An ex-partner of mine used to spend HOURS reading The World’s Most Dangerous Places, Robert Young Pelton’s 1,000-page guide to the most curious, dangerous and downright crazy places in the world. He would regularly regale me with tales of places I SHOULD DEFINITELY NOT BE GOING TO. “It’s OK,” I used to tell him, “I travel in a bubble of nice hotels anyway”. I even once turned down a gorilla-watching trip to Rwanda based on his – probably unwarranted – fears for my safety.
But as the world gets smaller and travellers more curious, few places are off the map. For some, the more dangerous and remote the better. And the tentacles of tourism can be a positive force for good, as travel has an amazing propensity to engender understanding: as boss of Virtuoso Matthew Upchurch reiterated at the recent Travel Week: “boundaries divide us, travel unites”.
At Travel Week, much of the talk was of how we are living in a VUCA world – VUCA standing for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. It was not a phrase I was aware of, but of course, now succinctly summarises this century thus far. If Young Pelton’s book were still being published, would it have to include some of the places where we have seen flare-ups of terror, violence and instability in recent months? If we worried about the number of isolated incidents – while they are petrifying and must be heeded – happening worldwide, we’d never go anywhere. And if we stuck to our own shores, scared to visit anywhere, how would we ever be brave enough to discover Jaffna in Sri Lanka (now featured by Steppes Travel), Chad (Natural World Safaris), or the stunning Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia, previously the site of a long-running border dispute with Thailand but now safe(r) to visit.
Upchurch also said being an agent has been “reinvented as a noble profession”. He’s right – what more noble profession could there be than ensuring the safety of the world’s travellers while sating their curiosity and possibly enabling deeper understanding of the world.