Pull up a seat, I’d like to have a chat with you about risk, travel and common sense. Yesterday I was sitting with my Dutch friend Jose commiserating the lack of tourists in the Sinai, Egypt. We both live here at the moment, in this sleepy, peaceful Red Sea beachside town, inhabited by ex-pats and the local Bedouin tribe. Since the revolution in Egypt, ongoing unrest and some kidnappings in the past couple of years here in the Sinai desert, tourists have been warned to stay away.  Even though you couldn’t be in a safer place. We need to get this in perspective.

Recently Joses family visited her and she wanted to take them on a safari into the beautiful local desert. Because of the brief kidnappings of 2 Americans and later a couple of Brazilians, her sister didn’t want to go. Jose, who works in tourism, was insulted that her sister even considered that she might be putting her life at risk. She knew that the kidnappings were a protest by the oppressed Bedouins to get some wrongfully jailed relatives freed. (There was a law in Egypt whereby you could be imprisoned on suspicion of something and without trial, needless to say there are many innocent people in jail here.) In both cases of the kidnappings, the “hostages” had a cultural experience. The Americans were given tea and food and a nice time, and the Brazilians were asked to give the prizes at the local Camel Race – just to show it was not aimed at them, just to prove a point to their oppressors, the Egyptian government. To add insult to injury, Jose’s sister later booked a trip to New York. Jose was flabbergasted (love that word!). I mean, hello??

Because of the kidnappings foreign governments issued travel warnings about going into the Sinai desert, thereby killing the safari business which local Bedouins live on. Further oppression. However, consider this: after recent shootings in the US, people continue to go to Batman movies and they are still sending their kids to school. Noone was hurt here in the Sinai, yet harmful paranoia was spread.

I firmly believe, after many years on this planet, and working in adventure tourism, that when your number is up, your number is up. I fell 20m out of the sky once in a paragliding accident. I was delivered to hospital by helicopter with a broken back and foot severed at the ankle.  Nurses kept coming in and telling me my life was a gift from God. I didn’t end up in a wheelchair or die. My number wasn’t up.  S*** happens, that’s life.  Lesson learnt: you only have one body, if you don’t look after it, you won’t have anywhere to live. But my number wasn’t up that day.

I worked in an adventure office selling rafting, canyoning and bungy jumping trips. I often got asked, as someone booked a trip “Am I going to die?” I was never quite sure how to answer this one, but my response was usually one of the following:

“I don’t know” (I’m not God after all!),

“I didn’t just sell you a death trip, I sold you a rafting trip”,

“Yes. One day…”,

or “You have just booked a raft trip, I can’t guarantee that you wont walk outside and get hit by a bus”.  The answer depended on my mood, of course. We can’t predict our deaths, and it usually happens when we least expect it.

The word “adventure” implies a certain amount of risk. There is “soft adventure” and “extreme adventure”. Whatever the case, adventures are great, they make us live in the moment and keep us alive and our hearts beating. It is important to calculate the risk.  Some adventures are controlled, some are not. Its up to you how much risk you want to take, just like in the share market. But always calculate the risk based on good information, not on rumours and hearsay.

A plane falls out of the sky and 300 people die, and people don’t stop flying. Its just media hype that puts fear into the hearts of the all the sheeple out there and stops them thinking and influences their decisions. Fear makes you buy certain beauty creams, life and car insurance etc. Stop and have a think for a minute and ask yourself what you are really afraid of. You might find you are fearing nothing at all, something that does not even exist or that might not even happen.

Lets talk about beliefs – remember Bird Flu? It was going to wipe out lots of the worlds population and governments were preparing for it. It wasn’t a matter of IF it was going to happen, but WHEN. This had people living in fear and probably adjusting their lives in strange ways, just like the end of the world and the Mayan calendar. If you believe all that stuff, chances are you are a “sheeple”.  Sheeple don’t analyse the news, they just take it at face value. So why do you believe that stuff? Is it because someone told you it so it must be true, or is it because it is something you experienced? Why do you accept it to be true? Watch the news – they tell you exactly who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, you are not even allowed to decide for yourself.  That’s why there is so much anti-muslim sentiment. If you watched Arab news you might decide the US is the worlds’ biggest terrorist for all the damage done and lives lost in Iraq and many other countries.

OK, you get the picture now? Good. Don’t forget: Life is a risk, that’s all there is to it. Strange things happen. Good things happen too. Don’t believe all that you read and hear if you weren’t there yourself. Don’t let the media tell you what to believe. Live the day, for you never know when the end will come. Have adventures. And only believe what you want in this article, because its just based on my own meandering experience. Thanks for your listening. J


  1. Thank you for this piece. I really feel you as I read it. . .wonderful. “Sheeple”–I love this term. . .gonna steal it. Folks are often afraid of “the other” when they have no experience with or understanding thereof–you nailed this point right on the head. . .keep up the great work of de-mystifying ‘the other.’ Now get busy planning that Yemen trip:-).

  2. We love Egypt feel perfectly safe go on trips last one the buggy safari in sinai desert and there was only two of us ,fella was lovely ,wev done the stargazing night ,people lovely ,,but poor were happy to help there economy

    1. Good for you, I wish more tourists would come, it is fine at the moment!!

  3. Excellent Julie. I couldn’t agree more.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Faye 🙂

  4. Thank you for this wonderful bit of perspective. I am really intrigued by the idea of moving to Dahab for this coming winter. I just had a depressing life even happen and I’d like to move on to another chapter in my life. How hard it is to meet other expats?

    1. It is easy to move to Dahab Kirby, but it does help to know a bit about what to expect before you go there, so you don’t get eaten by the local dragons 😉 ! By that I mean, so that you don’t get ripped off, have an Egyptian Romeo marry you within a month and take all your money and other strange (but true) things that happen there. If you go to Dahab, let me know, so I can give you some insider advice! There are plenty of ex-pats, mostly in their own little communities: the divers, the kitesurfers, the Russians, the wierdos 🙂 etc…it just depends how open you are to meeting people.

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