Why Travel to "High Risk" Destinations
CONFLICT, ISOLATION, WAR, TERRORISM AND AUTOCRACY
These issues are not limited to screens and lecture halls; rather, we are able to engage with them first hand through the people who have and still are experiencing them. There is so much we can learn from the experiences of others, and to meet people first hand, talk with them, hear their stories, and share in their culture is tremendous.
It is our belief that honest and authentic engagement tears down walls, increases mutual understanding, and instills a sense of humility and gratefulness. This has the potential to change lives. “High risk” countries should not be excluded from this process. While each country presents its own set of challenges, in most cases there are safe ways to visit and engage responsibly.
To us, the most difficult and rewarding aspects of tourism involve the willingness to visit countries on the infamous “travel advisory” list. If done carefully, it is not only possible to travel in these countries, but also make a truly memorable experience that can change how you see yourself and others, and leave a lasting impact on your hosts, both emotionally and financially.
Travelling to these countries is not without risk, but many risks may be mitigated through careful planning, having well-trained and experienced ground teams, thorough research on safe zones, having the right fixers to navigate complicated political and social situations, and of course making sure your properly insured to travel to these countries.
HIRE EXPERT AND EXPERIENCED LOCAL FIXERS AND GUIDES
We cannot stress the importance of this enough. An excellent guide with lots of experience on the ground, a strong local social network, good standing, and capable of working with foreigners is the most valuable asset you can possibly have to staying safe and truly maximizing your time in these normally difficult to access regions.
RESEARCH SAFE ZONES
We work with our local teams on the ground to establish constantly monitored risk levels for each region and city within the countries we operate trips. Many times this comes down to several factors: politics, demographics, language, regional stability, neighbouring regions, current events, and loads of other factors.
For example, regions of Afghanistan we are willing to travel in are generally majority ethnically Hazara, Wakhi, Tajik or Uzbek, are in the central and northern and northwestern regions of the country, and have largely avoided Taliban influence over the last several years if not longer. Our guides and fixers come from these regions and are extremely sensitive to the situation on the ground there, including on the roads and air links between them. We do not ever push our partners into regions they are uncomfortable in— they are the expert eyes and ears on the ground and we heed their advice carefully.
Most of the time, conflict within a country is isolated to specific regions. Within many of these countries, from Pakistan to Yemen and beyond, we see pockets of different religions, sects, languages, cultures and allegiances in conflict with one another. These issues rarely if ever spill into other regions of these countries. Regionality matters when looking to seriously mitigate risk, and being well aware of the situation, transportation, evacuation plans, and networks is extremely important.
GET INSURANCE THAT WILL ACTUALLY COVER YOU
Even a safe region within a country currently declared a “war zone” is excluded from most travel insurance plans, like Socotra Island for example. While Socotra is technically part of Yemen, it has remained completely isolated from the conflict on the mainland. This being said, special insurance providers are needed in order to cover you for war zone, terrorism and travel insurance if travelling to any of these countries.
The vast majority of travel insurance providers will exclude coverage for activities deemed as dangerous (like SCUBA diving, rock climbing and mountaineering for example). Additionally, if you check the fine print, you’ll likely see that they will decline coverage if you travel to any country or region that your country of residence has deemed a travel risk (if there is a travel warning or travel advisory posted before you purchase the insurance plan, its generally rendered useless if you travel to any of those countries on the list).