Daraius’ Diary – I Never Want “Safe Travels”

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Daraius:  We’ve got a great team at Million Mile Secrets.  But I miss writing as much as I did in the old days!  So here I am writing about stuff that I really care about (and which isn’t all miles-and-points related).

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie

I feel very uncomfortable and dislike folks wishing me “Safe Travels.”  Sure, I understand they mean well, and “Safe Travels” is a form of phatic speech, as trite as, “Have a good day.”

“Safe Travels” makes me wonder if I’m in danger of being abducted and forced to star in a movie with Pamela Anderson!  Or at risk of torture by being force-fed steamed broccoli and warm milk?

Daraius Diary Dont Wish Me Safe Travels

When Someone Wishes Me “Safe Travels,” I Imagine the Plane Is a Time Machine That Might Throw Me Into the Midst of a Battle, or Worse, a Terrible 1990s Movie!

I’d stay at home, if I wanted to be safe.  And is staying at home really safe?  Nothing in life is more certain than the knowledge that we all have an expiration date and will eventually die.

I don’t travel to be safe.

I travel to Live.

For Adventure.  Excitement.  Love.  Memories.  Smiles.  Laughter.  Joy.  Happiness.  Connection.  Gratitude.

As my favorite Stoic put it:

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” – Marcus Aurelius

I heard a lot of warnings from folks about being “safe” in Johannesburg, South Africa, and not to go to certain parts of town.

So of course I went there!

There were moms and dads, and kids, and grandparents, and folks selling stuff on the streets.

It was dirtier than other parts of Johannesburg, but I felt that this was the more “real” and authentic part of the city – far away from the pubs and fusion restaurants which I can find anywhere I visit.

Daraius Diary Dont Wish Me Safe Travels

When Traveling, I Can Stay “Safe” on the Islands of Familiarity…the Chain Hotel, the Tourist Zones…or I Can Wander and Meet People From a New Culture. I Learn More About Myself & a Different Way of Life When I Wander.

I peeked into a public swimming pool and a swarm of kids ran towards me to say hi!

Daraius Diary Dont Wish Me Safe Travels

Energy and Happiness!

Statistically Speaking

Statistically speaking, flying is less dangerous than driving in a car.  And I drive much more than I fly.  And if you saw how I drive, you’d request a lifejacket and oxygen mask. 🙂

Rick Steves points out, the chances of dying while flying or because of “terrorism” is 1 in 2.2 million.  While the chance of being struck by lightening is 1 in 600,000.

All these are much lower than the chance of dying by gunfire in the US, which is 1 in ~19,000.

So it is ridiculous for me to feel afraid to travel in those countries or elsewhere!

Well Meaning Warnings

I read the US State Department alerts & warnings, and it seems they focus on high-profile exceptions and written with sensationalism in mind, not logic and reason. For example, the travel warning for El Salvador says (bolding mine):

Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador including a nine-year-old child in December 2013. During the same time period, 419 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while others were victims of violent crimes

Firstly, this travel “warning” was issued on November 21, 2014, but it combines data from 2010, 2012, 2013, and most of 2014.  So the murder rate per year (for US citizens) would be 34 deaths / 4 years, which is ~9 murders.

More importantly, the murder rate (for US citizens) in MOST US cities is much higher than 9 deaths a year.  For example, there were ~400 murders in Chicago in 2014 alone!

A more accurate warning would be “44 Times More US Citizens Murdered in 1 Year in Chicago Than in 4 Years in El Salvador!”

So how come there are no travel warnings for travelling domestically within the US to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles as well!

If I had followed the State Department Alert for Lesotho, I would have missed out on some of the best hiking in my life!

Daraius Diary Dont Wish Me Safe Travels

If I Had Let a US State Department “Alert” Stop Me, I Would Have Never Experienced Amazing Hiking in Lesotho!

And much of what is reported in the media are the exceptions specifically designed to frighten.

That’s because a headline of “Millions of Travelers Enjoy Their Mexican Holiday” is not as exciting for readers as “Drunk Tourist Robbed of Wallet While Buying Cocaine in Cabo.” 

Don’t let fear tamp down the excitement of travel.  Instead of having “safe travels” have “smart and daring travels!”

Bottom Line

Most folks who wish me “safe travels” care for my safety and stability.  And some are biologically programed to do that (yes, you, mom and dad!)

But if you care about my happiness, don’t wish me “safe travels.”

Wish me lots of excitement, adventure, joy, love, and connection when I travel!

