Not so long ago, I had plans to visit the Middle East for the very first time.

The usual worries: “It’s not safe!” “Why go there?” “It’s just not worth the risk.”

Before then, the closest I’d ever come was a long weekend in Turkey. Like any adventure I embark on, my family and friends (and some people I never asked) expressed their worry for my safety.

Before my trip the last piece of mainstream media featuring Dubai was about a skyscraper blaze near the Burj Khalifa in January 2016, which has a negative connotation even though fires occur every, all the time. I’ve come to accept this as part of the travel-lifestyle package because usually it’s with good intent.

However, for this particular trip was taken to a new level based almost solely on the region of the world that i would be traveling to. I had people bluntly tell me not to go anywhere near the Middle East because some sort of life-threatening event is “imminent” and it “wasn’t worth my life”. (You can read about the actual amazing time I had in Dubai here.)

On one hand I appreciated the concern—it was only natural.

On the other hand, I just wanted to spew scientific facts and talk about how mass media shows only the most dramatic, negative fractions of reality in non-Western areas and should be taken with a few hundred grains of salt.

Anyway, the entire commentary got me thinking. How could I shut these naysayers up? It was my life and yes I was going to do with it what I will, but how could I get them to see that for me, this experience was worth any risks?

Then I thought—Well… I may actually die while out traveling.

However unlikely and annoying it is to be told this, it iss a real possibility. And of course it’s morbid to talk about death—especially your own—but considering my longevity is the thing I’m asked about most, I think it’s time to address it.

So, if you are one of those people who thinks that by traveling I am risking my life, I need you to know something…

It’s okay. If I die, it is OKAY.

Skydiving in AU
Making the leap (literally) skydiving in Cairns, AU.

I mean it’s not ideal. I do have a preference for being alive. But it is okay.

Plenty of unpredictable things happen when you venture to a new place. I could be in a skydiving accident, break my neck falling out of a tree in the Amazon, or have a heart attack from being too excited about authentic Italian pasta (this is the closest I’ve come, honestly).

Or—I could get in a car accident while in a taxi, drown in an ocean, or have a stroke. Things that could happen at home or the other side of the world.

You may think that by traveling I’m purposely putting myself in harms way more than needed. To this, I would say:

Each week your prerogative may be to walk your dog, go to work, and meet for coffee with your friends. Mine just happens to be researching countries, planning trips, and pursuing knowledge of new cultures and experiences I never could’ve imagined.

Travel is my day to day life—I don’t see it as anything out of the norm or particularly life-threatening.

Terrorist attack or tuk-tuk accident, death is a reality of life. Click To Tweet

The fact is, a person is statistically more likely to be killed in a car crash getting that morning coffee than someone is to be killed in a plane crash or terrorist attack. Yet you don’t get “Please don’t drive to work, it’s not worth your life!” texts every day (because media doesn’t sensationalize or politicize car crashes, *cough* *cough*).

A truly terrible death could only follow a long life, unlived.

In my mind, the most horrifically regrettable way to die would be to stay at home and suppress my natural curiosity, and at the end of it all, die with regrets and what-ifs.

I would rather have a shorter life packed full of laughter, love, and wonder than to live 1,000 years never doing the things I’d wanted to do. That’s not really a life at all, is it?

I’m not saying I’m traveling with the intent of dying in a blaze of glory. But if I had to choose between “risking my life” by having adventures across the world, and living a “safe” life where I have to sleep every night wondering if it was worth not taking the risk… Well, I think you already know my choice.

A nod to Dr. Brené Brown

I recently watched Dr. Brené Brown’s “Call to Courage” film on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it yet I can’t recommend it enough. She is a research professor who has spent decades studying and speaking on topics such as shame, introspection, courage, and most of all—vulnerability.

She defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.

Well, when we travel aren’t we doing exactly that?

We’re being vulnerable with the world and exposing ourselves to all sorts of risks—accidents, racism, physical harm, financial peril, and more. Travel is not all sunshine and rainbows. It can knock you down and humble you in ways that you may be unsure you can recover from.

However, major point in her talk is that while vulnerability leaves you open for the negative and difficult things in life, it’s also the only gateway to the positive things in life too.

Assuming some risk, uncertainty and exposure is the also the gateway to meeting people from foreign cultures, trying new foods, climbing Kilimanjaro, jumping out of that plane, booking a last minute flight, staying in that homestay, and falling in love with life. She shares this quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena—whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again.

Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,

And who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

In a nut shell—life is meant to be lived at it’s fullest with daring, courage, and vulnerability, and you cannot listen to people who do not live daringly too.

