“You have to watch out when you go to Sumatra. Especially in the south there are really bad people” says the nice man living on Java, one island down from Sumatra. When arriving there I’m extra careful, make sure to not ride close to dark and watch the bushes for bandits jumping out. “Watch out, there are men who jump out the bushes on the highway and they rob you” was the kind advice supplied by said Javanese inhabitant. Riding through Sumatra there was no sign of any hostility, robbers, muggers, or any type of men who planned to use their machetes for anything else then chopping wood.
While making my way through the palm plantation filled south end of Sumatra similar stories emerged about the middle and northern parts of the island. Similarly, I have my guard up, stay safe and think twice when taking that more deserted road on my own. The process repeats itself, on my way I meet nothing but nice, helpful people and when I’m stuck in a petrol station for two days, waiting for the rain to clear, I make friends for life. Then crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia the Thai warn me about all sorts of dangers in Cambodia. Of which only one would have been an immediate threat, they drive on the opposite side of the road there. With the advice of the caring Thai fresh in my mind I manage to avoid any head on collisions. But I start to have my doubts about all the other so called dangers. There seems to be a pattern here…
After having met only genuinely nice people in Cambodia and later Myanmar I’m really starting to second guess the travel advice I’m receiving. Now travelling through India many people ask which other countries I will visit. As soon as the syllables Pa-ki-st…. leave my mouth an expression of fear and extreme care appears on their face. All alarm bells start ringing and the sirens go of. “Do you really want to go there? It’s dangerous!”
Now I’m not totally naïve, it’s not like I will walk into an ongoing war with my eyes open, saying it will be all fine. And, although I don’t follow mainstream media, some of the news is hard not to see. But the pattern stays, where ever you travel, if you ask any local they’ll tell you: “Here it is safe, but the next place you’re going is dangerous”. Is it really, or is the only danger we’re facing the danger of taking this assumption for truth and never finding out the real story?
We all fear the unknown. Remember how scary it was to go to school the first day and let go of your mum’s hand? No? How about this one, remember your first soccer match, swimming competition, piano rehearsal, theatre performance… Should I continue? It’s a fact and a great survival strategy during our prehistoric existence that we all fear the unknown. How else would you know to scare away from eating poisonous berries or avoid run-ins with lions? But living and travelling in the 21st century I dare to say that our fear of the unknown is paralysing us rather than helping us. Mainstream media broadcasts at least three times the amount of negative happenings compared to positive ones. With the only news coming from abroad covering disaster after disaster, our fear of the unknown is fueled on a constant basis. But don’t let this stop you from exploring. Believe me, once you turn off the TV, think for yourself, put your fears on hold and turn on life, you will see there is so much good out there in the world!