On the Road

Travel in the Age of Terror

Worried that acts of terrorism might prevent you from traveling the world?

Boy, do you need to read this…

Since 9/11 it would seem that travel changed forever. Bombs on buses in London and trains in Madrid confirmed that the war on terror had opened on many fronts. Backpackers were targeted in the bomb blasts in a nightclub in Bali and also diving resorts in the Sinai – the question then arises, is it safe to travel in an age of terror?

If you’ve taken the above paragraph at all seriously then you’re in need of some education. For from being a plague recently unleashed upon the world, terror has long been the way of things for people all across the planet, from Muslims fearing for their lives in India when Hindus riot, to Somalis watching American planes blow their medicine factories to pieces.

Across the planet, the majority of travelers are immigrants, jumping borders in dangerously overcrowded boats, clinging to the bottoms of trucks and making dashes across the deserts of no man’s land in the hopes of a better life.

Elsewhere in countless countries the locals have to deal with murderous militias, secret police who ‘disappear’ anyone who speaks out against losing their land to the multinational oil country, or simple watching their children get blown to bits on leftover landmines, often manufactured in the West.

Since the War on Terror began, thousands of innocent westerners have been killed in atrocious attacks. Close to a hundred thousand civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon have been killed in the meantime though so it would take an enormous amount of self-centred presumption to imagine that the backpacker on the road is really at the heart of the storm.

Since 9/11, American travelers have taken to sewing Canadian maples on their bags and recently even British backpackers have started pretending to be Irish. Whilst you’ll certainly meet with outspoken locals around the world who may take the opportunity to make you answer for your country’s crimes, there’s no need to take it personally. It can actually be a great way to meet the locals if you can find any common ground.

The modern global economy runs on fear. Check out the news each night where almost nothing positive is ever reported. Fear of not getting laid sells acne cream, fear of being overlooked sells designer clothes and jewellery and fear of economic ruin keeps people in their jobs, producing more stuff to be sold.

Not to mention the fear of anything foreign and unknown that fuels suspicion, distrust and hatred and allows governments to divert tax payer’s money to the war industry.

So every time you go somewhere that the media tells you is dangerous, like Colombia or Iran, you cure that condition of fear with a dose of reality. Every time you stand on the road to hitchhike you take back a piece of your freedom from those who told you the world was a dangerous place. And every time you take a chance and get to know someone with a different religion, culture or social background, you break down the fearful prejudices of a society that doubted the people were essentially the same.

Of course there’s risk involved. It could all go badly wrong. But does that stop you crossing the road, stroking a dog or taking a flight? Terrible things are happening in this world but they’re not that likely to happen to you. And if you really want to be wrapped in cotton wool, well, there’s always heroin…