By Arlie Martin
Senior Opinion Writer
This weekend I am boarding a plane and heading to Morocco for two months to finish my student teaching.
Morocco is an Arabic and French speaking country in northwestern Africa. The primary religion in this francophone country is Islam and it takes a few hours by train to get to the nearest American Embassy.
It’s at this point in telling friends and family about my upcoming adventure that I start getting all the fearful comments. “Are you sure you’ll be alright?” “What if (insert dangerous scenario here) happens?” “Is it really all that safe?”
Safety concerns are understandable when travelling abroad. It is important to be aware of how another culture operates day to day so that you, as the visitor, are being culturally sensitive and can truly experience the culture. Basic travel phrases should be learned and some simple research would always be handy.
However, it is not necessary to let cultural bias influence our understanding of the safety in other countries. Let’s start by comparing crime rates. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), The United States had 20,088 people brought into formal contact with the police in the year 2010. To put that in perspective, there was only one nation with more, Bangladesh: 27,074, and the next highest after the US was Guatemala with 14,993.
As far as homicides are concerned, the United States isn’t the safest place either. The UNODC reports that the US had 14,612 homicides in 2011. In the same year, the Russian Federation reported 13,826.
When it comes to safety, the US clearly has its fair share of issues. However, we feel comfortable here because it is our home; we know the customs and we know how to be safe here.
But if we’re being honest, we know the areas to be wary of. People don’t head downtown and leave their cars unlocked in the parking garage. Once out on the town, we remain constantly aware of our surroundings.
We take precautions, such as not carying too much cash. We walk confidently, even if we’re unsure of where we are going. We avoid empty and dark streets.
Going to another country is not different than going into a city. If you take the time to be prepared, then there is nothing to worry about. If you take the time to debunk the unfounded claims, then you’ll enjoy yourself immensely.
We have the nasty habit of assuming that the standards of the rest of the world are far below ours. Because they assume the standards are subpar, they assume that the people are subpar.
However, I have heard many stories to the contrary.
A friend of mine recently returned from Sochi. She told me about riding a train for two days on her way back to Moscow to fly back. After boarding the train, she found out that there was no food being served for the entirety of the trip. When the older couple she was sharing the compartment with realized that she hadn’t brought anything with her, they shared with her at every meal.
When she tried to pay them for it, they wouldn’t accept the money. Can we honestly say that we would have even noticed if someone traveling with us didn’t have food?
International travel is one of the most rewarding experiences. It takes us outside of our comfort zone, but does not put our lives on the line. It’s time that we broke our habit of letting every negative story overpower the thousands of beautiful experiences happening each and every day beyond our borders.