My book for this installment of “Travel Inspiring Reads” may seem to actually be the opposite. It is called “The World’s Most Dangerous Places.” But, oh, did it made me want to see those places! This book certainly made the adrenaline rush within me just by going through it. I liked how it classified danger by different vectors, like crime or just being a “forbidden” place.
What’s funny is that I read this book in its 1997 version and, looking back, some of the levels of danger in the places cited have abated whereas others not discussed have likely become “dangerous.” For example, Myanmar was classified as forbidden but very recently that has changed. Other places remain in the right category; again, in the forbidden grouping lies Iran, Iraq, Cuba, and North Korea.
One of my favorite writeups in the book is Albania. Classified under the forbidden group (something which no longer seems to be applicable), it is presented as a place that is “oil and water” with the mix of the Albanian majority with a small separatist Greek minority. More interestingly, he says has “nasty” neighbors in Serbia and Greece. Maybe the former made sense in 1997 but I never would have thought Greece would be a nasty neighbor (Turkey aside, perhaps?). Apparently, at the time the book was written, there was some unrest from a small group of ethnic Greeks. Either it has subsided or it is just not covered in the news we get through major news outlets (who are likely talking more about some dumb starlet or bad boy athlete than real news… soapbox!).
In terms of pure danger, some of the places the book called out were and remain dangerous. Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan to name a few. But mercifully, I can re-read this book years later and be thankful that places like Cambodia, Peru, Colombia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and The Philippines have become safer and great places to explore and visit while feeling safe (or as safe as one can be anywhere).
I also enjoyed the book’s self-awareness as it identifies its key weakness: the moment it is published, it is already out-of-date. Cleverly, it points out “coming attractions,” or those places likely to appear in the book in the future. Some of the places called out were called out correctly as things turned out, others did not (at least, not yet). On the former: Mali and Zimbabwe have become messy places indeed. On the latter: the Basque country has not exploded but instead remained fairly calm; Bangladesh has not fallen to civil war; China did not break up after Deng Xiaoping died; and Panama did not get re-taken by the Noriega crews nor became a mess after the Canal turned over in 1999.
I should seek out the latest version of the book and see what places feature prominently as dangerous. And see if the adrenaline kicks in like when I first read it so many years ago!