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11 responses to “Daraius’ Diary – I Never Want “Safe Travels”

  1. Daraius,

    Recently I haven’t found that much info on your blog to be of much use, but that aside, today’s post was wise and should be the mantra of all travelers. Sometimes we get wrapped up in our first world problems of trying to book the nicest business hotel with our points and we cut ourselves off from having a much more authentic experience.

    At the end of our trips we remember the highlights, but it is the follies that stand the test of time. Swimming with my electronic rental car key in my bathing suit in Croatia makes for a better story than whatever 4 or 5 star hotel I stayed at for free along the way.

    It’s the problems along the way where we truly learn and end up having our greatest successes.

    Today’s post was a gem.


    • @Rick I – Thanks, Rick! I was inspired by the “Rick’s Picks” series.

      @Drew – Very good point on traveling by car. It’s kinda silly that we don’t think about getting into a car, but hesitate traveling.

      @Dustin – Very true. I’m suggesting that there are many different ways of slicing the data, and a blanket conclusion (either way) isn’t really representative of what most travelers will experience.

      @jack – I am very sad to read about your neighbor’s experience. Thanks for your well wishes.

      @scott – Sounds like the trip of a lifetime!

  2. Daraius Diary Posts ?

    Keep them coming Daraius. I love the personal touch.


  3. + 1 on “So of course I went there.”

    I’m reminded of two things.
    1) I read that 1 in every 100-some Americans die in a car crash. Statistically cars are really freaking dangerous. Think about it, 1 ton hunks of metal that go 60+ MPH towards cars going the other direction.
    But we drive anyways. Cars are an accepted risk but traveling to Johannesburg isn’t?

    2) Besides the fact that usually the murder rate is higher in the US of A, you have to laugh at being scared of something when kids play in that area worry free. Like being worried of renting a bike and then see a 9 year old ride by. You should feel silly… but of course people live there and suggesting imminent doom somehow isn’t ridiculous.

    As you know, I’m very passionate about the subject. And my mantra is that ignorance isn’t a reason to be scared… it itself is a lack of reason.

  4. Hmmm…I own a campground and when my campers check out I sometimes say “safe travels” to them. I picked that up from my mother who airways says this. I always thought it was a weird saying. Now I’m going to change what I say maybe to “have a great adventure” instead! Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. Good post. I think you meant, though, that flying is “less” dangerous than driving a car.

    The State Department warnings are almost always negative. A lot of CYA there. In countries with high murder rates, it’s usually drug related, domestic violence, petty personal disputes and the like. Tourists rarely get into trouble if they aren’t looking for it. If they did similar reports for the U.S. itself, most people would be afraid to get out of bed.

    There are, of course, a few areas that I would not go. I’m not going to be trying to slip into ISIS held parts of Syria or Iraq, for example, to see what life is like there or to catch any monuments before they’re blown up.

    There’s a lot of fear of the unknown. I’m not saying to be imprudent, but I am saying not to be paranoid.

  6. Statistically speaking though, there’s ~3 Million Americans in Chicago versus how many Americans in El Salvador. I’m not saying Chicago is safe or El Salvador is dangerous, I’m sure they both vary neighborhood by neighborhood and time of day, activity, person … But certainly saying that El Salvador is safer because only 40 of the tourists/aid workers/whatever Americans were doing in El Salvador of the X number of people, died in 4 years isn’t a useful comparison.

    Statistics are fun. If we remove gang v gang violence from our Chicago Numbers I wonder what those look like. I’d also guess the numbers for El Salvador are skewed by having few tourists.

  7. I’m sorry, I will always continue to wish you safe travels. My neighbor was abducted in Columbia by rebels and held for months. All he was looking for was excitement, adventure, joy, love, and connection. He wasn’t buying drugs or doing anything wrong. While odds are odds, when it happens to you, odds mean nothing and won’t help you. Safe travels to you my friend.

  8. Some of my most memorable trips are those where I purposely went to areas I was warned to avoid. One memorable place was a seedy bar full of drug dealers and prostitutes in Zanzibar. Locals were so excited to see foreigners that they bought us free drinks! Another was a bar in Harare, Zimbabwe where unemployed rebel soldiers were known to hang out and possibly terrorize people. Again, everyone was so excited to see foreigners that we were treated like celebrities.

  9. OK Daraius, on your next trip, “have the time of your life!”

  10. I long ago rejected the use of “safe travels” for reasons similar to those you outlined. I now use “Travel well” as encouragement for those embarking on a trip.