This is a question primarily for new, inexperienced backpackers, but I would be interested to hear the opinions of experienced travellers too. How much does the issue of safety concern you before any of your trips and if it does, how much research do you do on the subject?
This is a fun question.
Personally it’s been about finding a balance between being smart/aware but not paranoid.
If I’m traveling alone, which is most of the time, I just have to be conscious of my surroundings and make sure I don’t walk into a situation I’m not prepared for. For instance, I was going to be in Turkey on my own a couple years ago and desperately wanted to visit Egypt and Jordan, having never been. However, a couple weeks into planning, violence broke out in Egypt over elections and after doing some research online and watching the news, I decided to visit some other places in Turkey instead and save Egypt for a better time. So, yeah, I do research the political climate of a place before I go, especially if I’m by myself and the place is unfamiliar.
That being said, I do try to keep things in perspective. Working in the ER back home I know people can get gravely injured walking down the street or driving down the highway. Horrible things can happen anywhere: shootings, terrorist attacks, rape, muggings, etc. It happens in the US, too. So travel smart, hang onto your stuff, don’t go out wandering down dark alleys at 3:00 am without pepper spray, don’t go hang out at a political protest, etc.
I’ve also done my fair share of stupid things while travelling, but I’ve always had a great story afterwards and I wouldn’t trade a single one of those experiences, so there’s that.
Michael Huxley Absolutely agree! I'm an emergency nurse myself so I know how much that can change your perspective.
I asked this because there is a huge gap between the level of fear people have about their personal safety before backpacking, especially women in my experience, (hence the whole SFB badge which is something that annoys me a little) and the actual risk of anything happening to them, and I wanted to try and understand the extent to which people prepare beforehand.
I'm a huge advocate of doing your research and taking reasonable common sense precautions for personal safety, but never letting that spill over into fear or paranoia that will ruin your trip.
I don’t do a huge amount of preparation past reading my Rough Guide. Although on my last trip in Kenya I did read a lot of local news, FCO guidelines etc as we were travelling into some relatively dodgy areas where inter-tribal conflict was killing people at least once a month.
I was a little worried about going to these areas but my very Catholic travel companion told me not to worry and that she was praying for us. That did little to put my mind at ease, in all honesty, but (without getting into any religious debate) we were fine throughout the whole trip
On the contrary though, I cancelled a recently planned trip to Afghanistan for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand! But that was a whole other kettle of fish…
What happened to the comments on the above answer?
Lottie Gross Hmm, that's odd. I'm not sure Michael – may have been a bug. We're looking into it.
Michael Huxley Thanks Lottie, was no biggie, just curious.