Safe Travels

“How do you know where it’s safe to go?”

I get asked this question all the time. To be honest, I rarely think about it. The American news media, and even the American government, would have you believe that the whole world outside of US borders (except possibly for most of Canada) is a treacherous place.

Both before and after my recent trip to Mexico in March 2016, I had many people comment on how “unsafe” it was in Mexico. The same was true of my November 2015 trip to Colombia.

To be honest, I walked around in both those countries with money in my pocket and carrying expensive camera equipment. I’ve felt less safe at times on the streets of Philadelphia or New York City than I ever did anywhere overseas.

Mexico is featured prominently in US news media these days for two main reasons:

  • Donald Trump wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out, and
  • According to US media, there’s an all-out drug war with Mexicans all shooting and killing each other.

The wall is a terrible idea and everyone knows it. It’s such a bad idea that I won’t even bother to comment on it.

As for the supposed drug war, I’m sure it’s going on. The thing is that there are over 100 million people in Mexico. It’s a big country. There are probably only a few hundred involved in this so-called drug war. Maybe in the low thousands but almost certainly less than 10,000.

Imagine cutting the United States in half at the Mississippi River. The eastern half is about the same size and population as that of Mexico. Now imagine a town the size of Smyrna, Delaware. Every person in that town is involved in the drug war. Does that make it unsafe to visit Miami? (Which, incidentally, is almost indistinguishable from Cancun.) Or Charleston, South Carolina? (Which is very similar to Mérida.) New York City and Mexico City share a lot of similarities too.

My point is, when asked how I know where it’s safe to go when traveling outside the United States, I don’t really understand the question.

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