Answering a few questions - June 28, 2010

In the last few months I have been asked a number of questions about my trip so I wanted to provide an answer to a few of the interesting ones.

Are you afraid?

One of my hobbies is to read books about other cyclists, partly to help me with my plans but mainly because I love reading about adventure. In one book, the authors wrote that the most common questions they receive while cycling in the relatively rich western world are, "How can you afford to travel for so long" and "Are you afraid?" Interestingly, the most common questions asked in the poorer developing world are "are you married" or "do you have children."  With these simple questions, you can get a quick glimpse into what is first and foremost on the mind of people (money and fear vs. family) in different parts of the world. That is the kind of thing that fascinates me and I will write a lot about these types of observations as I move forward.

One of the main reasons I want to travel, particularly in countries like Iran, India, and China is to prove to myself that a lot of the fear that is generated by the media is overblown. When I list the countries on my trip people's eyebrows are raised most often when I mention Iran and Syria, those "Axis of Evil" places where we have all heard really bad things happen, especially to single male Canadian cyclists travelling alone on a bike.  Are the fears based on reality or perception and are the fears at least partly due to the unknown? I have never been to Iran, don't know anyone who has nor do I know anyone from there so am I simply basing my opinion of an entire country and millions of its citizens on news reports?

A single incident can garner national media attention and paint an entire section of the world with the same brush. Think about what people over there hear about America. If you lived in Iran, and the only news report you received from the U.S was the Columbine shootings, the murder rates in Detroit and Washington or the myriad of bad news we hear daily, wouldn't you think it a place to avoid? We know those incidents are isolated and are comfortable travelling there but don't seem to have the same level of comfort in regard to foreign countries.  They hear and see the same news we do but filtered down even more so that only the extreme cases are mentioned. It works both ways and I believe we both see and hear the worst about each other. There is crime and danger in Bermuda, Canada and every country in the world because there are bad people but they are in every country and they live right beside good people.  Iran and Syria are easy targets to channel our fear because we don't know a lot about them which of course creates a loop of faulty logic. We fear them because we don't know or understand them and we don't know or understand them because we are too afraid to visit or get to know them. The news reports are often accompanied by visual images of a few crying "Death to America" and those shots can have lasting impressions. It has been a long time since videos of Iranians chanting in the streets streamed into our living rooms but pictures can create images not easily forgotten. Continued to the next page