know-before-you-go

Know Before You Go: Understanding a Place Before Making the Journey

Graves being dug at Mount Herzl in Israel for soldiers lost in the Gaza conflict. Image by Colleen Hagerty.

We’re pleased to debut the fresh voices of the third cohort of the Wanderful Blogging Program! Stay tuned for new articles from new contributors. Don’t forget to tell them what you think in the comments!

For years, I felt like Southeast Asia was calling to me.

From my cramped New York City apartment, I’d gaze at photos of elephants frolicking in Thailand and monks receiving their morning alms in Laos, trying to imagine what it was like to explore these countries that seemed so foreign to anything I had ever seen.

Last summer, I decided it was finally time to make my dreams a reality, so I packed my bag.

My trip itinerary was ambitious: 14 countries in a little under 6 months. The journey would begin in the Middle East, where I had booked a few gigs as a freelance journalist. With my flight to Israel secured for mid-August, my biggest concern was how I’d handle the intense summer heat.

Then the Gaza conflict began…

…and I suddenly realized that my perfect trip may not proceed as planned.

In the weeks before my flight, I checked the news and State Department website religiously for updates as the two countries exchanged rockets and threats. Despite the concerns of friends and family, I ultimately made the decision to go to Israel as I had planned, modifying my schedule slightly to avoid Tel Aviv, which was facing significant bomb threats at the time.

I have always understood that travel comes with risks.

But I had never before found myself faced with a choice that carried such potentially serious consequences. The difficulty I faced then is what inspired me to write this column, which I hope will provide you with the information I so wished I had many times throughout my travels.

know-before-you-go
‘Dangerous’ areas are sometimes worth traveling to. But you have to get the facts first. Image from Pixabay.

Of course, there are plenty of reputable websites you can (and should!) turn to in times of crises, from news outlets to the U.S. State Department. But for me, these outlets individually fell short of providing me with a real understanding of what sort of impact these situations would have on a visitor.

Know before you go.

My goal for this column is to take those extra steps for you by pulling information from multiple reputable sources about popular tourist locales that are making headlines for troubling reasons. This could  include anything from military clashes to natural disasters to violence against people based on their gender, sexuality, race, or religion.  Along with providing practical information about the country, each post will offer a digestible overview of the current situation, explaining which specific regions are affected and giving recommendations from government agencies.

Of course, it is ultimately your choice whether or not you visit a conflicted area, and my goal is not to tell you what to do. Instead, it is to give you all the facts a savvy traveler would want to make an informed decision she can be confident about. Having been in that decision-making position, I will aim to provide you with the sort of guide that I personally would have wanted on the road — one that is quick and easy to read (even on your shaky hostel Wi-Fi!) without skimping on the information you need to be fully informed.

I want your help, too! I’d love for you to chime in below in the comments section with a region you would like to see covered next.

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