You can’t give value to people who do not take risks and do not expose themselves, or accept uncertainty or risk, because of course they’re always going to tell you your dreams are ridiculous. They cannot compute. They cannot relate.

So when I tell people I’m going to [insert non-Western country] solo, staying with a random local host family, or going ziplining in the Amazon and I recieve the “What if you die?” “It’s not worth the risk“Why can’t you just stay at home?” comments, I don’t even let them hold weight. Becuase those are the people who are not as courageous as I am in my life.

For me, it will always be worth the risk. Because the alternative is a life half-lived, full of regrets and what-ifs. Which, to me, is a fate worse than death.

Of course I say this as a single woman with no children, whose parents are equally addicted to travel and very supportive of it. If I start a family I may reconsider traveling as much as I do, or maybe going to certain places.

Though I hope that future family is equally as empowered to travel with me, because by just traveling you have the opportunity to learn and also give so much back.

But for now, you should know—if I ddie while out on an adventure, don’t cry for me! Because at the very least, it will very likely make a kick ass story and legacy. And if you know me, you know that’s what I really care about (Just kidding. Sort of.)

I hope I go out feeling as Benedict Cumberbatch did when he said,

“I’ve seen and swam and climbed and lived and driven and filmed. Should it all end tomorrow, I can definitely say there would be no regrets. I am very lucky, and I know it. I really have lived 5,000 times over.”

Or how at least how MIA felt when she said,

“Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well.”


 Do you feel the same as I do? Completely disagree, and think experience isn’t worth the risks it comes with? Let’s talk in the comments.

"What if you die?" Is the comment I receive most when I talk about my travel plans. Well, finally, here's my answer... Things could be worse. #travel #safety #traveltips #travelsafety #middleeast #Dubai

"What if you die?" Is the comment I receive most when I talk about my travel plans. Well, finally, here's my answer... Things could be worse. #travel #safety #traveltips #travelsafety #middleeast #Dubai

"What if you die?" Is the comment I receive most when I talk about my travel plans. Well, finally, here's my answer... Things could be worse. #travel #safety #traveltips #travelsafety #middleeast #Dubai

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74 thoughts on “Is Travel Worth the Risks? If I Die While Traveling, You Should Know…

  1. Clazz

    I LOVE this post!! I totally agree – I would much rather spend my life travelling and “risking” things, than to stay in one place and maybe take the occasional holiday to a beach resort in Spain. I feel very lucky too, because I see a lot of posts about people being told they shouldn’t travel somewhere because it’s unsafe, but I’ve never had that reaction. I’m starting to wonder if it’s an American thing (I’m British). Everyone around me is very supportive, and I’m thankful for that. I actually laughed at your bit about Italian pasta – I am SO with you hahaha!

  2. Eva Noxon

    so much YASSSS! People are always feeling the need to tell me I shouldn’t go places because they are “dangerous.” Even places like Paris and London! I just want to tell them that I don’t intend on walking into a war zone anytime soon, but if I get the inkling I will let them know so they can tell me not to do it! haha

  3. Jen

    Great post! I often think about this after the fact when I’m like, oh man I could’ve died! Lol but best to do it anyway, at least while we still can!

  4. Swati

    One can’t stop traveling (or living) for the fear of dying. We all will some day. As long as you are not sticking your neck out and risking it, you are good. Enjoy life and travel :). As you said, once you have kids you will think of more kid friendly place to take them, like I do. I plan my travel with a mix of my likes and their 🙂

  5. Cynthia

    OMG I love this! I was just commenting to someone else that I would rather travel solo than sit home and not travel. And then there’s this too. I went to Paris & Brussels shortly after their respective terrorist attacks last year and I’m planning a Christmas Market trip this year, even though they’re not immune either. But I’d rather go out having lived my life and seeing things, learning things, meeting people, doing new things, ALL THE THINGS!! 😉 Great post, and love how your humor comes through, too.

  6. Olivia

    This is gold! While I do think that there are areas in the world that require more thought and planning, safety concerns shouldn’t stop someone from travelling those areas. great work.

  7. Linda Bibb

    I like your philosophy. IMO, many of the fears about safety come from sensationalist media stories that are crafted to create a sellable story that will encourage readership. I recently spoke with a Syrian who told me that he had called his parents after hearing about problems in Aleppo. Their reaction? “What problems?” Couple this with the reaction of a German woman I met while traveling in Europe. She said, “I would NEVER travel to the United States. Everyone is getting shot there!”

