A very well-dressed, cultured lady and complete stranger on a bus in Rome gave Ruth explicit instructions on how to carry her purse so it would not be grabbed. Rome!
A lady on the underground metro in Buenos Aires admonished me for wearing my watch on my wrist instead of carrying it in my pocket. I learned later that it was not unusual for thieves to hack off hands to get at watches more easily. Urban legend? Fact? I never verified.
We’ve been assaulted in Madrid, ripped off in Brussels, robbed in Washington, DC, and this week I blogged about why we’ve decided not to go to Belarus on our own next autumn.
So I was surprised and fascinated by an article in the TRAVEL section of The Sunday Oregonian today named, “Overcome the fear factor and discover Guatemala” by Alan Solomon. He goes on to report “well-documented bursts of excessive violence, including the murderous kind.” He mentions that the US State Department reports that there were 40 murders per week in Guatemala City in 2011. He speaks of a square where tour guides won’t let passengers get off the bus because “unfortunately, they have incidents.” He talks about tourists with cameras being “fish in water”. The pickpockets are described as the cleverest in the world. He goes on to make Guatemala sound like a very desirable destination.
We have a friend/neighbor whose husband works for the US Government. He was assigned to Guatemala for, I believe, 2 years and she and their children went along. It was like being incarcerated she told me. She was so glad to leave after living in fear for so long that instead of flying from LA to San Francisco as planned she rented a car and drove instead just to experience the release of tension and freedom.
One of my best friends retired early to go to Belize and build a second home for him and his wife up in the cooler mountains near the Guatemala border. When the house was done and she was ready to retire and join him, the four of us planned an extensive trip around Central America together to celebrate. We had dates picked out, destinations determined, and concrete plans were underway when he was murdered. There was so much blood that the police, at first, thought he had been killed by a machete, but it turned out that he had been shot at close range. The killers were identified but never brought to justice because, I assume, the incident involved a drug cartel.
Are travelers who go to places like Guatemala and Belarus for cultural stimulation brave risk takers or naive potential victims taking foolish chances?