With Travel Comes Responsibility

Hi folks and welcome to another week. Today I wanted to write about people who I guess take the digital nomad lifestyle a little too far I guess. I don’t want to be particularly negative and don’t want to hound anyone or overly criticise anyone’s choices but I do want to make the point that everyone needs to take some level of responsibility when they travel.

Bobo-Diolosso, Burkina Faso, where I stopped with malaria

And we’ve all made mistakes or failed to think ahead at times when we travel and that includes me. Back in 2006 I left Australia to head to the UK viaWest Africa with a one way ticket. It’s the only time I’ve travelled on a one way ticket and I guess I knew of people traveling like that but I didn’t have a lot of funds and as I didn’t have a return ticket I knew my insurance wouldn’t cover me for one.

As it transpired I needed one. I got malaria and had to return home without ever getting to the UK. My parents forked out for the flight. I got a little money for staying in hospital and the flight from Dakar to London I didn’t use and t just went to them but it didn’t cover half the flight. I left myself in a situation where someone else had to bail me out.

Outskirts of Banfora, Burkina Faso.

And I still feel bad about it today! Partially because I have a deep guilt complex and partially because my parents still remind me! People often require bailing out often by governments and we hear about that regularly on the news. Some of it is not there fault though and that’s fair enough. Some though is stupidity or not being adequately prepared as in my case. The Australian government worked tirelessly lately to get an Australian in Iranian prison released. Her crime? Having a relationship with an Israeli it seems leading to the Iranians accusing her of espionage. She’d been in prison for a few years until released late 2020.
You decide if that’s a reasonable use of government. Earlier in the year they worked to release a couple who reportedly flew a drone over a Iranian military establishment.

Traveling responsibly is what you should be expected to do as an adult. Think about where you’re going if you should really be there and what will you do if something goes wrong?
Drew Binsky was in Afghanistan in November 2020. There was one of the biggest attacks in the country for a few years around that time. I love drew’s enthusiasm and love for the country, but you have to question his decision to go there.

If something goes wrong he’s relying on the American government to help him. If they can. It’s a country that most governments advise against visiting due to safety concerns. And whilst I treat government warnings somewhat skeptically I don’t consider Afghanistan as safe. It is a country I would certainly love to visit one day. The repercussions if something went wrong could be devastating and although things can happen in any country, you need to be sensible and weigh the risks up.

Eva Zu Beck stands atop a Socotran Mountain

Eva zu Beck is another vlogger I have featured on my Saturday segment. She spent a lot of 2020 on the island of Socotra which if you didn’t know is part of and just off the coast of Yemen. Yemen has spent the last few years in a sort of civil war with opposing sides being backed by Iran and Saudi Arabia. The war hasn’t hit the shores of Socotra and there were a small group of travellers stating there and Eva was one of them.
The place is very basic and almost a desert island I guess. But to go there when civil war is destroying the mainland would be like if there was civil war in Thailand but it hasn’t reached Phuket. Imagine people dying but you’re in Phuket getting some rays, swimming and chilling.

Then corona came. But not to the island. Eva decided to wait it out on the island whilst governments urged their citizens to return home.
Eventually the war did reach Socotra and Eva decided it was time to come home. It seems that all the travellers who had made the island their home decided it was time to go. The locals I presume got swept up in the war, as they were home. The travellers were left with no choice but by this time due to the pandemic options off the island were extremely limited.
They ended up on a cargo ship for days in the heat going to the UAE. They were lucky.

But should they have been there in the first place? Should they have been living or even visiting a country at war? I respect the digital nomad lifestyle and although I am terribly jealous of those who are able to lead it, I don’t begrudge them it because I know how much hard work actually is required to get there and maintain it. I know because I work darned hard at my stuff and have only a tiny fraction of the following that someone like Eva Zu Beck does. But responsibility goes with that too. You are inspiring others.
Going to a place like Afghanistan not only puts you at risk. You MAY need a guard. They are at risk. There are people who care about you back home and elsewhere and they will worry! I know, I put my family through plenty of worry when I had malaria.

When you travel to risky places, and I’m not saying don’t, be prepared. Have an escape plan and have good travel insurance. In fact these are given for any international travel. I’ve told the stories of people that got out fine. But not everyone does. Remember when you travel only a small percentage of the world I able to. When trouble happens be it civil war, an earthquake, a virus you can go home. What about the people who are already home?
Thanks for reading today. Take care as always and May the Journey Never End.

