Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Would You Die For?

I love to travel. My love is apparent in the fact that I lament only having been to six countries before my 22nd birthday (never mind that my parents have only been to two each, my father because he was born in another one). It became pretty clear when I chose to study in Kenya for a semester, rather than graduate early. It was even more obvious when I gave my boyfriend an ultimatum about traveling with me in the future before agreeing to become a serious couple. Let's face it, I love it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Trust me, I've seen quite a bit of ugly.

People often question this love. They never fail to remind me how it will be difficult to have a family, how I need to settle down at some point. They remind me how expensive it is, how time consuming it is, and how mishaps always occur (lost bags, delayed flights, credit and debit cards screwing up). Finally, they often remind me how dangerous it is.

The other stuff to me is very easy to work around. If men can travel with families, why not a woman? I've known several woman with both traveling careers and families. To me, that's remedied with a supportive spouse and prudence in location choices when young children are present (like, I would not be opposed to living in Kenya or Peru with a small child. I would be opposed to living in Somalia or Mexico when I have small children). Expense takes care of itself with financial prioritizing, plus I can accept jobs overseas and earn a comfortable salary. Mishaps happen all the time and make for hilarious stories later on (I have PLENTY of stories from being stuck in London for two days with no money). However, I do need to talk about danger.

Travel, like anything else, has risks. Anything that attracts tourism is likely to have pickpockets. Further, in other places, there are risks for infectious diseases, and some places have high rates of kidnappings, security threats and in some cases murder. As a woman, I face the risk of rape wherever I go (whether that's in the U.S. or in other countries but I pretty much have that risk alive or dead and that is something I've come close to facing). Yes, we can get our shots, have local guides, live in high security compounds, boil our water, wear our wallets and documents under clothes, and make sure our phones can be used in any part of the world. At the same time, I want a career in Peace and Conflict Resolution. What does that mean? It means Katie's putting her life on the line.

Yes, I may die as a result of my career. Maybe I end up in unfriendly territory, I stand up against the Mafia, I do research on a specific conflict. Maybe I catch a disease no one can cure as a result of my work. Maybe the plane crashes or there's a natural disaster. Maybe there's a fire and the building codes aren't up to par like they are in the Western world. I'm not advocating recklessness here. I would never go looking for trouble, would gladly take any health and security workshop I needed and would honestly research and discern certain placements and opportunities before jumping the gun. I would invest in traveler's insurance and always make contacts before I head to a new place. However, to deny the real and sometimes mortal risks of my chosen path would be an act of dishonesty.

In truth, I could die from just about anything, young or old. The risks I mentioned happen in the U.S. as they do in the rest of the world, albeit in different frequencies for each risk. Yet everyone dies at some point. I could not think of a more fitting death than one which involved serving my fellow man and doing what I truly loved. In addition, if I can't find something I'd give my life for, what do I have to live for?

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