Last year we visited Jordan, a spectacular country with rugged mountains, expansive deserts, and of course, the ancient city of Petra. This was in November 2015 and when we decided to go there, several people asked us:
Oh, but you’re going to Jordan? Isn’t it dangerous there?
A pretty good question considering that Jordan is situated in the Middle East between Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Most people are being bombarded (pun intended) with footage of ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc. on a daily basis these days. I don’t blame someone for asking the above question given the paranoia that the media subjects us to, every single day of our lives.
The answer though is that Jordan is an incredibly safe country. We could not have felt safer throughout the country and although we saw some crazy drivers on the highways, they are definitely by far some of the friendliest people we have met while traveling the world!
More importantly, Jordan has absorbed more than 1 million refugees in recent years. In a population of about 5 million people, that’s over 20% of the current population! A little over 20% of Jordan’s GDP comes from tourism. It’s very important that people travel to Jordan and enjoy all that this little country has to offer. You will be supporting their efforts in rehabilitating people fleeing from war torn regions.
Here are some very interesting statistics. More people die of obesity than terrorist attacks. You are more likely to be killed by a toddler than by a terrorist. In the last five years, you were FOUR times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist. Lets think about that for a while as we dodge some lightning bolts.
A few years ago we were in Bolivia on a flight from Sucre to La Paz. The plane was an old military aircraft and it was flying through a valley surrounded by jagged Andean peaks. The wind was streaming through the valley and rattling the plane like maracas at a salsa party. Zara and I gave each other worried looks and wondered what was going to happen. Then, I looked around and everyone was sitting calmly, someone was reading a newspaper, another person was doing their crossword, and others were listening to music. Finally, I told myself the truth: “I was much more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the airport than on this plane”. I managed to calm down and enjoy the roller-coaster ride that this flight had become.
That experience taught me a valuable lesson. Logic can often trump emotions. But, you have to know the right logic and the right statistics. To achieve this, you have to be well informed and ignore the sensational paranoia that the media today is trying to force upon us to sell ads and views.
We were in Paris three weeks before we went to Jordan. No one asked us if it was dangerous or if we should or should not go to Paris. However, while we were in Jordan, the Paris terror attacks took place. These attacks were meant to be brutal and were meant to scare people. That’s just how terrorism works. No one had asked us if we’d be okay going to Paris. Risk and perception of risk are vastly different things.
As humans, we are inherently bad at calculating risk. Scientists say that when we give up control, we feel more at risk. So, although flying is safer than driving, most people feel much safer while driving. In fact, after 9/11, a lot of people chose to drive to their destinations because they were afraid to fly. Since driving is more dangerous than flying, it has been found that more people subsequently died in car accidents because of choosing not to fly, than in plane crashes of the 9/11 terror attacks. The conclusion of this study is quite interesting:
The analysis suggests that the number of Americans who lost their lives on the road by avoiding the risk of flying was higher than the total number of passengers killed on the four fatal flights. I conclude that informing the public about psychological research concerning dread risks could possibly save lives.
More recently, in the aftermath of the Brussels terror attacks, a lot of people are wondering about whether to travel to Europe or not. Please, do not change your travel plans because of the fear of terrorism. Unless you are planning to go to extremely dangerous or war torn regions, the chances of being hurt in a terrorist attack in most of the world remains very low.
I fully understand that terrorism can be a very scary thing. I come from Assam, a state in India that has suffered from terrorism for several decades. Although today the threat of terrorism in most areas in Assam is fairly low, people still forsake travel to the region for fear of terrorism.
The reason terrorism is so scary for most people is because it is random and unexpected. But those are the exact same reasons that we should treat the threat of terrorism in the same way as tsunamis, earthquakes, and the occasional piano that falls from an apartment window Tom and Jerry style.
The world is big and beautiful and there are things to fear in each and every place that you may travel to. The goal of terrorism is to terrorize. There’s nothing wrong with being diligent about the places we travel to. However, if you haven’t even been struck by lightning once yet, you’re probably okay to travel pretty much anywhere!