Q: Is it safe to travel outside of the United States?
It seems as though we hear of a new suicide bombing or armed gunman taking the lives of others abroad, each week. The November 2015 attacks in Paris, France set the world on edge, and certainly contributed to the growing fear that Americans have for traveling abroad. The repeated attacks in the United Kingdom, most recently at an Ariana Grande concert, have added to the terror.
Here is my take, as a person who travels frequently outside of the United States: Evil people exist everywhere, and can choose to act on their hateful intentions at any time. This is the world we live in, and the U.S. is not immune. The December 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California and the June 2016 nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida are evidence of this. You're more likely to fall victim to an attack at a shopping mall or movie theater in the United States than at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I recommend that travelers investigate the places they are considering taking a trip to. Use your common sense and best judgment to determine your level of comfort. A vacation cannot be fully enjoyed if you are consumed with worry and always looking over your shoulder.
Personally, I feel more safe in many cities abroad than I do in Times Square in New York City, or on Main Street in my own hometown.
A great resource to use for assessing the dangers present in a city or country to plan to visit is the U.S. Department of State website. From the homepage, you can type in the name of a country, and see a detailed review of the safety situation on the ground. These reviews often provide specific information for the larger and more popular cities in a given country. The file on France contains information on Paris, a portion of which is copied below:
Crime in Paris is similar to that in most large cities. Violent crime is relatively rare in the city center; however, extra caution is advised when traveling alone, especially in remote areas or at night. Pick pocketing is by far the most significant problem. In addition to purses and wallets, smart phones and small electronic devices are particular targets. In Paris, pickpockets are commonly children under the age of 16 because they are difficult for authorities to prosecute. Pickpockets are very active on the rail link (RER B) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city center. Travelers may want to consider using a shuttle service or one of the express buses to central Paris rather than the RER. Read more at www.travel.state.gov
I provide links to these country-specific State Department webpages in the "Travel Visa Requirements & Safety" section of the wheelchair accessible travel guides on this blog.
A list of current travel advisories, alerts and warnings issued by the State Department is available here.
Crime and violence exists everywhere, even in the United States. I don't hesitate to travel abroad, and would have no fear visiting cities that have previously been targeted by mass shooters or suicide bombers. That said, we must each personally determine whether we feel comfortable traveling - whether that is to a movie theater down the street, or to another country. The internet is a powerful tool, and places the most up to date information and statistics about safety and crime at our fingertips. While it is true that the world as a whole is becoming increasingly dangerous, millions of people continue to safely experience the joys of travel. As for me, I'm going to stay out in the world, living my life. I just won't be traveling to Iran or Syria anytime soon.