Eventually, the reaper comes for us all. By modern standards, we’re most comfortable with the thought of death taking us from the comfort of our own home and bed, surrounded by family, deep into our golden years. Though that’s a comforting thought, things don’t always go as planned, and the fact of the matter is that death knows your name — and can come calling at any time.
Of course, there’s really not a whole lot you can do about it, so you might as well live it up while you can. That includes leaving the safety and security of home, and seeing the world.
Traveling, naturally, comes with its own unique set of dangers. There are an incalculable number of ways you can meet your end just at home or at work — and when you hit the road into foreign territory, that number only increases. You may face external dangers you never imagined when you’re traveling, and as a result, the number of ways death may find you increases dramatically.
The government even keeps a tally. Using stats from the U.S. Department of State, we’ve compiled a short, albeit frightening list of some of the most common ways international travelers are killed every year. Some of them are surprisingly mundane, while others definitely skew to the more exotic. So, what’s likely to kill you during your trip overseas or across the nearest border? Read on to find out.
1. Food Poisoning
Exotic places have exotic eats, and for those used to a fairly “vanilla” diet — like most of the heavily processed, bland, generic foods we eat in the U.S. — foreign foods can throw our systems into disarray. Food poisoning can happen anywhere, anytime. But when you’re on the road, different foods and even water may have microorganisms that our body’s cannot handle or properly filter out. While you’re probably going to be fine, even if you do have some digestive issues, it’s important to take it easy if you do get sick.
What can end up killing you is the dehydration from the resulting diarrhea and/or vomiting you might experience as a result of a bad plate of street meat. Since travelers are often wary or unsure of how to track down a doctor, they get themselves into trouble.
2. Vehicle Accidents
State Department data via the Los Angeles Times shows that the greatest number of Americans who died abroad in the years of 2013 and 2014 were killed in vehicular accidents. That includes car or bus crashes, train derailments, etc. Like food poisoning, this is another threat we all experience just about every day no matter where we live, but it can be augmented abroad when travelers are unfamiliar with local laws, customs, and safety regulations. You could get hit by a bike in Amsterdam, fall onto some train tracks in Bangkok, or drive on the wrong side of the road in Mexico — either way, the threat is real.
Though it seems like this should fall under the “vehicular accidents” category, maritime disasters are a different animal. In fact, boats can be pretty damn dangerous. We’ve heard of ferries sinking in many Asian countries over the years, and if you’ve ever taken a trip to one of the more heavily-populated megacities in the world, it’s pretty easy to see how even a minor issue with an overloaded ship can have disastrous consequences.
Don’t freak out — homicide, in this sense, has a pretty broad definition. And comparatively speaking, there really aren’t that many deaths that fall under the category. Homicide, of course, can mean murder, which is uncommon. But it also includes suicides, drug-related deaths, and accidents involving aerial vehicles. According to Vagabondish, more people than you might expect actually commit suicide abroad, helping spike the numbers in this category as well. Oh, and terrorism is a real danger to take into account depending on what part of the world you find yourself in.
Though this technically might fall under a couple of other categories, we’re setting it aside. People drown all the time, and as researchers are beginning to learn, it’s a lot harder to tell that someone is in danger than you might think. Maritime disasters can, of course, lead to drownings. But as a traveler, what you really need to be concerned about is your time at the beach or jumping into lakes and rivers. There aren’t always lifeguards around, and signs declaring dangerous conditions may be in different languages. Also, don’t get drunk and go for a swim — that riptide may take you all the way to Madagascar.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger