It must be said that I’m not really a travel bug. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no hermit, but I don’t have the intense wanderlust many people do. I can appreciate it, even envy it to an extent, but I’ve never had it.
So it was something of an oddity for me to be reading an interview with globetrotter Anthony Bourdain titled “All the Things You’re Doing Wrong When You Travel”. It’s an interesting piece, full of little tidbits he’s picked up in his years of adventure travel.
I’m glad I read it, though, because one sentence he uttered resonated with my approach to personal safety and self defense:
“We tend to be over-concerned with safety and with cleanliness in ways that stand between us.”
For me, that comment encapsulated a lot of what I see wrong in the world of self defense and preparedness: people lose sight of why they started down the path of self-sufficiency in the first place.
How’s that bubble?
Some years ago I had a conversation with a group of shooting instructors. The discussion came around to the subject of always carrying a gun and I admitted that I don’t always carry one, because there are simply a lot of places where the carry of a firearm isn’t allowed. One of the group was incredulous and stated “I never go anywhere I can’t carry my gun!”
Aside from the obvious fallacy (none of us can carry on an airliner, for instance) I couldn’t believe that to be true. “You mean you won’t go to the Smithsonian? You won’t visit the Lincoln Memorial? You won’t go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? You won’t travel outside the country and see the rest of the world — the art, the culture, the scenery, the food?”
“Those places have nothing to offer me”, came the curt reply.
This may not have been what Bourdain meant (or maybe it is), but his point certainly applies: In our mania for safety and security, sometimes we isolate ourselves into little bubbles rather than take a chance in the wide open world — a world that is actually pretty safe as long as you’re not going to stupid places with stupid people and doing stupid things.
We almost always lose sight of that.
The more you know, the worse it gets
The more we travel down the safety and preparedness road, the easier it becomes to turn jaded and fearful. We study bad things and think of ways to survive them. We become knowledgeable about disaster fatalities and kidnappings and home invasions. We immerse ourselves in scary stuff.
Now I know that no one reading this blog is scared of anything; everyone is far too alpha warrior spartan operator to ever admit that! In the backs of our minds, though, when we’re asleep all that doom and gloom we’ve studied over many years works on our subconscious. We develop a shell and a tendency to not want to stick our heads out of it, even to look at the flowers.
We might not even be aware that it’s happening, but at some level this endless doom and gloom causes us to alter our lives. We think of all the reasons we shouldn’t go out and have fun. We recount news stories of incidents like the Las Vegas concert attack and vow never to go anywhere where there might be a crowd that might be attacked. In extreme cases, like the person in my conversation, we choose the illusion of safety over cultural literacy — or even just making new friends.
Focusing on safety to the exclusion of all else in life means no adventures, no new experiences, no stories to tell, and no exotic friends. Our concern with safety above all else stands between us and other people, and between us and the world.
Strive for balance
I’m not saying you should take ridiculous risks with your life. I am saying that there’s no such thing as complete security anywhere in this world. You could be carrying a gun and a backup gun and a knife and a backup knife and all the lumens and a collapsed AR-15 in your backpack, but you’re still not prepared for everything that could possibly happen. Complete safety, total security, is an illusion.
As in everything else, there is a balance to be had. There is a line between completely oblivious and sealing yourself in a safe room every night. That line, that balance, is rational caution — commonsense preparedness.
It means being armed when you can, and accepting a certain amount of risk in exchange for a great experience when you can’t be. It means understanding that all risk is a scale, and as a result so is preparedness; you can never be completely safe from everything, but you can be reasonably safe from the most likely dangers.
It’s about taking appropriate precautions and considering alternatives for those occasions where law or custom prevent your preferred methods.
Most importantly, it’s about enjoying your life knowing that you’ve done what you can. Travel, enjoy good food and pleasant company, and see the sights. Don’t take unnecessary risks, but understand the likely dangers and avoid them. Most importantly, don’t let paranoia stand between you and the world.
P.S.: If this concept resonates with you, I recommend you get a copy of my book Prepping for Life: The balanced approach to personal security and family safety. It’s all about rational preparedness in all areas of your life, and it’s available in Kindle, iBooks, and paperback versions.
Listen to this blog – and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking this link!