The Dangers of Travel

This could easily be a tongue-in-cheek article that the ‘dangers’ of travelling are things like: obtaining a global perspective, gaining an open mind, experiencing new things, people, tastes, etc. While travelling definitely puts you at risk of expanding your mind, it also puts you in real danger, with real costs.

It goes without saying: Be smart when you travel. Research safety risks ahead of time. Take proper precautions and get vaccinated. Use bug spray religiously. Bring water purification tablets, if necessary. These things are somewhat obvious. We all try to adhere to these recipes for safety, in varying degrees.

I’ve had my fair share of misadventures that were (mostly) no fault of my own. If you travel enough, you are bound to experience a few. After jaunting around South East Asia for a few months, my friends had personal stories of being bitten by a monkey, getting a small firework caught in an ear, breaking an ankle in Cambodia, and an intestinal bacterial infection in Thailand. Although I helped them through those experiences, none happened directly to me, except for one that we shared – almost getting kidnapped in Vietnam. Other than that, medically-speaking, I came out unscathed.  Or so I thought…


My Cost of Travel

Fast forward almost a year later and I got a full-time job that required me to get a TB (Tuberculosis) test. No big deal. I had one before I went to college (10 years prior). This time, however, the nurse told me there was something wrong. I got the blood test to verify and sure enough, I was diagnosed with Latent TB.

Latent TB is the dormant form of Tuberculosis. Because the bacteria is not active, it is not contagious and there are no visible symptoms. I was treated for it (months of taking high dosages of pills) and now I don’t have to worry about it except being a smear on my medical record.


Where did I get it?

That’s what you want to know, right? So, you can prevent it from happening to you.

That’s the bad news. I don’t remember someone coughing up blood on me, so there’s no way to know with certainty where I contracted it, in those 10 years between tests. I can tell you that I went to 18 different countries in those 10 years. When I compare that to the map of where TB is most prevalent, the most likely suspects are:

  1. Cambodia – Traveling on a 5-hour bus from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh next to a lady who was hacking into a baggie, while I tried desperately to lean as close to the window as possible.
  2. Dominican Republic – Sitting in the International Clinic waiting room, with a woman coughing next to me.
  3. Flight from Miami to Dominican Republic where the woman next to me was sick.
  4. United States – I also know someone who got Latent TB without ever leaving the U.S., so it is possible I contracted it right here at home. Luckily none of my travel mates got it, but this didn’t necessarily help rule anything out.


It’s Still Worth It

Do I regret going to Cambodia or Dominican Republic, assuming those MAY have been the places I caught an infectious disease? Hell no. Cambodia is one of my favorite countries in the world and while Dominican Republic is significantly lower on the list, I’m glad I went there. I’m glad I saw the things I did and met the people I met.

Maybe I would regret my travels, if I caught something more serious, you might think. Nope. This may sound morbid, but travel is something I would never regret, even if I died. I read an article last year called “If I die travelling, I would die happy” and I agree.

While watching The Martian (2015), {Spoiler alert} Matt Damon’s character transmitted a message for his family: “Please tell them, tell them I love what I do and I’m really good at it. And that I’m dying for something big and beautiful and greater than me. Tell them I said I can live with that.”

I paused the movie in this moment. This is exactly how I feel about traveling. If I die while traveling, I hope everyone can understand that I am OK with that. Traveling is to learn about something more beautiful and greater than yourself. So, I’d rather travel and risk my life than not have a life at all.


“A man can criticize a pilot for flying into a mountainside in fog, but I would rather by far die on a mountainside than in bed. What sort of man would live where there is no daring? Is life so dear that we should blame one for dying in adventure? Is there a better way to die?”

– Charles A. Lindbergh