“Why is it that traveling Americans are always so dreadful?” — Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis
Propaganda is the bane of adventure, and fear is the lifeblood by which governments keep you locked inside your prison…er, I mean your home country, spending your tax dollars at home like a good little worker bee instead of going out into the world, spreading your wings and living life by your own rules. And perhaps one of the biggest lies of all is how “dangerous” the rest of the world is according to the various state departments of countries like the United States.
What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the name “Mexico”? If drugs, cartels and violent murders were the first few things that came to mind when you thought of the country you are one of the misinformed who just don’t know any better because they only know what the news and the government is telling them about a particular country. And while it is true that Juarez and other parts of northern Mexico can be dangerous, take a look at this article from USA Today. In it we see that Mexico City, long considered to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world by American standards, had a 8/100,000 murder rate for 2010. This is in comparison to Washington D.C., which had a 31.4/100,000 murder rate for 2009. Bogota, Colombia has a 22/100,000 murder rate, which is still much less than Washington D.C., and San Paulo comes in at 14/100,000. If you look at the Yucatan, where Cancun is located, the murder rate was only 2/100,000 for 2010, making it one of the lowest rates in the world. Meanwhile, Denver, Colorado ranked in at 9/100,000 in 2006, still beyond that of Mexico City.
Bottom line? Places like Mexico have cities that are far safer than some of the supposedly-superior cities in the United States. And before you say that it’s not fair to compare cities of varying size, remember that the X/100,000 statistics are the international standard for defining the danger levels of a city, state or country. Size doesn’t enter into it. This is how the government defines the danger level of a place. The reality is that the United States has some of the most dangerous cities in the world as defined by their own systems.
What does that mean to you as a location independent digital nomad? Simply this: if you are looking into living like a local in a foreign destination you can rest safe in the knowledge that most cities around the world are safer than their American counterparts. The numbers are there. All you have to do is take the time to do the initial research via your preferred search engine and you will find everything in black and white, raw math. The numbers don’t lie.
However, one thing you do need to consider is that the numbers presented here only take into account murders. If you are worried about pickpockets, robbery and otherwise there are different statistics you can look at, but what I am focusing on here is proof that most of the cities around the world are not nearly as dangerous as the media would have you believe. The rumors that you are going to go to a foreign city and wind up dead are mostly exaggerated far, far beyond the realities for most of these places.
That’s not to say certain cities don’t present their dangers. According to this article from back in 2010 by the New York Times, Caracas, Venezuela has a supposed 200/100,000 murder rate, making it one of the most dangerous cities in the world. But this is just one city out of an entire country, and if you head towards Margarita Island and places similar along the coast of Venezuela you will find tourist resorts that are very well protected, full of educated people and as safe as anywhere else you could think of going.
The bottom line is that while safety is of course a concern no matter what city you go to, the stories of every place outside of the United States being lawless, chaotic and dangerous are for the most part largely exaggerated. It’s merely another way the system keeps you bogged down at home, afraid to ever leave, afraid to ever break free and live life on your own terms. So many people believe Bogota to be an impossibly dangerous city to travel to or live in, but those years are long behind her. In the modern era Bogota may still have a somewhat high murder rate (22/100k), but it’s still far less than Washington D.C., and Cancun barely even registers on the map with its 2/100k. So get out there in the world, enjoy yourself and stop living in fear. There is absolutely nothing to worry about.