Let’s talk about fears and facts, shall we?
In the last couple years, I’ve seen an extreme uptick in fear of travel. Over and over again, I’ve seen USers asking if Europe is safe anymore. Formerly supportive family members express concerns. American government officials are claiming that Europe is a hotbed of terrorist activity.
And, you guys, this makes me really frustrated.
Because all this fear, all these blanket statements about danger, all these crazy travel warnings…they’re based on feelings and beliefs. Not facts.
Someone sees a news story about a single female traveler gone missing, about a tragedy in the streets of London, about how a single government has increased its threat level…and fear takes root.
And that fear is legitimate. It would be truly devastating to be in a dangerous situation, to find yourself in the midst of a terrorist attack or a mass shooting or a missing persons scenario.
Those fears are real. I get it.
But the truth is that the likelihood of any of those things happening to you is extremely low.
And, in fact, you are in greater danger in the USA than you are in Europe.
It may not feel that way. After all, you’re used to the dangers you face. You’re used to the place that you live. You’re used to avoiding certain parts of town or ignoring the statistics about traffic fatalities in your city.
And so the unknown feels more dangerous.
But when it comes to making decisions about our safety, feelings aren’t all that helpful. It’s facts that matter.
Without knowing which countries I’m talking about, which would you rather live in or visit: a country where the murder rate is 5 people in every 100,000 or 30 people in every 100,000?
Because you’re safer in the place with just five–even if that same place had a massive news story yesterday about a terrorist attack.
That’s facts at work. They don’t bow down to political beliefs or dramatic news stories. They’re simply about your odds of being okay.
So, back to the question of whether Europe is as safe, less safe, or more safe than the USA. Let’s look at the facts, shall we?
Safely exploring a Sicilian castle.
In 2017 so far in the US, there have been over 30,000 gun incidents, over 7,500 deaths, nearly 15,000 injuries, and 173 situations that qualified as a mass shooting.
That’s almost twice as many fatalities as terrorist attacks caused worldwide so far this year (4,190). And that’s including attacks in active war zones.
Drill those numbers down to only include Europe and here’s what you’ll find: The number of terrorist-caused fatalities in 2017 so far is just 55.
55 deaths, compared to the USA’s 7,500.
Take out the Ukraine, which is an outlier and a place most tourists aren’t planning to visit anyway, and that number drops to 44.
Take out the UK, which has been the hardest hit by far (with 38 fatalities), despite having the toughest borders (hint: border control does jack squat), and the number for mainland Europe drops to 6.
That’s right: 6. Compared to America’s gun violence body count of 7,500.
Of course, even though terrorism gets the most press (and I get that: it’s scary as hell, even though it is rare compared with other dangers) and inspires the most fear, it’s a bit unfair to compare terror deaths with all gun deaths, right? So, let’s compare murder rates instead.
The US murder rate is 4.88. That’s 4.88 murders per 100,000 residents.
That’s higher than all but two of the European countries–both of which, again, aren’t big tourist draws: Russia (11.13) and Lithuania (5.98).
Every single other European country comes in lower and the most popular tourist destinations come in at less than half the American murder rate, with France at 1.58, the UK at .92, Croatia at .87, Italy at .78, and Switzerland at .69.
What do those numbers mean in practical terms? You’re safer in almost every single European country than you are in the US. In France, you’re about 3x as safe. In the UK, Italy, Switzerland, about 5x as safe. At least when it comes to murder rates.
A safe, peaceful Roman park.
Okay, so here’s what I’m not trying to say:
I’m not trying to say you should travel to a place that makes you feel uncomfortable. Where you travel is absolutely and solidly up to you.
I’m also not trying to say that the US is the most dangerous place on the planet. That’s demonstrably untrue, as well. It ranks somewhere in the 90s for worldwide murder rates, far below places like Venezuela, South Africa, and Brazil.
But here’s what I am trying to say:
When we make a statement about a place being dangerous, when we tell a friend or family member we’re worried for their safety and they should give up on their dream trip, let’s make sure those statements are based on facts.
Not a single news story (remember: the news is news precisely because it’s unusual; don’t let a couple big stories give you a false sense that sensational events happen all the time).
Not a gut feeling.
Not a political stance.
Don’t let feelings stop you from exploring an amazing, diverse, beautiful, friendly, charming, foodie-heaven continent. Not when the facts say that you are decidedly safer here than you are back home.
* Data analyzed on June 29th, 2017. Figures above reflect data on that date.