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Playing it safe when traveling

Traveling anywhere comes with risks, even to developed countries such as France and Canada. But there are decisions some travelers make, often foolish, poorly thought ones that heighten these risks when abroad. One shouldn’t be afraid to travel any more than they are afraid to cross a busy street. But a traveler should never be entirely carefree or imprudent when abroad because sometimes it can have a devastating effect. Here are three stories of travelers who took such risks.

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Joshua Fattal were described as “seasoned travelers” by those who know them. Seasoned to me means experienced and intelligent, well versed in the ways of the traveling world. Seasoned is not the adjective I would use to call the three young people who unknowingly had stepped over the border into Iran when hiking in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Armed without proper maps, going on the words of locals, they were immediately arrested by Iranian authorities and thrown into jail under the accusation of being spies for the United States. While the value of a human life in Iraq means little and in Iran people are brutally repressed, these three young Americans who were so full of wanderlust, not content to hike and travel in a region of the world less volatile, are now paying for their ill thought decision and lack of travel planning.
(Shourd was released from an Iranian prison in September 2010 as a humanitarian gesture due to medical issues she has. On August 20, 2011 Bauer and Fattal were sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison on top of the two years they have already served awaiting trial.)

After high school graduate Natalee Holloway went missing in Aruba in 2005, some people began calling for a tourism boycott of the southern Caribbean nation, as if Aruba’s tourist industry should  suffer for the reckless behavior of one young woman. Natalee’s friends reported that on the night she went missing, she had been drinking heavily. She also went off by herself with a guy she had just met that night (Joran van der Sloot, the only prime suspect in the case). She was 18, abroad, the world at her feet. But due to the bad choices she made just for wanting to have fun, she paid with her life and forever altered the lives of her family and friends. A country is not the guilty party when one person puts his or her life at risk.

Aubrey Sacco never gained as much press or attention as Natalee Holloway, but her situation is equally tragic. At the time of her disappearance in mid-2010, Sacco, a 23 year old native of Colorado, had been hiking alone in the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal. There is nothing wrong with traveling alone. I certainly have plenty of times, but never in a situation in which I was entirely isolated and cut off from the rest of the world. Prior to setting out on her latest trek, Sacco had emailed her parents to let them know of her plans. When she failed to email around the time she was supposed to have returned they became concerned. More than a year after she went missing her body has never been found, her family still without answers.

The stories of these individuals are entirely tragic and I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering their families must feel every day over what happened to their loved ones. But part of traveling is being responsible and prudent at all times, even if you’re an experienced traveler. Let the stories of these travelers serve as a cautionary tale for all travelers worldwide.

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

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  • Reply
    September 4, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Very wise words and several tragic stories!

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    September 6, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Holly-They’re stories you can’t even begin to imagine having happened and yet they did. I think Aubrey’s story was the saddest for me since hers was less known, less publicized but equally as tragic as the others.

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