    Anyway, I am of the opinion that God is not going to let me die one minute sooner than he thinks I should. 🙂 If it’s my time, I could just as easily get electrocuted in the kitchen as shot while traveling or hit by a bullet train in Japan.

  8. Hanna

    Wow you go girl! I envy you of your lifestyle! These kind of comments from friends and family are just kindness and love, other people are just being bossy and know-it-all

  9. Paige Strand

    What a great outlook! Its funny, because I get people asking me to text them when I get to my destination, but the reality is we are way more likely to be impacted by a car accident in our own cities.

  10. Melissa

    The comments from naysayers only get worse when you have a child. We travel with our toddler all the time, and people act like we are taking our poor, innocent child into a den of lions. But I feel the same way you do. Traveling enriches our lives. It enriches our daughter’s life. So ignore the naysayers and go to the Middle East! Can’t wait to read more on your trip!

  11. Shem

    Hahah love the last two quotes of this post! I 100% agree with your opinion on this! My mom is a total worry-wart so I’ve constantly grown up hearing the same song about my safety. But the truth is, lightening can strike anywhere, anytime. The best thing we can do for ourselves is live our lives to the best of our ability and live it to the fullest. That is the true way to stay happy!

  12. Stephanie

    This is a feeling I dealt with many years ago when I committed to living in NYC even after experiencing terrorism first hand. We have to decide what our comfort zone is. For me, I am ok living a life with risk, but being very happy doing it. Like you said, most things in life come with a risk, and the sacrifice of false security isn’t worth stopping doing the things I love.

  13. Desiree

    I couldn’t agree with you more! It’s a bit ignorant for anyone to think you’re putting yourself in more danger by traveling, than not. We face a morbid uncertainty every day of our life, but that doesn’t prevent us from living it! We know this comes from a place of love when it comes to our family and friends so although it can be frustrating, we must also acknowledge their concerns…and then go on living your life! 😉 Great article, thanks for sharing.

  14. Nicki

    Well said. The middle east is actually one of my favorite areas to travel and I have never felt safer when I am there. I am from Detroit and now live in Washington, D.C. and there are times I don’t feel safe at home – people have a one track mind courtesy of the media. Its super annoying. Keep doing you.

  15. Maja

    Amazing article! Every place in the world is safe – if you make it safe. Act responsibly and do not call out loud the troubles. Also, many countries of Middle East are the safest out there because of very strict laws. What matters is you having fun! 🙂

  16. Rebecca

    I so agree with this post. When my friend and I were traveling together, her brother would always throw cold water on it no matter where we planned to go. Anything can happen anywhere anytime. Best to live and have those wonderful memories.

  17. Sassy

    This post is on point!!! I too, would rather see the whole world and risk everything, than die inside my own safety box. I love your spirit and your mind set, thank you for the inspiration <3

  18. Soumya Nambiar

    I get that a lot too. Why do you have to travel so much to obscure places? But the funny thing is that it does not actually come from the people who I really care about. My close circle of family and friends always support me and I think that is enough for me. We just need to weed out the bad influences. After all, we get only one live to live. I would rather die traveling than sitting at home.

  19. Danielle

    I t-o-t-a-l-l-y feel your pain over the “people I didn’t even ask” thing. At my going away party, you could tell which of my relatives and parents’ friends had military/gov’t backgrounds by the number of snide comments they made about my lack of Middle Eastern travel plans. They might have to get this link dropped in their inboxes – it has the perfect balance of gravity and levity on such an important topic.

  20. Noemi

    Love this. I applied for a job in Dubai without telling anyone of my plans and when I got the job offer, it was only then that I told my family in the US about it. Their first question was of course “is it safe?” and I’m like, helloooooo??? Dubai???? It’s like the safest city in the world. Lol.

    Love this post Gabby. 🙂

  21. Neha

    This post is super awesome. I LOVE IT! I love to travel, especially to cool places. I am married but going to a bachelorette party in Goa (Beaches) Next weekend. You post just remind me of my relatives and family members saying all the time that its not safe to travel alone. I just dont care and enjoy my life and explore places 🙂 Nice post

  22. Jenny

    […] other day I read this article called “If I Do Die While Traveling, You Should Know…” by a blogger named Gabrielle over at Packs Light – and it seriously got me thinking […]

  23. Shane

    Wow I’ve never really thought about this very hard before. It’s surely a risk you take traveling solo and to “less safe” countries… But can we consider anywhere safe anymore? Besides I think if I could choose, traveling would be the way to go!

