Don’t Even Go There - 5 Travel Destinations to Avoid in 2019-20
Everybody always wants to tell you about the places you need to visit: the hottest vacation spots, the most beautiful, exotic, welcoming places on earth. We see them in social media posts and travel shows and in the backgrounds of commercials. It’s a glorious and diverse world we live in, and there certainly are quite a few garden spots. But the same geo-diversity that guarantees such a plethora of gorgeous locales stipulates a comparable
number of awful, scary places, too (and it can sometimes be a challenge telling one from the other). Today we’re here to talk about the uh-uhs, the keep-aways, the places on our planet you really don’t want to be in 2019-20, especially on a vacation. Places that can void travel insurance policies.
And so, in no particular order, then: five places it would be a really bad idea to visit on your next vacation:
Myanmar could use a moment. A little pause to just take a breath and recompose itself. The fact that it’s not going to do that is one reason it landed on this inauspicious list. Another, larger one: the state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. For the past few years, the Myanmar government has sponsored a campaign of harassment, ostracism and terror against the Rohyngya, an Islamic segment of their populace, killing hundreds and displacing over 140,000. For a minute a few years ago, it looked like the country had turned a corner: they’d settled on a name, ending the “Is-it-Burma-or-Myanmar?” confusion, and their State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi even won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” However, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and documented ethnic cleansing, the recent jailing of two Reuters reporters and a loud chorus of condemnation for Myanmar’s government from the global human rights community all add up to a decidedly unsavory pudding – one you’d be wise to steer well-clear of.
Do you like authoritarian governments who dog foreign visitors’ every step? Do you like to pay exorbitant sums for travel permits that barely permit travel (and then only through heavily monitored districts window-dressed to convey a laughably false narrative of happy prosperity)? Do you like the notion that, if you take even the slightest step out of line during your visit, there’s a very real possibility that you’ll be beaten senseless by authorities and delivered home to die only after 15 comatose months of captivity? Then the Peoples’ Republic of North Korea is absolutely for you. Otherwise, avoid.
Democratic Republic of Congo
In 1980, author Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park) published his book Congo. In it, a civilization of evolved gorillas took over an ancient diamond mine in the Congolese jungle, killing any human that dared intrude. Given a choice between that fictitious world and the present-day reality of their nation, many Congolese might be tempted to opt for Crichton’s version. Instead of a cabal of sci-fi simians, the source of all the brutality in the Congo—brutality on a scale that almost beggars description—is entirely human. Children are in constant danger of being kidnapped for either the sex trade or conscription into some warlord’s bloody militia. Perhaps nowhere is the DR Congo’s chaos, danger and sadness more evident than in the nature preserve once considered its jewel, Virunga National Park. In Virunga, illegal animal poachers try to avoid the illegal diamond mining operations, who try to avoid the constantly-warring militias…and none of them succeed. Please don’t go there.
Acapulco? But that’s a resort town, right? The Love Boat used to stop there, f’r cryin’ out loud! Well, while both of those things are true, Acapulco’s inclusion on this list is no mistake. You see, with the power and pervasiveness of the drug cartels, things seem to have gotten a little, um, …murder-y in old Acapulco-town of late. Its per-capita murder rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants places it among the world’s-highest, but what really puts Acapulco over the top is the fact that last fall, the entire Acapulco police force was disarmed and investigated because of the Mexican government’s strong suspicion that they had probably been infiltrated by the criminal groups responsible for all the killing. Federal troops are now policing the seaside town of 800,000, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look elsewhere for your next port of call, Captain Stubing.
La Rinconada, Peru
The highest town on earth (17,000 feet; the next-highest is in Nepal), La Rinconada sits at the utmost limit of habitable oxygen on earth. Why would 50,000 souls choose to live in a breathing-optional setting? In a word, gold. This is where much of the Incan gold was mined, and there are still active gold mines today. However, because the mines are completely unregulated, the shafts are incredibly hazardous, and the air, ground and water are all contaminated with mercury, the main chemical used in processing gold ore. Another result of the complete lack of oversight is that human waste is rarely taken down the mountain. So: come for the asphyxiation and cave-ins, stay for the mercury poisoning and ubiquitous bags of poop! Better still: just don’t come.
In spite of political turmoil and ecological malaise, our planet contains so many wonderful places. International travel is still just as rewarding as ever it was. Go abroad and enrich yourself as you compile experiences and memories you’ll never forget—or regret. But please, just be smart about where you travel. Going to any of these five places in 2019-20 is not smart.