I will be the first to admit I live in a bubble of sheltered existence. Growing up decently privileged, I like to think nothing bad can happen to me, traveling or in general. You hear all the stories of people getting raped, robbed or worse abroad, but that's only in bad places like Sudan, Somalia... the really off-the-beaten war torn countries and drug havens like Mexico, right? Wrong.
I read about the Americans who got abducted in Peru en route to Machu Picchu less than one month after we were there on virtually the same trip. Granted, we didn't have a car and didn't come across any villagers, but what made their trip such a nightmare and ours one for the record books? Absolutely nothing; wrong place, wrong time. It could've happened to anyone, anywhere.
But even that horror story didn't deter me from the idea of traveling. So what did? When it happened to someone I know. That was the game-changer. It makes it all just a little too real. My friend told me his tale and it shook me to the core.
He's a decent sized guy and ethnically ambiguous enough to blend in anywhere and not look American (sad, but reality). For some reason, though, the Bedouins in Egypt threatened repeatedly to behead him. Was it a language barrier, were they messing around? Who knows, but I sure wouldn't want to find out.
This is how it went down
It was a normal holiday in Egypt over Christmas break. See the sphinx, take some photos at the pyramids. But it was New Year's Eve, and he wanted to do something fun so he did the most logical thing anyone traveling on their own would do- ask a local, who happened to be the men who took him on a private camel ride through the desert. They promised a great party in their tent as long as he brought cash (red flag, but not super out of the ordinary).
What he got instead was a ride to the middle of nowhere surrounded by a gang of men waving weapons and knives, his wallet jacked and an interrogation that seemed to last hours of why they shouldn't cut his head off as he begged for his life and to be taken back to civilization.
Granted, Egypt has a shaky track record of being unsafe, but this was not the result of a political protest. There was no catalyst, no instigator. This wasn't 2011 when the threats were at their highest. This was now. present day, threatening medieval beheading.
I'm not saying I'd never travel alone again, but I will definitely keep my eyes open and be less oblivious to my surroundings. Recognizing it can happen to you is the first step.
And in case you were wondering, the Americans in Peru are doing better.