Trelograms #16 — Aren’t You Afraid?

That’s one of the questions i hear the most — typically about whether i’m not afraid of people, not traffic.

I’m terrified!

mostly of traffic, but also of people — how could i not be?

I’ve been taught throughout most of my life to be suspicious of strangers, and i always feel apprehensive when entering a new country while cycle touring, or another car while hitchhiking — gosh, i’m often apprehensive about meeting my Couchsurfing host/guest for the first time!

Whether or not i’ll finally manage to update this misleading intuition, i’m not sure — for now, i’ll just share some of the questions my overwhelmingly positive experience on the road so far has raised.

  • What is your own attitude? How do you behave, as a stranger to someone else? Is your immediate impulse to assess how you could benefit from the situation to their detriment, or to consider what you can offer in answer to their request and in support of their mission?
  • I find it hard to believe it is former — why is that? — are you that much better than the average person out there?
  • I also don’t think so — aren’t we simply more likely than not to get the same indifference at worse or kindness at best from a stranger that we would show them were the roles reversed?

Indeed, there are plenty of stories of long-term, overland travelers being harmed in all sorts of ways — robbed, raped, beaten up, abducted, murdered, you name it — we’re not immune to the ills of the world those traveling in more conventional ways (or not traveling at all) also report, possibly at higher rates in some cases — a quick web search will yield several studies and reports over the past few decades suggesting that the majority of victims of violent crime actually knew their perpetrator.

While i will leave the research and statistical analysis up to the interested reader, here’s one thing most of us can do right now to make hitchhiking and cycle touring objectively safer: drive more carefully 😉

Featured photo: hitchhiking with my wife in Ukraine after dark and under moderate snowfall ( January ’18 )

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Trelograms’ is a wordplay between ‘telegram’ and ‘trélos’ (Greek for ‘mad’)

Trelograms: inspiration; cycle touring, hitchhiking; worldwide, Ukraine

8 thoughts on “Trelograms #16 — Aren’t You Afraid?

    1. I found the last one in the EconTalks stream, and will check out the other ones — thanks for the link!
      I didn’t know Blattman studied violence! ‘Violence’ has also become one of my main interests along my travels — i’ve been (positively) shocked by how little of it i’ve met along my way, an experience which is largely shared by other people traveling long-term in similar ways. I have been asking people about it and looking for references to read, and this one seems like a specially good lead 🙂
      The connection is not so much specifically about cycle touring and GiveDirectly — it goes more along the lines of what i seeded in the blog post that brought you here — what would a world in which everybody could have a little space to breathe and take some time to introspect and go on their own metaphorical cycle tours look like?
      I will be looking forward to your feedback and grounding 😉

    2. Hey Mika,
      Thanks for the clarification, look forward to learning more about your thoughts!
      I too have been on the receiving end of very little violence in my travels, perhaps not less than I expected but perhaps less than others expected. There also seems to be no correlation (from what I can see) between who might extend violence towards me, and their economic situation. It’s been quite humbling.
      That being said, I don’t think that travel by bicycle or other means is a particularly reliable window into how much a given community experiences violence. I assume that I speak and interact with many people who expel and/or receive violence to/from people within their community. For example, when I traveled in Armenia I had a pleasant and safe time there cycling with a man and also by myself. I had great interactions with a variety of men and women. Then I read one statistic (I don’t remember the source) that an estimated 90% of Armenian women experience domestic violence over their lifetime. Even if this is greatly inflated, it is a sobering statistic.
      I have been enjoying your blog posts and look forward to reading more. Take care,

  1. Hey Mika,
    I found your blog through GiveDirectly’s interview series with some of their donors. Hope you’re enjoying Ukraine and good luck out there on the roads!

    1. That’s awesome, Megan! Are you also a supporter of GiveDirectly?
      Anyways, thank you so much for checking out my website and signing up for my mailing list — i hope you’ll continue following their work also 😉

    2. Hey Mika,
      I supported them last year, and may do so again this year. I’ve been learning a bit more about their work this year and have appreciated their transparency, their blog as one example of that. Have you listened to the EconTalk podcast episodes on cash transfers?
      You are welcome,

    3. I have not listened to that podcast yet, but i’ll definitely check it out — thanks for the recommendation! I’m a big cash transfers enthusiast/activist, and i especially like GiveDirectly’s ethics and transparency also!
      I’ve been a bit on the sidelines ever since starting this project, but i hope to bring it back full circle some time in the future, making the connection i see between what i’m doing and what GiveDirectly is doing more explicit 😀

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