Safe Travels – At Home and Abroad

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Safe Travels … for everyone?

While researching my post on Semester at Sea, it came to my attention that the program of shipboard instruction has suffered the devastating losses of a handful of students throughout its 44 year history of hosting more than 60,000 scholars. Delving further into the study abroad phenomenon, and as a former exchange student myself, I wondered how dangerous this path was. I was pleased to ascertain that, according to Mary Beth Marklein in the December 3, 2012 edition of US Today, the vast majority of students who study abroad each year — nearly 274,000 students in the 2010-11 academic year — return unharmed.

I spent my school year abroad in Torreón, a city of about half a million souls smack in the middle of northern Mexico, back in the mid-80s. At the time, the most dangerous thing that happened to me was a bad bowl of ropa vieja. Montezuma’s Revenge didn’t kill me, but while I suffered from it, I kind of hoped it would.

Enter the Narcotraficantes

Nowadays, sorrowfully, Mexico suffers from the real danger perpetrated by the drug trafficking cartels. In July of 2010, 17 innocent partygoers were senselessly murdered in my beloved Torreón. According to the Guardian, as of 2010, narcotics-affiliated killings among Torreón’s population averaged three per day.

It’s enough to make you want to crawl under the covers, isn’t it? The world, with some few exceptions, happens to be a dangerous place. Period, end stop.

Back in the late 90’s, I was intrigued to pick up and read a fascinating volume by Robert Young Pelton entitled The World’s Most Dangerous Places (1997 ed).  Sections on mercenary warfare, illness, landmines and more within the tome competed for my attention alongside its chapters specifying the dangers within far too many nations of the world.  Yes, Mexico was listed. YES, THE UNITED STATES was listed.  Moreso than if it had been a work of fiction, I could not put down this book.

Staying Safe in a Dangerous World

Putting the information about study abroad together with my prior research and reading, I decided to recommend some books to my visitors in an effort to educate you on the world’s dangers.  It’s my fervent hope that no one coming across this post will ever need to worry in the least about his or her safety abroad. So.. let’s just say these books are for entertainment purposes only!  Both of the books that follow are infinitely intriguing, and I hope you enjoy!


American reader traveling internationally?  Stop by the US Department of State’s Country Specific Information website for up-to-date travel advisories.

International Travel Safety:


The World’s Most Dangerous Places used to be updated annually; sadly, the most recent edition hails from 2003. Despite its age, it capably and thoroughly catalogs anything that could happen to you abroad. It also lists every single country that the author deems worthy of inclusion. You’ll understand the origin of the malevolent forces at work, who the factions at play are, and what to do if you encounter any of ‘em. Mr Pelton includes fascinating stories of encounters he’s had with some bad hombres such as customs officials and warlord type folks. He includes a comprehensive list of foreign organizations you can contact for more specific information.


I imagine that most, if not all, of my readers do NOT intend to head directly to a war zone; do not pass go, do not collect $200. Nevertheless, if you know how to handle yourself in a hotbed of hell… you’ll probably manage just fine sashaying down Paris’ Champs Elysées. The author, a TV journalist in the Middle East, shares her insights and advice into staying safe in the most dangerous places on earth. She also provides general common sense survival tips applicable to anyone, anywhere, and she does so in an entertaining fashion. “What do I do if …?” type questions for globetrotting travelers are answered in this captivating read.


I hope you enjoy these books and take advantage of their wisdom to feel more safe in your travels abroad. Let me know your thoughts, and what you found especially helpful, in the comments below!

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5 thoughts on “Safe Travels – At Home and Abroad

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  1. I hope to soon be able to travel overseas but admit I’m nervous. The current state of the world makes travel anywhere kinda scary but especially outside of the US. Thanks for the tips.

    1. Lisa, go for it! The chances of anything happening to you in even the worst hotspots are very small. Arm yourself with information and you will be just fine! Maggie

    1. Sadly, yes, Kim. In addition to the tips, I loved reading these books for the vicarious thrill of encountering bad guys, kinda like how people love roller coasters – you experience heart-pounding danger but don’t get hurt from it.

  2. I wish I had these tips when I visited Honduras in 1991! The country was in a civil war at the time, the couple we traveled with were getting married. He was from Honduras and kept us safe, but there were some times of fright!

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