There was a tragic accident on a Southwest flight today, leaving one passenger dead in the first U.S. aviation fatality in almost a decade.
While this was truly a horrifying event, if you scour the news, you’ll find all sorts of travel-related stories that may make you never want to leave your couch – from toxic gas in Mexico to a so-called “Death Island” in Thailand.
While I completely understand that some may be apprehensive about travel, particularly with stories like these, I wanted to provide my perspective; mainly, that if you can afford it and are able to, it’s too risky not to travel.
Life is inherently dangerous, regardless of travel
It’s like the saying goes, don’t take life too seriously as nobody makes it out alive.
Many people view travel as hopping on a plane and jet-setting to some exotic locale with tropical drinks. And when done right, it can be. But really, most of us travel every day – whether it be in a car or a train.
To be honest, car travel scares the hell out of me and I’ve only driven 3 times in the last 4 years. Before you call me crazy, did you know that there is a 1 in 114 chance that, if you’re an American, you will die in a motor vehicle accident? Compare that to a 1 in 9,821 chance that your cause of death will be in a plane crash (which includes private flights – the odds are calculated at around 1 in 11,000,000 for flying overall).
To further make my point, the odds of dying by a firearm assault in the U.S. are 1 in 370.
When I hear from people who are too afraid to travel to other countries, my first reaction is, “And you think America is so safe?” And sure, maybe your suburb or city is; but even if you stay home locked inside your bedroom, the world is, for better or worse, still trying to kill you.
While there are certainly places where the risk of harm or death are much higher (I’m not advocating anyone head to Syria right now), when you look at the numbers you begin to realize that something can happen to you at any time regardless of location. Not a very comforting thought, but it can be incredibly freeing.
Even if it was true that you could live longer by not traveling, trading experience for a longer life would, in my opinion, usually be the wrong answer.
There are some people who would like to live as long as they can regardless of the experiences they have. They may read the above statistics and think, “Well, hey, I guess I won’t get in a car again and move to a state with strict gun laws.”
But, on my end, I don’t find an inherent value in life without worthwhile experiences. If you told me I could live until 80 in a cage or until 40 with a full passport, a ton of incredible experiences, and a smile on my face, I would each and every time pick the latter.
Your life can have more meaning and purpose with travel
I travel mainly for two reasons – to grow as a person and to see amazing sights. To the first point, my goal with every trip (even smaller ones) is to come back with a new perspective.
While you can, of course, grow as a person outside of travel, travel is perhaps the most effective tool to expand your horizons and experience other cultures. It’s also an incredible way to learn about yourself and to take you out of your comfort zone.
Personal growth, a depth of experiences, and appreciation for other cultures can all lead to a more meaningful and fulfilling life. By staying in one place out of fear, or limiting the destinations you will travel to, you may be missing out on an opportunity to get more out of your time on earth.
Travel can change your perspective and make you a better person
Travel changes your perspective and how you view life. One of the most eye-opening experiences of my life was traveling to Bosnia, where the buildings still had bullet holes in them and people were begging for money and food at the ATM.
Doesn’t sound like a great travel experience, does it? Well, Bosnia was incredibly beautiful and I am so glad I went. But that experience also gave me the perspective that has stuck with me ever since – when things get really, truly awful, I can easily remember that compared to others in the world, I’ve been blessed by geography and a whole bunch of other factors.
You don’t need to experience hardship for travel to make you a better person. So long as you approach travel with an open mind, there are plenty of opportunities for growth – such as meeting people on the plane, at your hotel, or in bars, or taking in historic sights or walks in nature to reassess your life and priorities.
So, even with some scary news lately about travel, I think that, if you can, exploring the world is a great option and that it may be too risky to pass up the opportunity.