On fear and travel


Before we left on our trip, some of our friends and family were concerned for our safety while travelling in Mexico. “Are you bringing a gun?” was one of the more common questions we were asked about our trip. The country hasn’t exactly received the best press over the past few years, with stories of drug cartels and related violence. The effect is noticeable. RV parks for which our guidebook (from 2009) recommends reservations are virtually deserted. Local businesses are struggling as a result.

I can understand the concern. We’re concerned. We’re driving around in a foreign country where we don’t really speak the language, which happens to be a major conduit for drugs to the USA, and has been in the news recently because of drug-related violence. The “bible” of camping in Mexico, written by the Church couple and seemingly carried by every foreigner traveling in their own car, has a website that provides updates to their most recent print version. There’s a section on safety, which openly describes several armed holdups that have occurred on highways and even in RV parks over the course of the last few years. And we’re bringing our son here? He’s not old enough to have a say in the matter. Is that fair to him?

But look at CNN: Another school shooting in the nice, safe, USA. And we’re supposed to send him to school? He’s not old enough to have a say in the matter. Is that fair to him?

According to crime statistics, an American in Mexico is actually less likely to be the victim of a crime than an American in the USA. But what if, against the odds, something was to happen, something that frightened our son a lot? I’d beat myself up for a long time, thinking, why did we have to take him there? If we had just stayed home this never would have happened.

What if we did just stay home and something horrible happened, say, at his school? I’d still feel horrible, but my conscience would have a free pass because I did what was expected of me. I conformed, and something still happened. It’s just one of those things. Not my fault.

So perhaps part of what I’m afraid of is not so much the danger itself, but the culpability. The idea that if something happens while we’re “away” it’s my fault but if it happens at home it’s not. That doesn’t sound like a healthy way to think about things.

Do bad things happen in Mexico, and in other scary foreign countries? Sure, of course they do. Could they happen to us? Yes, they can. Is that a reason to stay at home? We don’t believe so. No matter where we go or don’t go, what we do or don’t do, there is risk involved. Something bad might happen. We think that the rewards of travel outweigh the risks. Like any parent we will do everything we can to keep our son safe. But we also have a responsibility to help him grow into a good person. We believe that travel is one very good way to do that.

8 Responses to 'On fear and travel'

    • Jennifer Sparks says:

      Thanks! We did have serious worries when headed south through the state of Sinaloa (home of Mexico’s largest drug cartel). We had lots of philosophical discussions on this topic and we felt that we needed to post something on the blog to reflect that. As it turns out, everyone that we met was so incredibly helpful and friendly and we had zero issues. There’s of course still always a chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (midnight showing of Batman, anyone?) but we keep our ears to the ground and maintain a positive attitude. 🙂

  1. Rupert Kaye says:

    Very well reasoned. Mexico is a huge country and does have some crime but I felt much safer whilst driving through than I did after I crossed the border into the USA. (Even whilst in the very north of the country which is meant to be the most dangerous area).
    Colombia is safe now as long as you stay clear of the extreme corners of the country which is easy. The locals will tell you where not to go and are incredibly friendly.
    Keep traveling and opening Q’s mind.
    Rupert and Kelly

  2. Bobbie staggs says:

    You are right. Every day we walk out the door we’re taking a risk! You all will be fine because the rest of us are sending our prayers and good thoughts with you.

  3. Debbie Slobe says:

    Very well said and I agree with you 100%!!