Travel Paranoia Runs Rampant

22 May 2009 Post Author:
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In Monday’s blog post we talked about how important it is for travel writers to know the laws and customs of a country before you head out to visit it.

Today we’re exploring the other side of that coin – Travel Paranoia and how some new laws in certain places are causing tourists and travel writers to cross those destinations off their itinerary.

Monday’s post referred to a new law in London that forbids anyone from taking a photograph that includes police officers, ostensibly because they don’t want ‘terrorists’ to know the whereabouts, numbers, or movements of their police force. On some level it makes sense. Here’s an excerpt from the article,

“…This scenario is not as far-fetched as it sounds. In the wake of the new counter-terrorism Act issued by the Home Office, travelers may find it hard to bring home pictures from the most famous London landmarks if they happen to catch police officers in their shots.”

Other cities, including many in the US are not any better – many famous landmarks no longer allow vehicular traffic to approach, meaning a long walk or crowded bus ride to get close enough to explore, both of which can be difficult for those tourists with physical impairments. Some places no longer allow large crowds to gather. And most airports no longer allow one to park at the curb to pick up an arriving traveler unless they are already standing at the curb — no more running inside to help my elderly mother with her baggage.

It’s just plain poor timing that governments are cracking down on potential threats by passing laws effecting travelers at the same time that the Travel Trade is struggling with decreasing tourism. What we’re seeing now is a conflict between those in the hospitality industry who are trying desperately to attract new visitors, and bureaucrats who are trying to protect their citizens. Paranoia about the risk of terrorism runs directly counter to welcoming tourists with open arms. And tourism is losing the battle.

Our advice?
Don’t let paranoia win.  By all means do go ahead and travel, but be sure you’re armed with plenty of patience and a good dose of humor – you’ll likely wind up needing both.

Case in point: I’ve just returned from a Press Trip to Cozumel a few weeks ago, where the H1N1 flu virus had the media in a tizzy.   We experienced the chaos first-hand and lived to tell the tale.  Primarily because the paranoia caused by the irrationally over-exuberant media reporting apparently caused everyone to overlook the fact that the H1N1 virus is, in actuality, milder and less virulent than the normal flu that passes around the US every year.  If I’d allowed fear to rule my life, I’d have missed a great trip and a great group of travel writers.

Try to not let inconvenience upset you (which is just plain good advice in any situation). As frustrating as it may be if you encounter some new law — even one that seems ridiculous — it helps to remember that it’s probably intended to protect everyone, even you, from those that could – and would – cause harm to others by posing as tourists. It’s a new age of travel that we live in, and we need to adjust to it. Or go the way of the dinosaur.

We can’t suggest that governments reverse travel-related anti-terrorism laws, or stop trying so hard to keep their people safe, but we can suggest that travelers NOT let paranoia stop them from visiting their destinations of interest.  Especially now when there are SO many great travel deals available. So go – enjoy! And take photographs! Even if you have to ask the police to move. Nicely.

~Rod

Have you encountered a new law or situation that seemed overly paranoid to you? How did you handle it?

13 Responses to “Travel Paranoia Runs Rampant”

  1. JavaLover says:

    Interesting post. I think peopled need to CHILL OUT when they travel and just in general. Can’t say that I’ve experienced anything that would allow paranoia to come over me. Talk about being easily controlled…

  2. SarahQT says:

    Yeah, everyone is paranoid about the H1N1 flu virus — especially in the USA. I can’t travel to the grocery store without hearing about it. I think common sense goes a long way. If it makes you feel better, wear a mask when you fly or travel. It would make a great conversation piece…

  3. ZenTraveler says:

    If peoples minds are full of clutter and negativity they will carry this mind-set wherever they go. Remember, you take yourself with you wherever you go. I agree with JazzyTraveler and SarahQT — common sense goes a long way and just CHILL OUT. I do my best to ignore others — what they think does not affect me. I refuse to buy into paranoia. It is a great controlling mechanism.

