Yesterday, while driving my sister’s minivan to the nearest Target store, I got smashed into by a car that had spun out of control on the freeway. Four cars total were involved, but thankfully that minivan is sturdy and everyone was fine. For over an hour, I was one of those people standing by the roadside being gawked at by slow-moving, donut-munching drive-bys, as though they had never seen an accident before.
I was annoyed, and in that moment, I wished I was in New York City taking subways and not having to deal with these incidents. And I realized this irony: I feel safer and more comfortable in big, hectic cities than I do in a suburban, strip-mall, drive everywhere because there is no other option, type of environment.
The irritation I felt helped me to overcome the nagging fear that has been haunting me for the past few days. In regards to my upcoming trip, I have been told by nearly everyone I know to be careful, be safe, bad things happen in South American cities, watch my back, pack mace, don't get kidnapped, etc. I get that this comes from a place of love, but it is really starting to get to me, and I have begun to drive myself crazy with doubts about my decision to travel alone.
But why? I lived in New York City for 5 years. Before that, Barcelona. Before that, San Francisco. I have traveled in Johannesburg, New Delhi, Istanbul, Havana, Beijing. In all these places, I was fine – in fact, I loved every moment of it all.
Cities, I get. Travel, I get. Hanging out in Suburbia... not so much.
Rio might be dangerous. Caracas might be complicated. Bogota might be challenging. The threat of malaria and yellow fever may be high throughout the region. But I think I would rather deal with all that madness then stand on the edge of a freeway during rush hour, somewhere in the middle of here and nowhere.
PS: for those still in doubt, Richard McColl writes an excellent and concise article for Matador Travel - with gorgeous photos attached - Why Colombia is Not as Dangerous as You Think