Recently there have been a spate of conversations on Twitter about the new US State Department warnings against travel to Europe and whether people still feel comfortable going there. In general we’ve always been asked, “Oh, isn’t that dangerous?” when we tell people where we’re going. Or people share that they would be afraid to go wherever it is by themselves. With 54 countries under our belts we really don’t feel scared heading out to explore the unknown, but rather excited to see something new.That said, the truth is that we have had some scary moments while traveling. Like the time we bargained and bargained for a good price on a Grand Taxi in Morocco. Grand Taxis are, by definition, large taxis, and are used for inter-city travel. Normally they sell 6 seats in each one, but we’d agreed on a price to take just the two of us to our destination – about a 6 hour drive away. We were headed to Merzouga to see its spectacular Sahara dunes. So, having haggled with the guy at the taxi station that spoke French, we agreed on a price, stuck our bags in the trunk and headed out with our Arabic-only speaking driver. About 5 minutes into the trip, the he suddenly took a left turn down some tiny dirt road and we found ourselves in an obviously residential neighborhood. He abruptly stopped, and ran out of the car. By this point we really didn’t know what to think. Here we are, in the middle of nowhere, clearly NOT on the highway to Merzouga. A million scary thoughts and about 30 seconds later, he re-emerged from what must’ve been his house, holding an enormous sandwich! He promptly got back on the highway and spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince us to share his dinner with him! Clearly, this wasn’t really a dangerous situation, and our driver had never wished us any harm. Instead, this moment has wound up bringing us many laughs!
While thinking about this post, we tried hard to come up with other situations that had scared us. We really did. Well, 54 countries and you know what else came to mind? The time we were driving through Oakland, California and our GPS messed up. We wound up getting off at some exit on the highway where the church we drove by had bars on the windows. That was scary. Then there was the time we were in Hollywood. It was a hot night and we decided to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru to get some milkshakes on the way back to the hotel. We got behind the restaurant and suddenly found there was a barbed-wire covered fence. As if that weren’t enough to freak us out, suddenly some drunk/high guy who seemed homeless suddenly came out of nowhere and started pounding on our windshield. We were terrified. We honked the horn and turned on the windshield wipers and thankfully he ran off.
So, what conclusion should we draw? The world is a safe place. Almost all of us are not interested in hurting anyone else. Just because a place is far away does not make it dangerous, or scary. They call it the news because it’s out of the ordinary. Most people behave themselves and wish you nothing but a safe trip and many happy returns. So, if you’re one of the approximately 20% of Americans who have a passport – get out there and use it! And if you’re not – get one! Your taxi is waiting – although your driver may need to pop by home for a sandwich before you head out on a particularly long trip.
PS – For our non-American readers, California is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Blessed with an astounding diversity of people, places and natural beauty exploring it could easily fill a month - or a lifetime. The climate is mild, to say the least and the people warm, friendly and easy-going. Despite the two incidents we’ve had, we’ve lived here for over a decade and had many, many wonderful experiences exploring this amazing state. From Redwood forests to snow capped mountains to deserts to award winning wineries, fascinating cities and its spectacular Pacific coastline, California truly has something for everyone. If you haven’t been here – add it to your wish list – you won’t be sorry you made the trip.