Travelling During Times of Conflict

by Melissa on May 15, 2017 · 1 comment

In this day in age, travelling during times of conflict can be downright frightening. The Western news media has painted such a dark portrait of places like The Middle East, or even some places in Europe.  Personally, I haven’t let it stop me from travelling – I’ve always been of the mindset that bad things happen everywhere.  That said, I do try to be a bit logical about it – and therefore do not have plans to visit Iraq or Syria anytime in the foreseeable future.  But countries that have relatively stable governments?  They’re fair game, in my opinion.

travelling during times of conflict

My latest experience  telling my family that I was going to be travelling to a Middle Eastern country during these times of conflict went a little something like this:

“We’re going to our friend’s wedding in Jordan!” I excitedly told my parents.

“Jordan? Like… the Middle East?” My mom confirmed her geography.

“Yeah… but it’s totally safe.  The government there is super stable, and their military is one of the best in the world.” I shrugged it off hoping that would end our conversation.

I think anyone whose parents or loved ones consume too many news programs – like mine- would be a bit concerned. “What about ISIS?” “Aren’t you scared of terrorists?” “I just looked at a map- Jordan is right next to Syria, Iraq, Saudi, and Israel.” These and more are the types of sentiments I received after telling my family about my travel plans. It can be unnerving to even the most seasoned traveller and their family and support system.

Am I advising you to travel to downtown Aleppo? HELL NO! But I am saying perhaps don’t write off the idea of travelling to places like the Middle East so quickly just because of what Wolfe Blitzer is telling you on CNN.

My advice would be to do your research. Know your comfort zone. Travelling anywhere during times of conflict can be emotionally trying. There is a certain level of being on high alert – when visiting tourist sites, transiting through airports or train stations, etc. – which you may experience when travelling to the Middle East (or other places in the world) during times of conflict. For some, it may not be worth going through all this extra effort. Those people will settle on parking their butt at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Travelling during times of conflict, to areas of the world that are actively being affected isn’t for everyone, but it’s also no reason to stop seeing the world.

What to expect with travelling during times of conflict

Police and Military Presence

travelling during times of conflict

Everyone is on high alert these days. Europe, the United States, the Middle East and everyone else. It’s not uncommon to see a higher than normal amount of police or military presence when you are travelling during times of conflict. You’ll likely notice this personnel in the street, at tourist hotspots and in airports, train stations and on transit systems. When I got to Nice, France last summer, ready to embark on a week-long retreat for female entrepreneurs, the first thing I noticed was the heightened military presence. Men and women in their camouflaged military uniforms, complete with automatic weapons. They walked through the crowds in the arrival hall with their finger ready on the trigger. Did this make me uneasy? Maybe for a moment or two – I’ll admit it. But it’s just a sign of the times, and I’d rather there be the presence “just in case.”

Extra Security Measures

When Kris and I finally arrived in Jordan and pulled up to our hotel on the Dead Sea we were very surprised when the security at the front gates checked our car for car bombs before letting us enter and check in. Upon arriving at check-in, we had to go through metal detectors and had our luggage scanned through x-ray machines! While it was a bit unusual for us to experience this, it was reassuring to know that they were going to the effort provide safety to their guests. Expect more metal detectors, more pat downs, and more bag checks. Don’t huff and act inconvenienced, just go with it and be grateful that there are people taking the time to ensure safety.

Your Friends and Family Questioning “WHY!?”

People will hear that you’re headed to x-destination (Paris, Istanbul, Africa, The Middle East, Egypt, just to name a few.) and they will immediately be on high alert and question your choices. I’m of the mindset that bad things – like terrorist attacks- can happen anywhere, even at home. So why am I going to stop myself from taking an opportunity to see a bucket-list destination? In my head, that’s letting the bad guys win. Now I’m going to use common sense, and be extra cautious, extra attentive to my surroundings and it will probably be a little bit more stressful as a result. But in the end, I will have gotten to visit a new place and experience a new culture.

travelling during times of conflict

When I booked our trip to Jordan, we had to stop through Istanbul since we were flying with Turkish Airlines. My parents were actually more concerned about me being in Istanbul than they were about me going to Jordan – this was due to the numerous attack and unrest that had been happening (and continues to happen) in Turkey. When I got there, the reality was that the tourism industry has been hit hard – down 80% in the last year! It’s a real shame too because it’s such a cool city with so much to offer.

The Final Word

Is travelling during times of conflict going to cause you extraordinary amounts of stress?  If that’s the case, then perhaps try a different location that will keep your mind at ease.  For me, my biggest concern was what to pack – clothing wise- because I didn’t want to offend anyone.

travelling during times of conflict

Also, keep in mind that I have some experience with being abroad while terrorist activity and natural disasters have happened relatively close by.  My encounters include:

  • a bomb threat and evacuation at the Nice Airport while I waited for other members of the retreat I was attending to arrive
  • the Bastille Day terrorist attack in Nice – I was 25min away in the countryside
  • a plane making an emergency landing due to a bomb threat while I was at the Stockholm airport -on my first ever solo trip abroad
  • the Nairobi Westgate Shopping Mall attack – my travels had since moved on to Zimbabwe, but I had been there – in that mall!-  a month prior to the attack.
  • the massive 2011 Christchurch earthquake – I had JUST left New Zealand for Australia, but the friends I had made during my Stray tour who continued onto the South Island were in the middle of it.

Ultimately, travel to where you’re comfortable going to.  If the idea of going to the Middle East, or Paris, or Istanbul make you uneasy, don’t go.  Save those trips for another time – when hopefully the world is a bit more stable.  Use common sense, and put your safety first.  Listen to and trust your gut.

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Have you travelled during times of conflict?  What has your experience been?  Comment below!

travelling during times of conflict

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anne May 17, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Great article…..it’s hard not to worry about your kids no matter what age they are.

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