  24. Josie

    Love this article. We were in Turkey a couple of months ago and you can imagine the reaction we had to that! I am making plans for next year to do some extended travel through the Middle East again so continue to get concerned feedback from family and friends. It will not stop us going.

    1. Gabby

      I was in Turkey twice in the last month with connections on Turkish airlines! I got tons of criticism, especially after the airport bombing AND military coup. The airport at least was completely normal and I felt safe. I’m glad you will keep going! There’s a point of being logical, but still being brave. If things get too bad of course we’ll reconsider!

  25. Rita

    Yeah, I get that comment quite a bit as well. What people don’t get is that for travel buffs, it is totally worth it! And usually, those times I’ve been told not to go because of something horrible going on, turned out to be just tiny blimps when I’m actually there.

  26. Chasa Fulkerson

    I think it is quite the opposite for me. I am more terrified to drive my car on the Interstate here in the U.S., where I live. I am more terrified someone is going to break into my house, but yet, I feel like I would travel anywhere out of my own country. I am a little scared of planes though, but if that’s how I have to get there, well then that is what I have to do.

  27. Sam

    I went to the Middle East when I was 19 (yes, it was a long time ago). It was my first port of call on a 12 month backpacking trip in the days well before internet, email and smart phones. My history teacher (who inspired my interest in the region) was horrified and worried about bombs and terrorists. My response to anyone with these views was: “I could walk down the street tomorrow and get hit by a bus”. Morbid, I know, but the thing is, stuff happens everywhere. Freak accidents happen, illnesses, diseases. I would rather live life and embrace it than be afraid of what might happen.

    1. Gabby

      Absolutely agree. It’s morbid, but death is a reality of life and I think it’s better to come out and talk about it! I’m sure you had an amazing time in the Middle East as well!

  28. Kelly

    Love that you’ve posted it. It’s so completely true, and I’m sure everybody is getting these same comments from their friends and family. But, hey – if you die doing what you love, then at least you died doing what you love!

  29. Jojo

    This is just like what I tell people when they say I am doing “crazy” things! I’d rather die doing something totally cool and boring haha Keep going with your adventure, girl! And many well wishes for an amazing adventure in the middle east!

  30. Tiffany

    Great read!!!! I completely agree with your perspective but have never been able to put into words. Most times I end up throwing out statistics like you’re “more likely to be killed in a car crash getting that morning coffee than someone is to be killed in a plane crash or terrorist attack”, but it completely resonates with me when you said that researching and planning for trips is your norm. It’s how you live and enjoy life.

  31. Breeze

    Haha you go girl!!! I love traveling and now that I have a family we travel together. There are many things to be scared of but the scariest thing is a life full of regrets! Enjoy your travels!

  32. Megan

    Well said. I love to travel, especially to warm and tropical locations. Now since I got married last year in getting the ‘but what about Zika’ lecture from my mother. I don’t plan on having kids anytime in the foreseeable future, I don’t want to not live my life and miss out on what i love to do most because of what someone else thinks. If and when the time that i want kids even comes I will obviously take precautions.

  33. Ilena Gudino

    Live fast die young bad girls do it well! What is the point of traveling or living for that matter if you aren’t trying something new and taking risks? Truly you are my soul sister! Love from the 6, your GLT woe

    1. Gabby

      Girl Ilena!! I had one comment-convo with you and I can already tell you are so flippin awesome haha thank you for reading! 🙂 My GLT woe!

  34. Rosemary

    Love this post. We can die at any time – either traveling or in the comfort of our neighborhoods. Made the choice, live and travel rather than let fear stop me. Glad you are living fast and soaking up life. Great read!

  35. Jeanette

    Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well is such a good quote! You need to take some risks to live the life you want to have. See you on Tbex this summer, gonna be fun to get to know you!

  36. Eloise

    We can die tomorrow, no matter what we do and how safely we plan our life… So better enjoy life than be worried! 😉 It’s true that by traveling to some countries or doing some activities, we take some extra risks. But well, some take risks by not moving enough from their sofa, or by playing rugby. Or as you said, by driving to work. As long as you are aware of the risks (no matter what you do), you are the best person to judge if it is worth it. Good luck 🙂

  37. Sydney Galoozis

    Gabby I love you. You are so inspiring and I hope to run into you in some amazing country across the world when I get the courage(and money) to do the same thing!

    1. Gabby

      SYDNEY! The fact that you read this and commented on it means the entire world to me. I love you so much thank you <3 You’ve always had the courage (I totally understand the money lmfao), and I can’t see the amazing things you’ll do.

