The Issue of Travel Safety

Finding the Fine Line Separating Caution from Fear

Colombia, the last country of our trip. And from everything we’d heard from other travellers since we’ve been in South America, it stood to be a case of saving the best for last.

And yet, I wasn’t completely sold.
One of many happy and green Medellin city streets.

Let’s just say, while all the images of the country’s Caribbean coastline most definitely beckoned, places with names like Cali, Medellin and Bogata held somewhat ominous overtones.

As much as I hated having to admit it, despite being a very strong believer of taking what you hear on your television with a big grain of salt, the fact was the constant barrage of news that came out of Colombia during my high school years had left their mark on me.

But then, as what almost everyone was very insistent on, things had changed. And yet, still, there was that issue to contend with. The issue of travel safety.

An issue that my 20 year old self never dwelled on at any great length but an issue that my
Pick a park, any park.

subsequent, middle-aged-father-of-a-blonde-three-and-a-half-year-old self couldn’t completely banish despite my best efforts.

It was all quite scary. Not so much the concept of Colombia, mind you. Just the reality that the time had come. It was official; I was thinking like a parent. And, I was afraid to say, in regards to Colombia, like a potentially overbearing one at that.

The safety issue is such a fine line to walk, and one that can be immediately confronting when leaving the thorough, in your face safety regulations of countries like the US and Australia.

This point would be driven home with startling clarity on only our first day out and about in Santiago, Chile nearly one year ago when a climb up a winding city park stair walkway found me round a virtually guardrail-less corner of what was easily, a potentially fatal 15 metre drop.
First stop of the Medellin free walking tour.

Luckily Kaia was well within arm’s reach but the point was immediately taken: We weren’t at home any more. And the list potential safety hazards to keep you on your toes outside the heavily regulated, litigious minded US and Australia only took off from there.

A seemingly endless game of public safety Whack-A-Mole which is sure to leave the ardent believer in strong government regulatory presence both exasperated and incredulous.

And, apparently, as this trip had repeatedly demonstrated time and time again, even for me, as well. Someone whose previous travels has more than opened my eyes to the ‘quirks’ of the outside world and made me as massive an advocate of the concept of personal responsibility as anyone.

Which, I suppose, was all the proof I needed to understand how much becoming a parent changes you.

Really changes you. To the point you’re left wondering exactly how you’ve come to this fork in the

road. The mental junction that suddenly separates the very real duties of parental obligation from the pleasures of pursuing the adventurous allure of the road. An allure made all the more tantalising by the subconscious belief the world is a much more beautiful and safer place that we often give it credit for.

I was surprised to learn it’s a much finer line than my much younger self could’ve ever imagined it to be. But even so, in the end, there was only one thing to do.

And that was to go.
One of the city’s numerous cable car vistas.

Eleven months of putting it out there had swung the scales in the direction of not giving in to fear.

Eleven months spent navigating seatbelt-less cars, dangerously cratered sidewalks, seemingly novice and erratically driving taxi and pedestrian drivers and too much obviously unregulated street food to contemplate.

In the end, thirty years and, in particular, the past 11 months was a great reminder that the world was very different from the place I’d grown up in and, now, today call home. And, despite this, there was still the realization the sky did not fall and life in its many subtle and not so subtle cultural variations continued to move on.
Fun with strangers in a fun, not so strange city.

A fact that our walking tour of Medellin drove home with a level of clarity I found amazingly refreshing. Medellin, a city that during the 80s and 90s was known for little more than drug cartel violence, kidnappings and political assassinations and, according to our tour guide, saw a grand total of only 40,000 tourists in 2002, was today a sight to behold. A feeling apparently held by some 4 million visitors as of 2012.

We found the city to be an impeccably clean mountain valley city full of user friendly green parks. And one with an inexpensive, tram based public transportation system that, combined with numerous cable car routes into the surrounding hillsides, gave the city the feel of one vast, sprawling amusement park.

A city of cable cars offering sweeping hillside and mountain top panoramas in every direction. And than anything else, a city full of locals who were as happy to have you in their city as they were content to not dwell on their troubled past.

“Colombia is good,” more than one inquisitive local would interject with a big thumbs up during our four hour, 12 stop city tour. The tourists were coming, the country’s stigma was being slowly but surely wiped clean and the locals were happy.

And after more than a fair bit of initial soul searching, let’s just say they weren’t the only ones.


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