unstable militant, who probably hates Americans, is an easy way to end up dead in a ditch. Plus, there’s a place back home where the drugs flow freely and there are no repercussions for using them. Its called college.
The second stupid reason to travel is a bit more vague. For lack of a better word, I’m going to call it a lust for danger. While there are a lot of dangerous yet fun things to do abroad, like climbing a volcano or swimming with sharks, these people seek out senseless thrills. The traveler with a lust for danger is the type of person who gets told “do not walk through that neighborhood at night” and then does so just to show the locals how tough he really is. People who fit this mold aren’t taking a risk to do something cool, they are just throwing themselves into danger because they can.
When I was in Nicaragua all of the roads are incredibly dangerous to cross. There are virtually no traffic laws, and trying to run across the street will get you hit by 18 buses and three horse drawn wagons. In particularity bad areas they have little walkways that are scattered about so that you don’t have to cross the street. Never the less, I heard stories about travelers who would disregard these walkways, they were pretty gross and you had to step over homeless people quite often, and would end up in the hospital after getting run over.
As much as people like to imagine terrorists and gangs as being a threat to tourists, most travelers are killed by more mundane things. According to Medical Daily, cars kill the majority of Americans who go abroad. While there are a lot of reasons for this, stupidity and disregard for basic safety are huge factors. A lot of people who travel like to pretend like they have something to prove. Unlike all those stupid pansy tourists, they aren’t scared of anything. Then they get hit by a garbage truck because they refuse to cross the street like everyone else.
If you want to do drugs or prove what a tough guy you really are, there is no reason to even leave the United States. You could play Frogger with traffic right in your own hometown. You could probably buy drugs and go to jail there too. And, if you do get hit by a car or thrown in a cell, you have the luxury of being in a first world institution where everyone speaks English and they have some basic standards for hygiene and human rights.
* According to him it was actually really lousy and not worth the trip at all.