The world is a complex place. As I’ve made my way through it, now at a country count of 141, I’ve seen that media reports are often misleading, cities are not what they may seem to outsiders, and some of the most joyous moments of my travel have been in the places I have been warned to stay away from. That said, there is one place that I strongly hesitate to visit right now…and yet I wonder if I am guilty of the same fear-mongering.
The One Country I’m Too Afraid To Travel To: Haiti
I remember when I took my family to Israel a couple years ago many well-intentioned readers urged me not to go. I was told that it was too dangerous and that Jerusalem was bad enough, but if I took my family into the West Bank I was really showing a disregard for their safety and well-being.
While I did not simply dismiss such warnings, we went anyway and had a remarkable trip. We also felt quite safe in both Jerusalem and in Bethlehem.
Years earlier I decided to spend a weekend in…Iraq. The war was still waging, but things were calm in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq. I had a wonderful time and never felt like I was in danger. In fact, I even walked from the walled city to the airport at night by myself.
People warned me not to travel to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Afghanistan, and I did anyway. In Afghanistan, I even hired a security detail (driver, guide, and armed guard) that accompanied me everywhere, but in retrospect that probably was not necessary.
The last time I wrote about this topic (over a decade ago!), I said that I would not visit Venezuela. At the time, I felt that there was too much risk for U.S. citizens. Ten years later, the situation has not improved and there is still some angst that an airport agent would drop some drugs in my bag or something nefarious like that…but I would go to Venezuela in a heartbeat. My friend was in Caracas recently and had a lovely visit. Yes, times are tough in Venezuela, but you can enjoy a visit there and need not fear for your safety.
I’ve been hesitant to go to Somalia, but despite the elevated danger I am planning a trip there next year and want to have a coffee at Beydan in Mogadishu. I’m also ready to travel to Yemen, despite the never-ending civil war there. I am also open to Sudan.
But whether rational or not, there is one place I cannot seem to stomach even considering: Haiti. Last week I was talking to a pastor that used to do missions work there. It’s so dangerous right now. Of course I have been reading reports in the news as well about the armed gangs running Port au Prince. And then this morning this headline from the UK Daily Mail:
I don’t get (all) my news from a British tabloid, but this report merely confirms what I have been hearing over and over again.
And yet, American Airlines still flys to Haiti each day. Can it really be a total failed state if American Airlines is still sending crews there?
I want to visit every country in the world. Over time, some doors open and others close. Syria, for example, has returned to a degree of stability not seen in years and I would feel very comfortable going now and even taking my family with me. Haiti, on the hand, seems to me to be the definition of a failed state. But while it seems too dangerous to brave right now, I wonder if this (like Israel, Venezuela, Iraq, and others) is just media sensationalism rather than an accurate reflection of what is really going on.