I lived in Japan for 5 years. Now, Japan is supposedly one of the safest countries in the world. Some of the worst stuff that has happened to me in my life happened there.
Those bad things happened to me despite my Japanese language skills being pretty good, despite the fact that I am white (- the race that is most preferred by most Japanese), despite my good job and intimate familiarity with Japanese culture. Heck, most of my friends and boyfriends were Japanese.
And then I lived in Oakland.
I lived in a neighborhood that was chock full of gangs. A neighbor literally had a bullet whiz through her open window and embed itself it her wooden beam. Other neighbors had tires slashed , their cars broken into – and one even had his car set on fire.
I was living in an artist-type warehouse enclave. I am not Latina or Black and I didn’t have long term Latino or Black boyfriends. I didn’t have any ties with the communities around from which the gangs sprung.
Nothing happened to me, ever.
I played my deaf card early in the time I lived there, and to be honest, I think that had a lot to do with why my person, my car and my bike were always safe. I think my disability helped me. I was also never an asshole to the gang members or their families; that can’t have hurt.
But my point here is that terrible things can happen in “safe” spots and good things can happen in “terrible” places.
Part of it the nature of the beast, luck of the draw. Part of it is just life, part of it is your vibe. Part of it is common sense and not being stupid with risks.
Mikey and I both lived in Oakland and we both had positive experiences in “dangerous” neighborhoods. The thing about having that kind of experience is that it really makes you think long and hard when people tell you to not go someplace because it’s “dangerous”.
You just wonder where their source of information is.
Is it Fox News? Or their cousin’s friend who went to Cabo, got drunk and had his wallet ripped off in some motel room? I’m not saying that the latter isn’t awful or doesn’t deserve sympathy – but fact of the matter is, we won’t be getting drunk or going to Cabo, so it’s not really worth our while to listen to news from those sources.
On the other hand, when we hear that we shouldn’t drive at night because it’s not safe, and when we hear that from people who travel in an area for a long time, we pay close attention and we don’t do it.
We don’t want anything to happen to our kids. We don’t want anything to happen to ourselves either, so we are careful. But we don’t want to NOT go or NOT travel because we are nervous about what the news is reporting for Mexico. We have heads on our shoulders. We are sensible travelers.
We lived in Oakland but we also left Oakland.
It got to where we thought of the law of averages – how safe the area felt and how many homicides there were – and how long we had lived there. We knew that it was likely just a matter of time before a stray bullet came through our own apartment, so we left.
My point here is that we won’t stick with an idea because we love a place (as we loved Oakland) if we don’t feel safe. We wouldn’t stick with our travels in Mexico if we saw drug cartels all over the place or gun trades or felt unsafe in any way.
I’m not saying that nothing can happen. But I am saying nothing has felt unsafe to us. I am saying that I feel safer in Mexico than I have felt in certain areas of tweeker-heavy Eureka in supposedly safe Northern California.
I am also saying that I think us Americans from the United States are relying too heavily on the news for all of our information and I don’t think that’s wise. We’re turning into sheeple. I think we need to consider the source and give it a shot if it feels right and if our heart is in it.
Check out LifeRemotely and their book, “Don’t Go There. It’s Not Safe. You’ll Die” – it’s a free e-book on overlanding Mexico and Central America. Chock full of all kinds of sensible advice that we like, along with their iOverland app