Fears and Concerns Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anaïs Nin, USA and France
I want to travel, but I don't like the idea of going alone. This is the biggest hurdle for many would-be-travelers. The hard reality for many is if we don't go backpacking alone, we aren't going backpacking. You have to be lucky to have a travel partner with similar goals, time, and money as yourself. Plus, can you realistically expect to have a travel partner with whom you want to spend almost every hour of every day? Traveling alone will force you to meet other people, and will probably expose you much more to the real experiences of travel. If you feel you must travel with someone, there's a good chance you will meet another person in similar circumstances as you travel. I have traveled with dozens of backpackers for periods long and short--from a few months to a few weeks, a few days, even a few hours. It's fun, and you can go oﬀ on your own again whenever you must.
Is it safe to travel? The last thing I want is for someone to read this book and then naïvely get hurt traveling. There are risks to travel, as there are in everything you do. The ﬁrst determinant of risk is largely geographical. For example, pickpockets are currently a greater plague in Managua than London. Backpackers in Central America, however, are a self-selected group who are overall more worldly than average backpackers in Europe or Australia. They know to keep money in a hidden money belt, and are wary with wallets and packs. These travelers mostly navigate Managua without great incident.
But there are plenty of pickpockets in London, and backpackers can be just as run-over there as in any developing world city. Indeed I consider myself at a greater risk in left-side-driving Great Britain than proper-side-driving Nicaragua--it's easy to forget where you are when you're having so much fun. The other determinant is you. Your risks skyrocket if you don't wear a seat belt, if you don't take proper health precautions, or if you walk alone at night in dangerous areas of medieval countries in a miniskirt. If you are sensible, like most backpackers, your risks are reduced wherever you travel. As with everything, you must weigh beneﬁts against risks.
Photo: Sometimes it's hard to ﬁnd your way. (Maps like this dot many European cities.)
“As with everything, you must weigh beneﬁts against risks.”
Fear is useful for an initial brief period: to expedite movement to safety or to cause a reevaluation. Soon thereafter rationality must come to the fore. Those who would reduce the fullness of life want to engender fear, limit intellectual and physical activity, ultimately roboticize humanity for their own idiotic ends. Nowhere is it preordained that brutality and appalling conservatism will lose. Reasonable people must ﬁght to preserve and enhance freedom for themselves and others. Regarding rationality, intoxicated vehicle operators kill ﬁve of my fellow Texans every day of every year, maim many more. In Germany and France fatalities per kilometer of travel are ﬁfty percent higher than in the United States -in developing countries the rate is twenty times more disastrous. With this in mind I'll make my next backpacking journey with all possible care (using my alert and ﬂexible superpowerful1 brain to daily make scores of mostly right decisions), and for the ﬁrst time I may even suggest political meaning to dancing with new friends on Saturday night. Regarding the terminology at the end of your question, it is shameful how so much human resource is wasted on repression, militancy, dogma, conformity, obedience, and ritual in the name of religion, instead of the obvious one (and only one) thing God would ﬁnd signiﬁcant. I clearly foresee, however, a glorious future when everyone will be educated and free to live to their potential. Low budget travelers hasten that day by buying goods and services from poor people and by being beautiful, sincere, individuals.