  4. Rod says:

    Thanks for the feedback……..just wanted to be sure people keep things in perspective…..you know what they say…..”paranoia will destroy ya’”……..

  5. Stewie_B says:

    Oh! My! Don’t you know that paranoia is the oldest trick in the book. You get the people riled up and this breeds more paranoia. I mean really, talk about having control issues :)

    I’ve seen people get really nutty about the H1N1 flu virus. Really, it was a great way to make sure people stay at home and SPEND MONEY traveling around their city and state. I bet you didn’t think about one!

  6. Rod says:

    Hi Stewie………I think you are on to something…..The US Tourism & Travel Board is behind the whole thing…….and I thought it was Dr. No….

  7. Good post Rod !!
    Since 9/11, Washington, DC has had it’s share of new safely policies, most not very tourist friendly, but we carry on.

    My car has been subject to searches at times when passing the Capitol Building. You can no longer enter a Smithsonian museum or gov’t. building without passing through a metal detector and emptying your pockets or having ladies’ purses searched.

    For big events, the grounds or park around the White House are often closed. On the National Mall, sometimes you can’t bring a backpack or cooler or enter with a bike to events and concerts.

    Around the memorials, traffic has been diverted, barriers erected and police presence heightened.

    I’m not sure these policies will do much if some nut really wants to blow themselves up and take others with them, but I have no problem with the added security measures. If it makes people feel a bit more secure, I guess that’s a good trade off. Bit I just laugh when 80 year old grandmothers are searched entering a museum.

    One benefit, keeping vehicle traffic out of these areas has made them more pedestrian and bike friendly.

    So to me it’s not more than a slight inconvenience, usually taking less than a minute. Now if I could only remember to take my extra camera battery out of my pocket, I’d probably get through security faster.

  8. I agree – no need to be paranoid. Life always goes on. For example, I didn’t let 9/11, SARS, Bali, SwineFlu, Economic Crisis in Argentina etc etc stop me from travelling. I guess there’s nothing like a good media beatup to make people paranoid.

    One thing that I have learned – media portrayal of a place is usually nowhere near the reality.

  9. Rod says:

    Hey Jon,

    Great to hear from you! As a DC dweller you have more than your share of Paranoid constituents running amok. But you are living at the epicenter during an interesting time in history. So enjoy…….and get a Flip. Hope your dining creations are passing the Man Test……

  10. Rod says:

    Greetings Tart,

    It’s always great to get an International opinion. And I wholeheartedly agree that the Mainstream Media has little, if any, conscience.

    I recently had the rare responsibility of sitting around a hospital TV for 3 days while supporting a family member after surgery.

    After 3 days of watching the Mexican Drug Cartel kill everyone in Mexico (and we were next), Xanax became a new food group.

    I still get anxiety attacks every time I walk by a TV.

    Thanks for the input & Keep on Truckin’.

  11. MaryK. says:

    How funny! I just go with the flow. Too bad about London, I just love that city! Great shopping and pubs. I think they temporarily “lost their heads” by implementing a bunch of strict rules!

  12. Rod says:

    Hi MaryK,

    I agree with you, London is a ton of fun. Hopefully the world will settle down and we can all get along……That sounded like a Beatles song…..

  13. Monty Jones says:

    Thank you for sharing.
    I take trips to Latin America via buses.
    If you go anywhere down in Latin America, consult your Dr. about any vacinnations.
    I f any traveler goes thru Nicaragua or EL Salvador or Ecuador you need to use US $ not Euros from Europe. These countries are getting away from their currency.
    No matter what country you go to never, never, never take photos of anyone in uniform, never.
    Travellers ckecks is the safest bet for money.
    Be careful in large markets in Peru, Guatemala or any of these countries.
    Buy a money belt and never put your wallet in your front pocket.
    If you get sick go to a Dr. Its cheap. In Peru a Dr. cost me $3.
    All my trips were good trips, but never keep your guard down. Always be alert and do all bus travel in the daylight hours.
    MONTY

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