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Eliminating risk: how to travel in absolute safety

People have always had the urge to travel, but recently that urge has burst into a need that can no longer be ignored. In the past few years alone the number of American citizens with passports has sky rocketed to 110 million. That’s over a fifty percent increase from the 48 million passports that were issued in 2000. More people in the United States want to open their eyes and experience new things, but these experiences come with consequences. Traveling always comes with a little risk, but when going on a journey the main goal is to make the reward outweigh the risk. Cesare Pavese an Italian poet, novelist, and literary critic said, “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all the familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

The U.S. department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs issues travel alerts and warnings on countries that include great safety risks for the time being. By the definition of the Bureau, an alert is a short-term event that might interfere with your safety or health such as a high terrorist attack risk, outbreak of a disease, or a highly controversial election. When an alert on a country is issued it is best for travelers to simply push your trip back a few months and in most circumstances you are good to go. However, a warning is much different and trip relocation is advised. Travel warnings mean that issues like civil wars, unstable government, numerous terrorists’ attacks, or an immense amount of violence and crime are taking place. Some of these warnings can last up to years and the government strongly encourages people to stay away from that country at all costs.

One of the most recent warnings was issued on April 4th, 2014 to the country of Kenya due to the recently heightened terrorists threats and their high crime rate. These warnings should not be taken lightly, in Kenya 100 people have been killed and hundreds more have been injured from violent attacks, one of the outbursts even happened this January at a night club in a resort area that many tourists tend to gravitate towards. Kenya is far from being the only risky place to travel to, Egypt while many travelers aspire to see, has an alert that fell on the country on March 18, 2014 due to political unrest. Ever since the change of government, citizen and mob control has become a major issue. Some of the locals have been involved with outrages that resulted in throwing rocks, committing sexually heinous crimes, or turning toward violence in general. Due to this uncontrollable part of the population police have had to respond by using tear gases, or in some case live ammunition in order to protect themselves and innocent bystanders. The Egyptian travel alert is said to expire on June 18th, 2014 and all trips are advised to be delayed until after this date.

Since traveling can be a dangerous activity, vacationers should take some preventative actions. In a majority of foreign places pickpocketing is a problem. Turn your eye for one second and a purse can be slipped off your shoulder just like that! Benny Lewis an avid international traveler makes a decoy wallet when visiting sketchy areas. He puts the wallet with expired credit cards and ten dollars in his pocket while his real money is tucked elsewhere. This way if he was ever in a situation where a wallet is demanded from him, he would not be completely out of luck for the remainder of his trip. Lewis also always puts the SIM card from his smart phone into one that merely does texts and phone calls. He says he never knows when his phone might be dropped, stolen, or accidentally submerged in water so the less valuable it is the better. When Al Senske, international world traveler, was traveling in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a passerby “accidentally” spilt some mustard on his shirt. Immediately the person and his friends were apologizing profusely while wiping him down with napkins, when suddenly he felt his camera strap slip off. He grabbed the strap but seconds later Al’s passport was slipped out of his pocket. He went to the American Embassy and a new passport was ready for him within two hours. They were not at all surprised that this incident took place as they see evidence of the “Mustard Gang” all the time.

Another major thing that any traveler should put on their to do list is receive as many vaccinations as possible. For extra precautions travelers sometimes put a medical card in their wallet so that in the event of an emergency their medical needs can be met. Even though traveling can be quite exhilarating, it can expose people to many new diseases, one named specifically for tourists called travelers diarrhea or TD. This disease effects around 20 to 50 percent of all international travelers, and can definitely ruin a vacation. Besides the obvious, other symptoms include abdominal cramping, low fever, bloating, and lack of appetite. An elevated version of these symptoms means that a much worse case of TD is in effect, and one should seek medical help immediately. In order to prevent spending the entire trip in the bathroom, drink only clean, bottled water, and avoid fresh fruits and salad as they might not have been washed with such water. For the most part nice hotels usually have clean water. Some countries refill bottles of water with tap to save money so it would be wise to ask to have the bottle’s seal opened in front of you just to be safe.

As boring as it may sound, another must when traveling the globe is to get traveler’s insurance. Every decent book, website, blog, tip article, or documentary based on traveling will tell you the same thing. This insurance covers medical expenses, financial default of traveler suppliers, or any other kind of loss that occurs during your trip whether it be in your own country or not. It is unbelievable how much of a lifesaver this is, as medical bills for even minor injuries in foreign countries could be thousands and thousands of dollars. Experienced travelers motto when abroad usually is prepare for the worst and usually you will encounter the best. The general price of this insurance is anywhere from five to eight percent of the prepaid, non-refundable amount that the trip costs. Many people feel that this expense is wasteful and unnecessary but the price is well worth the feeling of security that comes along with it. Ruth Meyerhof, an experianced world traveler and former school teacher, was in Milan on a family vacation when she fell face first off the curb onto the paved street. Her face was cut up, her glasses were smashed, and her shoulder was dislocated. She was rushed immediately to a hospital and soon found out that her arm required some intensive medical attention. Ruth said that without travelers insurance she would have been paying off that bill for months!

Traveling is a way to meet new people, see new things, and broaden your horizon all while ideally having the time of your life! We’ve all heard the quote by St. Augustine “The world is a book and those who don’t travel only read one page.” There is nothing truer than that statement, and one must explore and observe new places in order to get the most out of life. However, don’t satisfy your wanderlust by sacrificing your safety or health, nothing is worth that. Instead, risk breaking your routine, emerging out of your comfort zone, or overcoming new obstacles. Putting your safety on the line should not be in your itinerary and if ever you feel like your vacation might involve some danger switch locations. The earth is huge and there are far too many places to visit, and you have to be alive in order to see everything! So, travel often and far, but travel with safety and sensibility.

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