27 thoughts on “With Travel Comes Responsibility

  1. Well, it is something that needs to be said. So many influencers, shall we use an umbrella term, travel to these chancy spots in order to quickly increase their followers. The Socotra trips are an excellent example of selfish behavior, bailing out when it gets dangerous. While, as you rightly point out, the locals have no such luxury.

  2. BBQboy

    Oh, the shade you’re throwing Andy! 🙂 I like it.

    But I totally agree with you and the comments above. I particularly dislike seeing young instagrammers going somewhere dodgy and taking their pretty photos when you know locals are going though miserable circumstances. Somehow trivializes it all.

  3. These are stories that need to be told! I tend to be more careful about my travels as I age, and have had some close calls traveling alone as a younger woman. I have avoided places in conflict. There are enough wonderful places to go without crossing some lines. All good advice.

  4. You make very valid points, Andy. When travelling thousands of miles from home many things can happen to ruin our plans. Those things should factor into decisions about where to travel and when. Thanks for the sobering advice.

    1. There’s what u can reasonably expect and what is unlikely but still possible. Don’t cancel a trip to Japan because there might be a giant earthquake. Don’t go somewhere where foreigners are known targets for regular kidnapping for example. Thanks for reading John

  5. Couldn’t have put it better! While there’s the allure of traveling to a dangerous, “forbidden” place, it’s usually not worth it due to government instability, visa headaches, poor tourism infrastructure, etc. I find that such “influencers” are traveling for the sake of their own selfish reasons, and not necessarily to promote the beauty of the country; they’re going there just to say they’ve done it. They’re in the same vein as those who are still traveling during COVID-19 times, which isn’t helping us move away from the pandemic. That’s why as much as I’m curious about visiting places like North Korea, Afghanistan, etc., I would prefer to wait until things stabilize (COVID-19 and the country’s government) before considering booking a flight over. Thanks for your insight, Andy!

    1. I think every country in the world has something to be offer the visitor. Nth Korea I would consider on the the basis of follow the rules and you’re ok. But anywhere still experiencing civil unrest or conflict I would avoid. In the future things will hopefully be resolved and better and we have our whole lives to see Afghanistan. What’s the rush?

  6. This post is so important. It seems that with the trend of ‘influencers’ people feel the need to go to more and more dangerous/out of the way places. The problem is though as you’ve eloquently explained is when it turns to a crisis and they think their government should swoop in. There was a simiar occurance with people leaving Canada on vacation when we were well into the lockdowns and then expected the government to get them home when things got worse where they were traveling. It shows how selfish some people are. Great post. Maggie

  7. It is a sensitive subject as soon as you start to go off the beaten track. It’s easy to dramatize and think that everything can go wrong. Following this reasoning, the coclusion would be to stay at home, which goes against the idea of travelling. So the line is not easy to draw, but at least we must be aware of it, in this respect the article is more than useful. Thanks Andy.

  8. Excellent reflections Andy. Weighing risks and rewards within parameters of responsible travel is a tricky thing. You may recall, I made a decision to travel to Egypt shortly after the uprising there in 2011. The “avoid all non-essential travel” directive had been lifted but extreme caution was being advised and travel cancelation was the norm. All went well, but had it not…? I still think about that a lot.
    Within our current covid environment where the Canadian government has been very clear about not traveling, I have little sympathy for Canadian “snowbirds” who decided to head to warmer climates back in November and are outraged that returning to Canada now involves an expensive stay at covid quarantine hotels.

  9. Good points raised. Traveling responsibly helps others also. Your decisions guide others as well. You can set the right example and make travel better for everyone around.

  10. All valid points! I cannot imaging how it must have been for you when you caught malaria and were in that situation. Like you said, we need to be responsible and I think especially people with more influence need to be aware of their actions. Reading about Drew Binski going to Afghanistan frankly makes me angry I must say.

    1. yeah well, there seems to be a stream of travellers to Afghanistan at the moment, possibly because fewer countries are open. Perhaps the situation there is improving. Eva Zu Beck is there at the moment, or at least has been there very recently.

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