Unsafe Travels in Uncertain Times

by Beth Whitman (June 7th, 2010)

Langtang National parkI’m sad this week.

My friend, Lauren, recently alerted me to the disappearance of Aubrey Sacco who was on a solo trip through South Asia and was last seen part way through the Langtang trek in Nepal. Aubrey went missing sometime around the 3rd week in April. She was to check in with her family on April 29, but never did.

Aubrey seemingly did everything right. Though on her own, she was connected – keeping up a blog as well as posting photos and touching base with her family on a regular basis. Definitely not a wallflower, Aubrey was making friends with the locals and she wasn’t traveling to places necessarily deemed as “dangerous”. Though the U.S. State Department listed Nepal on its travel warning pages back in November, 2009, nothing has been updated about the region since.

A dozen things could have happened to Aubrey including the possibility that she was simply hurt along the way and is recovering in a remote village.

But this news, and the recent arrest of Dutch citizen Joran van der Sloot (the main suspect in the Natalie Holloway killing in Aruba) for the murder of a Peruvian woman, has me really sad and concerned about the safety of women travelers.

Though I’m a huge advocate of solo travel and believe that taking certain precautions can alleviate much of the inherent dangers that come with walking out your front door or hopping on an international flight, the truth is that there’s never a guarantee that your travels are going to be 100% safe.

We obviously don’t have all the details, but Aubrey’s circumstances are particularly haunting to me as she doesn’t appear to have done anything differently than I might have done myself. If I had had the access to the technology available today, no doubt I would have been posting stories and images from my travels through India and Nepal (I, too, trekked Langtang) 20 years ago.

One of my best friends in high school was killed in a freak accident in his early 20’s when he was traveling in England on what was to be his life’s dream trip. While walking on a sidewalk, he was hit by a car whose driver had an epileptic seizure and veered off the road. Shit happens and sometimes the stars line up to hand us a bag of it.

No magic bullets today or tips on how to be safer. Just a simple alert about Aubrey Sacco as every woman traveler should know her story. Her dad is now in Nepal with an organized search party. You can keep up with their progress on the Aubrey Sacco Facebook page. And I’ll be sure to keep you posted when I hear more when details emerge.

Travel Well!


Related links:
What Constitutes a Dangerous Destination?
Getting Over Reverse Culture Shock
A Monk Walks onto a Plane
One Way Ticket to Ride
American Travel Ethos

Photo Credit: Langtang National Park by TheDreamSky

On June 7th, 2010 at 8:29 am, JoAnna said:

I’m so bummed to hear this. It sounds like Aubrey did everything right, but stuff happens I guess. I just hope this doesn’t give solo female travel a bad rep.

On June 7th, 2010 at 11:23 am, Angela (Travel with a Purpose) said:

Beth, thank you for this posting. This hits close to home for all of us women travelers. Even though I will never stop traveling solo, I too have had direct connections with travelers who have gone missing while on seemingly safe adventures. That said, I’ve seen the same type of unfortunate events occur right here at home. I take this to heart and continue to try and keep my head up and eyes open, no matter where in the world I am, and continue to be thankful for each waking day.

On June 7th, 2010 at 12:14 pm, Melanie said:

I think it’s important to remember that anything can happen anytime, anywhere. Beth’s story of her friend being killed in England in a freak accident could happen anywhere. I had a good friend who travelled overland from England to Indonesia and was killed eight months after returning to Canada by standing next to an icy road and being hit by another car. She’d been through Afghanistan, Iran,- all sorts of ‘dangerous’ places. When travelling, it’s important to keep your wits about you, don’t take unnecessary risks and use your instincts. Here’s hoping Aubrey still has a chance to be found safe.

On June 8th, 2010 at 4:12 am, Esta said:

Let’s hope Aubrey is ok and just is not able to get in touch with her family.
Bad thing happen all over the world each second, regardless if place is safe or not. Each of us lost close people in incidents not far from home.
That should not affect women solo travelling.

On June 8th, 2010 at 6:07 am, Nancie (Ladyexpat) said:

This is so sad. Here’s hoping that Aubrey is safe somewhere and will be in touch with her family and friends soon. As a solo travel i won’t stop traveling, but I will be a little more alert to dangers when I’m on the road.

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