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We all have parents of some kind. Some parents insist on being texted every time you cross the street safely. Some parents don’t know (or care) which continent you happen to be on at a given time. But either way, we all have to navigate the fact that we have people in our lives who care about us and who often worry about our safety.

My mother made it clear to me that her worst fear was that I was going to be traveling somewhere extremely rural by myself and get into a serious car crash very far from a functioning hospital. For years I thought that fear was ridiculous... until it happened.

When I first started traveling (I went on my first trip to Tanzania when I was 18) I got frustrated with how concerned my parents were about my safety. I wanted to feel independent. I wanted to be like those travelers you meet in airports who buy a return ticket eight months from now at an airport at the opposite end of the continent and just hope that they get to that airport in time before they run out of money. While it sounds cliché, I look back now and realize that I didn’t have the most realistic sense of danger when I first started traveling. I don’t say this to make you worry that you too will be in a near death car crash and that you should listen to your mother and never leave the couch [sarcastic exaggeration]; instead I just say this to acknowledge that people worry because they care about us, and that’s okay.

You’re on your own for all those personal conversations, but there is one thing I’ve found that helps them be slightly more at ease: details. The second time I went to Tanzania was much easier on my parents than the first because I had already been there and come back with photographs and stories. They could see the streets I walked down and the people I road busses with. I’m a firm believer that the unknown is easier to fear than the known. It’s obviously up to you to decide how to navigate communication with people you leave when you travel, but I’d encourage you to help them “be at your side” by helping them feel like they’ve been there themselves. It definitely won’t keep some from worrying about you or keep you from free from any danger, but it might ease the anxiety enough so that your conversations with loved-ones back home are filled with stories of growth and exploration as opposed to debates over what is safe to do and what is not.

Posted in: My Driver Project

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About the Authors

Bobby Gondola
Debra Bokur

Globe Tripper
At Grand Central Station when she was 9 years old, Debra Bokur decided that a different train from the one her parents were boarding looked as though it might be going someplace more interesting, so she took that one instead. She still loves trains, and has since traveled the world as an award-winning journalist, magazine editor and filmmaker. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Debra contributes regularly to Global Traveler Magazine, and serves as the magazine website’s daily feature writer.

Debra is a contributing author to Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry (The Bench Press, 2001). She holds degrees in both Theater and English Literature, and has been the poetry editor of the nationally acclaimed literary journal Many Mountains Moving since 2002. She has also been the travel editor at national publications including Healing Lifestyles & Spas Magazine, American Cowboy Magazine, and Fit Yoga Magazine, and has been a frequent guest on Wine Country Network’s national radio program discussing the topic of international travel.

Debra once lived a double life training horses professionally in the disciplines of dressage and three-day eventing while serving as an editor and writer at several equestrian-themed publications. Her current favorite places to wander are Iceland, Switzerland, the U.K., Israel and Italy. In her new blog, Globe Tripper, Debra will bring us along on her adventures.

Bobby Gondola
Bobby Gondola

World Wanderings
Bobby Gondola serves as Director of Operations & Development at Year Up, a nationally recognized workforce development and higher education program for urban young adults. He leads both the internal operations and external relations. Previously, he was Director of External Relations at Opus 118 Harlem School of Music in New York City, the Harlem-based violin program made famous by Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart. He also worked as a community development consultant in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa.  

Bobby earned a B.A. in painting and politics from Salve Regina University and studied abroad in Rome, Italy. He also holds an M.P.P. in Political Advocacy and Leadership from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, where he was a Public Service Fellow. Bobby lives in Providence, Rhode Island and serves on theWaterFire Providence Board, College Leadership Rhode Island Program Committee, and the Providence Public School Board. He has traveled to all continents, except Antarctica and Australia, which he’ll get to. Eventually.

Aaron Shapiro
Aaron Shapiro

My Driver Project
Aaron Shapiro is a 2011 alumnus of University of Maryland, College Park, where he received a B.S. in Global Health and completed a minor in International Development and Conflict Management. After graduating, he joined the Global Health Corps as a program manager for Gardens for Health International in Kigali, Rwanda. Aaron has interned for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Food Security, the Social Justice Coalition in Cape Town, South Africa, and volunteered at St. Lucia Hospice and Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. Aaron has also traveled in Congo, Burundi, Uganda, and Zambia. He is currently working in Washington, D.C. and applying to medical school.

Photo of Natalia Jaffee
Natalia Jaffee

Traffic Lights are Optional in Hanoi
Natalia Jaffee is a 10th grade student at the United Nations International School of Hanoi. She grew up in Potomac, MD and attended Cold Spring Elementary School and Cabin John Middle School. While visiting Maryland in the summer of 2011, she interned at ASIRT and published a personal account of the road situations in Vietnam. Natalia enjoys traveling and has traveled throughout East Asia. In her free time, she enjoys running, playing soccer, cooking, and reading.

Photo of Laura Blanar
Laura Blanar

From A to B Safely: A Transportation Travel Blog
Laura Blanar traveled through Asia, Africa and Oceania with her husband, Adam, for 14 months. Prior to her travels, she worked at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as a research scientist, and in injury and violence at PAHO/WHO as a contractor. Laura holds a Masters of Health Science from the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a specialization in health systems, and also obtained the B.A. in public health from the Johns Hopkins University. She has been published in several professional journals relating to injury and public health. In September 2011, Laura entered a PhD program at the University of Washington in public health, with a focus on injury. When not traveling, Laura enjoys running, wood carving and reading non-fiction and mystery books.