Leah and I often got a smile when a friend would say to us something like, “Y’all be careful over there.”
We’re not thrill-seeking travelers, but we’ve been around enough to have figured out that most places are much safer than we’re led to believe.
Pick any country and look it up on the Website of the U.S. Department of State’s travel section; the warnings can overwhelm you. Even Canada carries several cautions, but it’s nothing like other places we’ve been.
One quick illustration and I’ll move on.
Late in 2015, we took a 25-day cruise that made several stops on the Amazon River in Brazil and visited numerous Caribbean islands going and coming. Some of those places were not exactly tourist havens, especially since we have a habit of walking away from the tidy touristy places and exploring the town.
We completed the cruise in Port Lauderdale, Fla., picked up our car and began searching for lunch, deciding on a fried chicken place. After eating in the restaurant, we got back into the car and agreed with each other, “I felt more endangered here than anyplace we went on the trip.”
The only time we felt any insecurity in Thailand was while walking along some of the streets. Look at the top photo. They drive on the left, so we walked on the right in order to see oncoming traffic, such as the three scooters being driven on the shoulder toward us.
The truth is, as we’ll discuss in Section 5, they know what they’re doing and they will make room for us.
But we never feared that someone would try to rob us or beat us up. (It probably does help, wherever we are, that we usually don’t get involved in evening activities much.)
Someone asked if we used guides to get around. Barely, none at all around Ao Nang where we were staying.
When we went scuba diving (Section 6) and kayaking (Section 14), the companies arranged for transportation to and from the activities. Of course, we had guides during both, as well. When we visited Kho Lanta (Section 12), it was with a fellow who drove us around the island.
However, we did have guides of a sort in our hosts and their family. They not only helped inform us on what to do but answered our questions as well. To be honest, though, we kept finding things they were not aware of, so we helped each other.
Another threat of which travelers need to be aware is disease. Some are of even greater concern as we get older.
For our Amazon cruise, we were required to get yellow fever inoculations. For Thailand, nothing was mandatory, but certain things were recommended.
Due to a personal health issue, a physician insisted we get hepatitis A and B vaccines, a two-shot regimen with a third suggested in several months.
Partly because we learned our insurance company was covering the shots, we decided to get the typhoid vaccine also. What pushed us into doing so was our desire to partake of food from street vendors, but that’s also supposed to be a greater risk for disease.
It’s a tough decision. Many advisors tell you the best way to experience truly local food is to eat from street vendors. Others suggest they are not as safe. We reasoned having hepatitis and typhoid shots would give us a safety net and relieve anxieties about experiencing our visit more fully.
Finally, since we were both about 10 years removed from our latest tetanus shots, we added that to the mix. The result was visiting the pharmacist once a week for four weeks to get all the shots. Yeah, pharmacist Erin got to know us before we left.
And then there’s the elephant in the room.
The fact we transited through the Middle East, the fact we were in an area with an increasing Muslim population, those caused concerns for some folks.
It shouldn’t have.