  38. Ana Levley

    Haha I agree and I am traveling with my husband and puppy IN the US! We lived in New Orleans for a month and during Christmas and New Years when most shootings happened. I think if you keep your wits about you and choose to research and go to places as well as keep an eye out, you will be as safe as you can be. But in reality, no where is really “safe” – I mean, I think we had more chance of dying from our drive from Texas to New Orleans because there was reported tornados, flash floods, and lightening storms on the way there. I believe you go anywhere you like but just research before you go or talk to people who live there and then follow their advice. As long as you have some sort of safety or plan b in mind then you should be fine. Either way it is worth living life than watching it on tv.

  39. Katy

    There’s no reason to stop travelling when you have kids. We have covered a lot of ground with our nearly 3 year old twins. Their passports have so many stamps. I am much more cautious now however and we did reconsider a recent trip to Belgium as the terrorist attacks happened the day before. But not for long. Off we went to Belgium. Living in fear is not living. I also feel strongly that we are so privileged to be able to travel freely. Most of the world’s population can’t do this for political or economic reasons. If you don’t go out and enjoy planet Earth responsibly when you have the opportunity then shame on you.

  40. Caroline

    Yessssssss! So much yes.

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. People always ask me if I get scared travelling alone or to “third world countries” and I always tell them not to be scared because that’s what holds us back from experiencing and doing things.
    Really glad you wrote this piece 🙂

  41. Phuong

    Well said!! I’ve always told my family that if I die while I’m traveling, know that I was happy living my life to the fullest.

    “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” ~ Robin Sharma

  42. Amy Caitlin

    I love this! So many people told me it wasn’t safe to travel on my own and yet I felt safer on the other side of the worl than some places in my own city! That MIA quote is perf

  43. Cathy

    I have kids so I don’t go to places known to be dangerous but I still live and travel. Heading to Tanzania last year some wanted me to cancel due to Ebola- on the other side of that large continent known as Africa! Now heading to Dominican Republic I often hear concerns of Zika. There will always be a fear and a reason to not travel. It is a risk (much smaller than people think) that I am willing to take. Roars to you!

    1. Gabby

      I totally understand, and I probably will change my lifestyle if I start a family as well 🙂 Kudos to you for still traveling so much, I just went to Kenya last year which is right next door to Tanzania! <3 Much love to you soul sister!

  44. Sally

    YASSS this post is EVERYTHING. Especially the MIA quote – classic! Honestly, I’m Arab-American. I’ve been to these so-called “dangerous” places and have never found them to be dangerous at all. I mean, obviously don’t visit the war-torn countries, but people would be shocked to find that 80-90% of the countries in North Africa and the Middle East are just as safe as traveling to any place in South America or South East Asia. The media loves to scare people. You’re going to have an amazing time on your travels (you’re going to be based in the UAE if I remember correctly?) and I hope you can be another ambassador to show people that there’s more to the Middle East than terrorism! Can’t wait to follow your adventures 🙂

    1. Gabby

      Sally you are a bad ass! I TOTALLY agree, media has sensationalized the violence in the Middle East when really it’s only a few countries, and the rest are just as dangerous as anywhere else.

      Yes I’ll be in the UAE! Totally my goal to write about my travels there and change at least one mind! Thank you for your support!

  45. Anisa

    The sad thing is bad things can happen anywhere, anytime. Not traveling is not necessarily safer. So yes I agree you have to try to live your life.

  46. Nicole C.

    ALL OF THIS!!!!! I recently returned back to the States from Singapore, and I had people ask me if it was safe there. Whenever asks me if x country is safe, I always flip the question in return and ask them if the United States is safe. Here’s a fun fact that I always share with fellow Americans that ask me this question: The United States isn’t even the in the top 50 safest countries in the world (and neither is the UK as well). The US is ranked #77 and I believe the UK is ranked in the middle 50s. In fact, Singapore is ranked #2, and an even bigger plot twist to all the people that are Middle East-phobic: Qatar and the UAE were ranked in the top 10 (I forget the exact number). I try to be patient with people who don’t really travel outside the US or the American-like countries like Western Europe, but it’s so mind boggling how small minded people can be.

    1. Gabby

      I completely agree Nichole, and thank you for your comment! The West has such a skewed mentality, and I also agree we sort of put ourselves on a pedestal like “We’re the best, so we’re definitely the safest”, when really the US has political unrest, prejudice, gun violence, etc. just like other dangerous countries, except we use prettier words to describe it all.

      Either way, I won’t stop traveling even if there’s a risk of danger, because there’s danger everywhere! Might as well lively boldly and fully! 🙂

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