The first thing family members will say when you tell them you are traveling to another country is “Oh my! It’s so dangerous over there, full of thieves and gangs!” If you are female, this goes triple, while everyone tries to talk you out of being such a rebellious risk-taker and into living in a basement while you flip burgers safely for the rest of your life.
So how dangerous is traveling, really?
Well, it depends on where you live. If you live in America, especially in a big city like New York, odds are any place you go is going to be exponentially safer than where you are now. If you live in a small town in the countryside where everyone knows everyone else, well, it’s going to be a lot more dangerous, but on the bright side, you don’t have to worry as much about gossipy neighbors.
What about pickpockets? Violent drunk people? Giant killer spiders?
Let’s break it down.
Pickpockets: If you are going anywhere touristy, they will be around. Keep an eye (or hand) on your stuff and be aware. Aside from that, you should be fine. I’ve only been pickpocketed once in my entire life, and it was because I entered a situation I shouldn’t have in order to catch a flight I was late for. On a day with horrible weather I got on a bus in a bad neighborhood that was so packed I literally couldn’t move my arms, and someone was able to shimmy my phone out of my pocket. I salute their diligence, and the cost of a new phone was less than that of a flight change.
If you are completely terrified, you can buy a backpack mesh lock that will keep anyone from even thinking about going near your bag, but they are heavy and expensive. Everyone I’ve met who had one eventually left them behind once they realized how safe traveling actually was. I bring a small cable lock for hostel lockers and call it a day.
Violence: This can happen just about anywhere, and may even be more likely in areas without a lot of tourists. It is entirely avoidable, however. Flash a big smile and wave at someone and it will likely short-circuit their brain long enough for you to sneak away, even when they don’t speak your language. People expect you to confront them or back down, so when you act actively friendly, they have no idea what to do. I’ve been surrounded by drunks more times than I can count, and I’ve never come away with an injury.
Giant killer spiders: Unless you are headed to Australia, land of every animal being gigantic and deadly, just relax. The locals live with the wildlife there, and if they can handle them, they aren’t going to kill you. Now stop listening to the crazy urban legends grandma is spouting and get back to planning your night out with the foreign hotties you just met up with.