Danger, Safety & Adventure: A New Kind of Intersectionality

“Worried parents say, ‘Go with a buddy.’ Doctors say, ‘Get vaccinated.’ But your backpack says, ‘What are we waiting for?’

~”How to Defy the Definition of Dangerous”

I reminisced “TIA” and Savannah Dry while reading this, but mostly nodded my head to the rhythm of every “yes, yes, so true” sentence. This was my daily soapbox speech in South Africa.

I took trains they said were “too dangerous” for my fragile, white, Western self. I talked to locals who were “black not colored” and therefore too dangerous. I refused to dance at clubs who denied entrance to my colored friends. I walked home at night with just another female friend when they had warned we should be “too scared” to do that.

In my situation, studying abroad, fearmongering was used to assuage the nerves of our home universities. Promising them it was safe to send us meant keeping us too scared to live outside of our “international” bubble. They dubbed everything we did in the rhetoric of an “international experience” – living only with other Westerners in a locked, guarded, gated community; heavily encouraging us to take the “international” classes offered only to exchange students and even pointing us in the direction of pale white bars.

It worked for many students – the friends that balked when the few of us “brave” souls caught the next train to Cape Town instead of hiring a car for 5x the amount or the ones who couldn’t believe we had the gall to enter that “black” bar.

I lived in South Africa like a human being, not a porcelain doll. I walked the streets of Bangkok alone, like a human being, not a foreigner unaware. I backpacked through Mozambique, curious, alert but unaffected. I travel alert, aware, conscious of my surroundings. All the things I’m bad at in my day-to-day life (ie: noticing things, remembering things, common sense) I try to master when I’m somehwere new in the world. With that concerted effort, research into my destination, its people and their experiences and an open mind – I can negotiate the meaning of “dangerous” and of “safe.” At the end of most days, I flip them both on their heads.

To travel is to seek out the good and often find the bad – to accept that with the joys there will be setbacks, there will be danger. To only travel “safe” places is to enforce, to accept, to propogate the often racist, classist and uneducated meanings of “safe” that are too often left unspoken, unaddressed.

I’ve been asked if there’s anywhere on earth I wouldn’t want to go, and everytime the only answer I can give is a shrug and, “I don’t know – maybe Idaho?”

Great article, Matador & wanderingtally. Thanks for writing it!

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~ by C on February 24, 2010.

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