I just recently posted my Travel Guide to Bangkok, and in it I briefly explained why we decided to visit the city just a few short weeks after the recent bombing attacks. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we went without hesitation. As soon as the attacks happened, I was in complete shock. The corner where the bomb went off, at the Erawan Shrine, was just a few hundred meters from where we stayed at the Anantara Siam Bangkok. We walked past that corner every day, and even stopped at the shrine to watch the Thais pay respect during the national Buddhist holiday. To think that just two weeks later, on that very same corner, 22 people were killed, most of them being tourists, was absolutely heart-wrenching. We had come back to Australia and the USA for two family weddings before we were back up to Bangkok to start our second big journey of the year. We already had our flight to Bangkok booked and our flight to Ho Chi Minh City was set to fly four days later.
I immediately messaged Sam asking him what we should do. Should we cancel the hotel? Should we try to change the flights direct to HCMC? Should we just stay at the airport hotel for four days and hole up until our flight? Those were my actual thoughts. I was scared, genuinely scared. And that’s when it hit me – this is what they wanted. The attackers wanted travelers, like myself, to be afraid. They wanted people to stop visiting, stop spending money, stop the tourism economy. Instilling fear is the core reason behind the attack. It gives them power if we become afraid. I’m not going to say I’m some hero that threw caution to the wind and went to Bangkok disregarding any serious warnings. We did our research. I talked to friends in the city at the time. I received daily updates from the USA and Australia Safe Travelers Program, and we concluded a few days before our flight, that we would be fine if we stayed away from large tourist attractions. Our friends in the city said it’s quieter than usual but it’s clear to walk around, and with them being on the ground, we took their word for it. We spent four days in Bangkok, walking around, exploring a little bit and enjoying ourselves. We were perfectly safe and nothing seemed too out of the ordinary – at least for Bangkok.
Why am I telling this story? It’s not to show you how brave I was because frankly, I wasn’t at all. It’s about not living in fear even if you’re a little afraid. In today’s day and age, horrific and terrible things happen everywhere. Not to “someone else”, but to people just like us. It happens every single day. Not just to other countries or poorer countries or less advanced countries, but in YOUR country. Think about the last time you went to a movie theatre or watched the morning news or dropped you kid off at school. You would never ever think that a shooter would come in to the picture and destroy everything, but nearly 1/3 of the world’s mass shootings have occurred in the USA. Accidents from texting while driving, drinking while driving and just plain driving – it happens all the time.
I don’t want to sound morbid, but I want people to be aware of the fact that travelling doesn’t make you anymore at risk for bad things to happen. We can’t live under a rock because “something” might happen. If I had a nickel for every time someone told I had to be careful “over there”, I’d have a lot of useless coins. I don’t understand where people get this idea that all of the bad things happen “over there” because at least according to my hotel TV, there seems to be a lot more to be afraid of in the USA at the moment. I think we’ve become too afraid to step out because of what the media is telling us. Sure, we need to be safe and aware of our surroundings while travelling. That’s like the golden rule of travel. But that simple fact shouldn’t stop you from exploring to begin with. I have friends who just did a tour through the Middle East, and said it was hands down the best experience of their life. And then I have other friends who think it’s bat shit crazy to step foot “over there.”
Anyways, the point is – There’s a lot of bad stuff happening in every corner of the world, regardless of country, religion, class, political party, race. But there’s also an abundance of truly incredible things happening every single day in spectacular places with genuinely kind people, and it would be a serious shame to miss it because we’re too afraid. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my short time here on this gorgeous planet we call Earth, it’s that life is not guaranteed. Tomorrow is not an entitlement; it’s an absolute gift, and I don’t want to waste this gift on being afraid of anything.