Rant: How Not To Be An International Traveller

Given all the serious news going on with Egypt’s revolution, I need a rant about stupid people to get my head back in the game this week.

These people will do.

Iran has summoned an American woman to return to the country and stand trial on Feb. 6 along with two other Americans still in custody and accused of spying after crossing the border from Iraq, a judiciary spokesman said Monday.

Their families say the Americans were just intrepid travellers out on a hike in northern Iraq’s scenic — and relatively peaceful — Kurdish region when they were arrested on July 31, 2009. The only woman among them, Sarah Shourd, was released on bail in September and returned to the United States.

The U.S. government has denied the charges against them and demanded their release. Their lengthy detention has added to tensions between the two nations over issues like Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

“Oh,” you say, “but they’re just innocent hikers who were out for a walk, and they got arrested by the big bad Iranians!”

Yes, but they’re innocent hikers who were stupid enough to go into one of the most unstable regions of the world without using the “REAL FUCKIN’ SAFE is better than bein’ REAL FUCKIN’ SORRY” Travel Method for Optimal Foreign Diplomacy.

In short, if you’re travelling even REMOTELY CLOSE to one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, who, coincidentally, nurtures the most profound hatred for your country’s way of life, you’d think a fucking proximity alert might be going off in their heads.

Instead, it was probably something like, “Hey, Bob, a little to the left, I can’t get THE MISSILE SILO in the background with the flowers.”

Okay, there were no missile silos.


I get that it’s a beautiful part of the world. I understand that it sucks that things like thousands-of-years of racial and ethinic tension get in the way of a lovely vacation, but it is what it is, man!

I call it LonelyPlanetitis. It’s not good enough to go to Puerto Vallarta. Now you have to conquer a Tibetan mountain pass in a deathly blizzard with tornado-like squalls in order to claim you’re an “adventurer.”

Bonus points if YOU carry YOUR sherpa.

In  a world filled with real and pressing dangers, I have a hard time seeing the amount of resources spent on people who take unnecessary travel risks just because they can. It’s IRAN, for crying out loud. Wake the fuck up, dumbass!

There are a few countries in the world where you just shouldn’t fuck around. Iran? Check. North Korea? Check. China? Check.

And, oh, yay, here come the parade of celebrities to try and get the guys free. Thank god for Sean Penn! Okay, great. Go, team! Cue the Hollywood director who thinks THIS COULD BE THE “Midnight Express” OF THIS GENERATION.

But it still comes down to this: A whole lot of effort’s being spent on people who should’ve used caution when they knew they were even 75 kilometres from the Iranian border.

It’s IRAN, motherfuckers! This ain’t Walley’s World, chumps!

One of the problems with calling these guys DUMB is: They’re not. They’re smart. They’re educated, empathetic, worldly, curious about cultures, etc. But what they did was fucking dumb.

Okay, here’s a more local take on things.

I live in Vancouver, BC. We don’t have border skirmishes to worry about, or threatening neighbours, or diplomatic stand-offs. We do, however, know a thing or two about mountains. And rescues.

Having been born and raised here in Vancouver, Canada, I have two of the deep-down inside fears probably most lifelong locals can relate to: Death by bear, death by avalanche.

Both of these are similarly unlikely. Why? Because, with a little intelligence and a lot of caution, they NEVER need to happen.

One hikes with a bell, bears stay away.

One follows the weather pattern of warming/cold/wet/dry/warming/cold that we have on the coast, and one knows this drastically impairs safety in the backwoods.

One should then know: Stay on the fucking trails, don’t go onto big beautiful fluffy open patches of mountain-side snow after temperature & precipitation fluctuations if you don’t want to risk an avalanche.

Fact is, Darwin was pretty on the money with the “survival of the fittest” thing, especially if “fitness” has to do with brain function.

Simple: If you have the time to plan a vacation to Kurdish back-country to hike mountains, you have the time to study the history, culture, and relative danger of crossing proximity into Iraq.

This whole “international crisis” thing because of a few stupid travellers? Well, sorry, I just don’t buy into the great tragedy of it all.

They fucked up. Big.

And now we’re all left trying to cover their asses for it. Expensive. Time-consuming. And real fuckin’ dumb.

Moral of the story? When YOU go travelling, don’t be a fucking moron. We have better things to worry about.

Fuck, man.

That said… death/imprisonment/etc in Iran, well, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I honestly do hope these people get released. I’d love to see them freed. But to say they didn’t fuck up? Wrong.

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