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Thinking About Travel Safety: Countries

Note: We weren’t sure if I should write this article about travel safety since we always want our stories to feel very positive. But we agreed that I did need to do the research anyway, and once it was done I realized that it was a very positive article after all. It has a few numbers, but it’s worth a read if the world feels like a dangerous place to you.

Dannie and I spent quite a bit of time looking at photos of beautiful sights in and around Europe. There was a lot that we liked, but there was a line we kept repeating: “That’s so pretty, but there’s no way we’re going there.” We’ll be traveling with our baby girl, and the last thing we want to do is put photography before safety. Later, when we discovered the limits on Schengen visits, I was forced to revisit some areas we’d ruled out, and I was kind of surprised what a little research taught me.

The countries we were most skeptical about were the ones we were least familiar with. Countries I knew only by name, like Bulgaria, and Croatia very foreign to me. Countries in proximity to danger zones felt dangerous by association. We even considered cutting our trip short by a few months, rather than spend half our time outside the Schengen area. If you think I’m about to tell you that my judgements about safety - based on intuition and ignorance rather than solid research - crumbled in the face of statistical evidence, you will not be disappointed by the rest of this post.

Needless to say, Dannie and I both felt a little bit ashamed to have been closed minded toward countries and cultures we knew little about. The whole point of this adventure was to show our daughter the world, and teach her about all that humanity has to offer. But we’d already started off on the wrong foot… before we’d even started off!

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Which Countries are Safe?

In the lists below I’ve italicized the countries I mentioned above. Not because they are similar in any way, but because we had originally dismissed them out of hand.

Here is a list of the countries we now plan to visit in 2017, in the order we plan to visit them (for now):

  • Morocco
  • Croatia
  • Bulgaria
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • France
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom
  • Czech Republic
  • Germany
  • Austria

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Here are those same countries in the order of their score on the Global Peace Index, a measure of safety and security, domestic and international conflict, and degree of militarization: (Lower scores are better)

  • Austria (1278)
  • Czech Republic (1360)
  • Ireland (1433)
  • Germany (1486)
  • Belgium (1528)
  • Netherlands (1541)
  • Croatia (1633)
  • Bulgaria (1646)
  • Italy (1774)
  • France (1829)
  • United Kingdom (1830)
  • Morocco (2086)

Here they are in the order of their Score on the Global Terrorism Index (Lower scores are better):

  • Croatia (.115)
  • Netherlands (.429)
  • Morocco (1.446)
  • Belgium (1.977)
  • Austria (2.088)
  • Bulgaria (2.421)
  • Czech Republic (2.484)
  • Italy (3.364)
  • Germany (3.442)
  • Ireland (3.663)
  • France (4.553)
  • United Kingdom (5.613)

And here they are in the order of their rank by intentional homicide rate: (Lower rates are better)

  • Austria (.5)
  • Czech Republic (.7)
  • Netherlands (.7)
  • Croatia (.8)
  • Italy (.8)
  • United Kingdom (.9)
  • Germany (.9)
  • Morocco (1.0)
  • Ireland (1.1)
  • France (1.2)
  • Bulgaria (1.6)
  • Belgium (1.8)

Some Travel Analysis (And a Few More Surprising Safety Numbers)

Some of this data is a couple years old, but it’s the most recent stuff available, and it’s a heck of a lot better than going on gut instinct. As you can see, the italicized countries do surprisingly well compared to the countries we originally had no concern about. Morocco ranked lowest (out of our vacation choices) on the Peace Index, but that might not be as strong an indicator of safety for travelers as the other measures. France and the United Kingdom, two countries we feel very comfortable with performed very poorly, despite this data being collected before the recent terror attacks in France.

Overall it’s kind of a mixed bag with some countries doing well on one measure and worse on others. But here’s something to put it all in perspective. Of all the countries we will be setting foot in in the near future, one stands out as the least safe by far… the United States of America.

All the countries listed above rank better than the U.S. on all of the measures above (the only exception is that the UK ranks worse on the Terrorism Index). The U.S. scored 2154 on the Peace Index, and 4613 on the Terrorism Index. It’s homicide rate was 3.9. That’s more than twice as high as any country we’re visiting in 2017. The homicide rate in our state of Florida is a staggering 5.8.

Conclusions About Travel Safety

What this all means is that as long as we take common sense precautions, we will actually be safer while traveling abroad next year than we have been at home. This came as a surprise to us since we feel very safe here in the United States. All this information has been a huge relief to us. When we’re out in the world with Baby Lisa, we’ll feel safe knowing that it’s safer and more welcoming than the news (and our imaginations) sometimes make it feel. Of course some places really are dangerous, but a little research and an open mind can open a lot of doors.

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