When I tell people that I’m heading off on any kind of adventure, I tend to attract grim horror stories from every Tom, Dick, and Harry…
Me: I’m going on a camping trip in the outback!
Tom: I hope you don’t break down in the middle of nowhere. Did you see that movie Wolf Creek? Careful, young lady, there are lots of psychopaths out there.
Me: I’m planning a trip to Africa!
Dick: Africa, huh? I heard a story about a couple who were driving around Africa. Their car broke down in the middle of nowhere and they were found dead in the car, half eaten by lions.
Me: I’m going hiking in Nepal!
Harry: Oh, I hope you weren’t planning to eat any food there. I heard a story about a guy who contracted type six dysentery from contaminated chicken tikka masala, and then he shat himself into a twenty year coma.
Thanks so much!
But please shut up now.
I’m well aware of the dangers of travel. When I pick up a Lonely Planet guide, I skip directly to the Dangers section. I’ve read almost every adventure tragedy book that has ever been written. I Google ‘How many people are killed by animals every year?’ on a regular, somewhat obsessive basis (Saturday nights, a glass of wine, Wikipedia’s death-by-hippo statistics … oh yeah, now we’re talking).
I know the risks. I’m not ignorant. These warnings are uncalled for.
Friend: Guess what? I just got a new job in the city!
Me: Whoa! Are you crazy? Legionnaires disease travels through office air conditioning systems, hospitalizing between 8,000 and 18,000 people per year. That job may kill you.
Friend: Guess what? I bought a new car!
Me: I saw a really horrific crash on the news last night. You just bought yourself an overpriced coffin on wheels, my friend.
Friend: Guess what? I’m pregnant!
Me: Oh, god, be careful with that. I know someone who split her perineum when she was giving birth and they sewed her bits up all wrong.
I don’t talk like that, though. Why? It’s socially unacceptable. If I reacted this negatively to everyday topics, then people would assume that I had Aspergers.
Also, I trust that other adults are capable of doing their own research in order to make sensible decisions for their lives. When somebody is floating sky-high in a bubble of inspired bliss, I don’t go shooting at them with missiles of death and fear.
Adventure may be risky, but so is life. It comes with a 100% chance of death.
And while I’m touched that people take time out of their day to offer free safety tips and third-hand horror stories, I don’t understand why morbid warnings are a socially acceptable reaction to talk of travel and adventure.
They could at least butter me up first with, “Wow, that sounds like so much fun!” before shoving their cold, un-lubricated death warning up my rear end.
Have you ever had anything like this happen to you? Why do you think it’s so common for people to dish up grim warnings when it comes to travel and adventure?
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.