There are so many beautiful places in the world hidden behind the ugly image that news media would like to paint of certain countries. Not to say that there aren’t any dangers in traveling to those countries, but most of the time the clash and conflict are between governments and not the people. A lot of citizens living in perceived danger zones are victims of generalization brought upon by the unfair portrayal of the entire nation based on decisions made and actions done by political actors and fundamentalists. I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for most of my life. When I returned to the Philippines to complete my studies, I was swamped by questions about my – and my family’s, safety. Surely, those questions are not unwarranted – one of the places my family used to frequent was bombed by apparent terrorists and I am not at all a stranger to bomb threats but those things can happen in any country.
One of the most frightening experiences I have ever gone through was when I returned to the Philippines several years back and as I was waiting for my uncles to pick me up from the NAIA Terminal 1, a piece of luggage that was suspected to be a bomb was left in the middle of the waiting area. Oh, how hard I prayed that it was a false alarm. Security guards and policemen surrounded the luggage and feared opening it. Thankfully my uncles arrived and picked me up. When I got home, it was already in the news! I never found out what happened to that piece of luggage, but let me tell you this: I’ve never felt that frightened for my life in Saudi Arabia.
Dangerous things can happen anywhere you are. We can never predict when something bad is going to happen. Many people fall victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but often times the perceived dangers are preventable. It’s all a matter of common sense and respect, which a lot of people also have trouble grasping. Common sense is going to a less developed country and not wearing any flashy jewelry. Common sense is not walking in the sketchy part of town by yourself, whether male or female. Respect is going to a Muslim country and not engaging in public displays of affection. Respect is following the rules that the government places for travelers (that you should have read before going to that country!).
A few nights ago, I watched a documentary about Iran. It was a documentary that focused on the people, the culture, and the beauty of Iran rather than the political strife and misunderstandings it has with the United States. I had always wanted to visit Persepolis but I never knew that there was actually more to Iran than that. It’s actually an overall beautiful place, and one day I hope that I can visit it. There are many other places I would love to go that my parents would never approve of because of their international reputations. Let me list my top 5:
2. North Korea
(Monument to the Party Founding, Pyongyang)
(Leptis Magna, Tripoli)
(Citadel of Aleppo)