It is usual for Americans and others from Western, industrialized countries to want to travel to more exotic locations. In the past people would more prefer well-known vacation destinations, where they could be assured of comfort. More recently, it seems that travel goals go to exploring places less known, and which are seen as offering unique cultural experiences, like Vietnam and Iceland. The world has also changed dramatically through technology and globalization, so those with the means to travel tend to believe that all international locations are available to them. This is true to an extent, but it cannot be ignored that extreme conflicts, both within nations and occurring between them, present real safety issues to the typical traveler. In plain terms, it is more important than ever to investigate just how secure a destination is before making any travel arrangements. Mexico, for example, has long been an immensely popular vacation spot for Americans, and it is typically perceived as a tropical and comfortable place to visit. Modern realities have changed this, however, and the situation in the South American country is both widely drug-related and violent. The State Department has reported that conditions have improved in a number of Mexican states, and places like Cancun and Cozumel are considered safe for tourists. At the same time, however, the violence elsewhere in Mexico is extreme and highly unpredictable. The reality remains that outbreaks of gun violence occur often in major areas of the country, as rival gangs and criminal organizations engage in shoot-out in broad daylight, and in the middles of popular avenues (Estevez, 2015). Although approximately half of Mexico is reported to be safe for visitors, cautions are still advised because drug-related violence takes place even in tourist sites like restaurants and clubs. In 2014, for example, over 100 Americans were murdered in Mexico (Estevez, 2015). It is then strongly advised that travelers choose their Mexican destinations carefully, and also be on the alert for any signs of potential trouble.
When it comes to less-known destinations, it is even more important that travelers understand how political violence and intense military conflicts threaten any hope of safety. India is increasingly seen as a fascinating destination, but extremism in other areas of the world have infiltrated the country. Islamist extremist groups of Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba all have forces in India (USPIT, 2015). Then, the nature of violent insurgent activity is such that civilians and tourists are often victims because the forces do not discriminate between populations. In fact, it is more ordinary for extremist organizations to target busy areas such as train stations, shops, and popular hotels. These are violent groups seeking to make “statements” and travelers cannot know when and where in India an assault may occur. It is also true that the terrorist organizations tend to focus on any Western population, as in American tourists, because their agendas go to combating Western influence (USPIT, 2015). While the majority of the Indian population welcomes travelers, the sheer presence of the extremists greatly undermines safety today and, as in Mexico, deadly violence may suddenly occur in any Indian location.
Another destination demanding careful investigation, or even eliminating any reasonable idea of travel, is Somalia. The nation in Northern Africa, on the Indian Ocean, is attractive to many as a particularly exotic location, but the dangers are very real. The Somalian people have long been victims themselves of great violence, and the nation is so unstable, the U.S. has no embassy or diplomatic facility within it to provide aid to Western travelers (USPIT, 2015). This being the case, the U.S. actually urges Americans to not travel to Somalia at all. Violence exists in many forms and is not localized: “Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia” (USPIT, 2015). Kidnappings of Americans are a common threat as, like in India, guerrilla and terrorist groups frequently target Westerners in airports, hotels, and other “tourist” areas. Somalia is then one of the most dangerous of all modern destinations and should be avoided whenever possible.
Lastly, many Europeans and Americans regard Israel as an important travel site, in which culture and faith are strong attractions. Unfortunately, the same modern issues of terrorism affecting India and Somalia are very much in place here, particularly as Israel is so often targeted by radical Islamist organizations. There is a U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv and a Consulate General in Jerusalem, but even government officials employed by them are not permitted to travel to areas such as the West Bank, and are restricted from using public buses in Jerusalem and other heavily populated areas (USPIT, 2015). It is generally reported that terrorist organizations operating in Israel, like the Hamas, do no usually attack Americans. Nonetheless, the political tensions are so consistent and severe, travelers of any nationality are often at risk. What occurs is that travelers are “bystanders” who become casualties of politically-motivated violence, as when Americans visiting synagogues are injured or killed in attacks. (USPIT, 2015). It is not unusual for protects in Israel to suddenly become violent, and travelers are then greatly cautioned before considering Israel as a destination.
It is ironic that, as modern transportation leads to travel as far more easy and comfortable than ever before, the destinations themselves are more unstable and threatening than ever before as well. Intense political tensions all over the world create risk to travelers in India, Somalia, and Israel, just as drug-related criminality endangers the lives of any seeking vacation or leisure time in Mexico. If anything then defines travel today, it is the universal need for travelers to select destinations wisely and research safety levels before leaving home.
- Estevez, Dolia. “U.S. Warning Against Travel To ‘Many Parts’ Of Mexico Shows Small Improvements.” Forbes. 15 April 2015. Web. 1 Jan. 2016.
- U.S. Passports and International Travel (USPIT). Worldwide Caution. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.