A Safe Space to Share Thoughts
  
Danger is in the Eye of the Beholder
 
When my daughters each embarked upon their own life journeys they found notes that I had tucked into their packs. They did not contain typical motherly advice…  
 
"Many people will tell you “be safe” or “be careful.”  Thank them, but please do not take those words to heart.  Be smart.  Be alert. Be brave. Be your authentic, audacious self. But my Darling Girl, please do not play it safe."
 
The question I am asked most often as a fifty-something female solo traveler is “Isn’t that dangerous?” Danger, in my opinion, is quite subjective. There are risks with ANY destination though many behaviors can certainly increase the risk of danger.  Even in my hometown I risk mugging, being hit by a bus, rattlesnakes, heatstroke or a myriad of freak accidents. When I know the risks, pay attention to my surroundings, carry water and trust my Spidey-Senses, those risks substantially decrease.
Risks can vary depending on destination, behavior, level of awareness and the behavior of your travel companions. Before embarking on a month long adventure in Northern Thailand well-meaning loved ones told me it was not safe. When I asked why the top reasons given were 1.) being kidnapped by sex traffickers  2.) encountering opium dealers and  3.) tropical diseases. Most could not cite specific dangers and said “Well it just isn’t!” which is the equivalence of "Because I said so!" My answer is always the same. I smile and say “Thanks for letting me know.”

As a responsible traveler, I research local laws, customs, and possible risks.  My threshold for acceptable risk is appreciably higher than the majority of people in my parent’s generation. (My mother is excluded. She is the one who taught me to be a badass!)  I did decide to forgo a solo trek to a waterfall in a Thai National Park when I learned of a large population of resident tigers and king cobras. My risk tolerance for likely encounters with king cobras is low.

I am constantly discouraged from visiting Cuba, Central and South America as a journalist.  I let the US State Department know my plans. I carry an annual travel insurance policy. And very importantly, I refrain from excessive alcohol consumption. As a solo female traveler, I must be ever vigilant without appearing unsure and hypervigilant.  I only bring what I can carry in a backpack.  I do not display press credentials or wear jewelry other than a cheap fake wedding band. I never bring my wedding band from my late-husband, as I would not hand that over without a fight. My camera appears as unappealing as possible, with duct tape around the lens hood and the old guitar strap that holds it. Nothing is wrong with them, but the presence of duct tape lowers their perceived value.

My family’s biggest fear is acts of terrorism. These events are seemingly random and are often a case of victims being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I acknowledge their fears. Yet, on a nightly basis the news reports on US terrorists attacking their countrymen.  According to The Global Terrorism Database (GTD), 41% of terrorist acts last year occurred in the Middle East & Northern Africa Region. (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Yemen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Western Sahara and Yemen.)  Please note this is a geographic list of nations.  It does not imply an equal incidence of terrorist attacks.
So have these countries all been stricken from my travel list? No, not necessarily.  Lebanon and Bahrain ranked 38th and 39th on GTD’s list of terrorist incidents. The US ranked 23rd. I hope to visit a number of these nations. I cannot predict or control acts of terrorists. But THEY cannot control ME.