Considering crime when travel planning
Considering crime abroad when planning where we should or should not visit, a generalised opinion emerged from friends and through media that, let’s say, Africa is dangerous, America is not. Then, shortly before leaving for our first stop in Johannesburg, South Africa, I saw a news report on the growing violence in the area we were about to visit.
It featured the increasing number of rapes in the Township of Diepsloot, nearby where we would be staying in Sandton. Around 200,000 people live in the Township with 1 in 3 men admitting to being a rapist. I then read about a 14-year-old girl raped and murdered and that this too was becoming more commonplace in the area. Absolutely shocking.
With all this crime, why then would I want to visit such a place? I did question myself.
But would you visit anywhere if you looked into the darkest areas of their society?
Is crime abroad in a more familiar place, more palatable?
I particularly love Disney World in Florida, which I visit every other year. I go with a purposeful air of denial of the surrounding gun crime and inevitable murders that I watch on the local news before skipping off to the parks. Somehow this crime seems familiar, almost normalised by America itself through their multi-million dollar Hollywood industry. But, if we measure morality, surely both situations are equally wrong.
Today we visited our friends in the Townships around Johannesburg and met the most welcoming, generous people making the very best of their tough living conditions. People came from their homes nearby to see us because they had heard ‘people from overseas’ were coming. They chatted excitedly, all telling us how welcome we were and offering their hospitality. One older woman could not comprehend where ‘overseas’ actually was and asked if it was in heaven! I resisted saying yes. We did not feel in danger at any time and would love to have been able to stay longer and share more stories.
Yes, there are areas of poverty, but this should not necessarily be equated with crime. Most people are merely getting about the business of living.
Crime abroad is no different from crime at home.
So, am I really in any more danger in South Africa than in some regions of Florida, I don’t know? I do know that the act of some, however abhorrent it is, does not represent the majority. I lived in London where it is increasingly common to hear of stabbings resulting in the murder of teenagers in my area. Yes, it makes you live more cautiously, perhaps, but it does not stop you from living.
The world over is full of the good and the bad. Rape occurs to the richest and poorest of us; in 5-star hotels in London and Townships of South Africa. Do we deal with it better in the United Kingdom? Not really. Wealth does not represent morality at any level. Likewise, poverty does not make one a criminal. I have seen the most exceptional generosity among the poor and the most considerable corruption of power and greed in the rich.
Some family and friends questioned why we are visiting these off the beaten track ‘dangerous’ places. Well, it’s because we recognise that yes there is crime abroad just as there is crime at home. We want to see the world. To really see it. To experience the good, the bad and the as yet unknown and this cannot be discovered in a 5-star Hotel Lobby. Our visit to the Townships today confirmed that. Life itself is a dangerous thing, but sometimes you just have to go out and live it.
You can read more about how Dan and I met here: From death row to a bowl of chips
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