Travelling and seeing as much of the world as possible is an interest shared by millions of people worldwide. Experiencing the culture, the food, the sights of somewhere completely foreign evokes an experience unlike many others.
It’s something that many Bear Grylls wannabes like to tackle on their own, packing the bare essentials into a single bag, jumping on a plane, landing in a new country and navigating their way around with just nothing but a Lonely Planet guide.
And for the most part, travelling – going solo especially – is enjoyable and memorable – and can some induce crazy experiences – and veteran soloists will tell you once you start, you’ll get the ‘travel bug’ and will never be able to quit until your bucket list is complete.
Of course, it’s well documented that not all countries are safe and for solo travellers, not having that second or third person as back up can present a heightened danger risk. But unless a reported incident is high profile enough to receive national or international news coverage, you don’t tend to hear about such negative stories.
This Reddit thread – started by Tommymel1989 – has put a change to that, with the original poster regaling their story of being kidnapped in South America and the effect it has had on their life.
“A couple of months into our travel we were kidnapped at gunpoint outside a coffee shop…we escaped with little injury, but a lot of psychological trauma and still affects us to this day.”
“I’m putting this out here, to help me recover from the PTSD and put this behind me, but two, to talk to anyone that’s been through this or has suffered and how I’ve been recovering from it to begin to trust and be able to leave the house without anger or fear pent up inside me.”
“I guess this post is for me to release some feelings and thoughts,” they continue,
“I’m wary of people and act kinda weird without noticing in social situations due to the anxiety of being in open space or near people I don’t know.”
Tommymel1989 describes the full kidnapping experience further into the post, which we encourage you to read.
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It brings to light the effect a dangerous situation can have on one’s mental health, and considering the numerous responses evoked by other travellers, it’s an all too common occurrence.
User GregNortonsStache says, “I had a very similar happen [sic] to me many years ago (at knifepoint rather than gunpoint but still terrifying) also in Latin America.”
“Messed me up for a good while. I hear you about being terrified of strangers and general distrust of everyone – for me, I literally couldn’t get into a vehicle besides my own for about 5 months.”
“I also felt really negative toward people in general – I felt like everyone was horrible and cruel in the world, and it took a lot of time to change that mindset.”
GregNortonsStache also admits they “…saw a therapist for a few months, not sure it honestly helped though, maybe a little.”
“I just put my head down and worked a bunch of jobs and stayed really busy and didn’t give myself time to think too much.”
While Latin America be on the receiving end of a lot of negative press, both the original poster and commenters all say that the sharing of their experiences is in no way meant to put others from booking trips there, but rather to just make them aware that risky situations are a very real threat.
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It’s not just South America that’s dangerous though – although, as a 2019 report found Venezuela to be the most dangerous place for solo travellers – as CheatReynold adds, “I was assaulted and mugged in Brussels, so even in places you might consider safe this kind of thing can happen anywhere. I accidentally walked through one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Istanbul but had zero issues, yet I get attacked in the capital of the EU?”
“There’s no one size fits all solution to navigating experiences like this.”
Cherrib0mbb surmises perfectly by saying, “Many places in the world are safe to explore, but in countries with lots of political unrest and poverty, you really have to be careful and do your research (actual research, not stereotypes), or just avoid altogether if you’re looking to have fun.”