A Few Words about Safety (written for our moms)

Trip Start Jan 15, 2006
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Trip End Sep 05, 2006


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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, January 14, 2006

As we have shared our plans with folks, we frequently get questions/comments on the wisdom of embarking on this kind of journey. These range from the somewhat curious ("Is it safe?") to the mildly hysterical ("I hear that anyone who stops their car in South America will immediately have their tires stolen right off their hubs!!!). This blog entry is about why I believe this trip will be safe. Since the vast majority of the concern appears to be emanating from our mothers, I suspect that most of you will decide to stop reading here and restart with the next installment.

Now don't get me wrong. As I begin to consider the process of procreation, I find myself more sympathetic to parental concerns. Clearly, overprotectiveness of one's child has a deep-seated biological justification. Thanks to Darwin, we can easily understand that there will be few descendants from an ancestor who treated their children with the same concern that most of us currently show for our car keys. ("Honey, where did you leave that kid?")

Over time, a child can work to manage parental tendencies toward overprotectiveness. Proper training is critical to this process. For example, at 19, I announced that I was purchasing a motorcycle and driving it across the country. As you might imagine, this induced a strong sense of panic in the parental unit. Upon my return, two years later, training was complete and there was only a mild sense of concern.

One of the beauties of a powerful internet search engine is that it allows people with similar interests to find each other. It turns out that there is a significant community of people that choose to pack up all of their belongings and drive to a bunch of countries where you can't drink the water. Many of these wanderers choose to share their adventure on blogs such as this one.

One frequent observation in this community is that everyone has a fear of the unknown. My country/city is safe but watch out if you cross the border... Growing up in New Hampshire, I was frequently warned about the perils of visiting NYC. It turns out that most of these people had heeded their own warnings and stayed away from the Big Apple, but they had heard of a friend of a friend who had been mugged/drugged/killed.

I call this phenomenon the 'Here Be Dragons' syndrome. Medieval mapmakers did not know much about what was on the other side of the ocean so they simply drew a large fire breathing lizard at the edge of the map and wrote "Here Be Dragons." I am quite confident that we will not meet any dragons on this trip.

Most of our fellow wanderers have chosen to be quite agressive in their choice of routes. Africa, Columbia and Venezuela are all popular destinations. We will be avoiding these places. One wealthy gentlemen, Jim Rogers, built himself a bright yellow 4X4 Mercedes convertible (I think he did remove the "GRINGO" vanity plates). He then proceeded to drive to every godforsaken corner of the planet. At one point in Africa, he found himself in the midst of a civil war and calmly drove from one front line to the other. I will not be emulating this behavior. (Jim did manage to get a book published, Adventure Capitalist. It is quite entertaining.)

I recognize that others' actions do not necessarily guarantee safety. For example, motorcycle racing and cliff diving remain quite popular. The good news is that none of the blogs end in the middle of the trip. Everyone keeps typing and eventually makes it home.

We have come up with several techniques to minimize danger. For example, when we enter a big city, we will make sure to start early in the morning and get to our hotel by 10AM as we assume the criminal element may still be in bed at that hour. The Jeep will be parked in the hotel garage until it is time to leave, again, early in the AM.

If we are accosted by Maoist Rebels looking to finance the Revolution, we will pledge fealty to Marx, Engels and the cause of the proletariat. We will then hand over our keys and continue our journey on foot. (If any of my readers happen to know a Maoist Rebel, please do not pass this along, as he will likely consider us to be easy marks. I am also hoping that most of the Maoist Rebels did not complete their English classes.)

The bottom line is please do not worry about us. We are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, we know there are risks and we plan to be very cautious. There are plenty of fun, safe places in South America. We do not need to visit Hugo Chavez.

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Leslie and Charlie Dicke threw a delightful going away party for us on Thursday. It was great to see everyone, quaff a final cocktail on US soil and say our (temporary) goodbyes. We look forward to seeing everyone on the way back to the bay area in August and labor Day weekend.

Next stop, Santiago.
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