Is it Safe to Travel in Bali?
“Is it safe there?” is one of the most common questions I’m asked when approached by people who want to see Bali. Before going deeper, my first response is that I feel very safe in Bali, often safer than I do in Calgary! As a single woman in her 50s, I can confidently say that I feel comfortable hopping on my motorbike alone and navigating my way through windy Balinese streets and the countryside. I still get lost. I still can’t speak the language well. I’m not even an intimidatingly fearless solo woman traveller. If you meet me, you will quickly see that I’m a friendly, approachable, laid back single mother originally from Saskatchewan who didn’t travel until 2006.
However, I understand how important safety is. It’s important to assess our safety, while also being aware of our potential biases and fears that are built up by the media and word of mouth, especially when it surrounds cultural bias and natural disasters. In his article Why We Lose Out On Life Because Of The Misjudge Of “Safety” (which I absolutely recommend reading), Vishen Lakhiani goes into detail about why it is so easy to blow “danger” out of proportion. He talks about the earthquakes in Indonesia that happened this past summer… most people don’t know that those earthquakes happened 200km away from Bali, and many people cancelled their travel plans because they thought Bali was dangerous at this time.
The same thing happens all over the world… in the Alberta Rockies, tourists often don’t leave the parking lots for fear of running into a bear. They buy cans of bear spray for the bus ride, but the chance of being accidentally bear-sprayed on a bus far outweighs any chance you’ll need to use bear spray on a bear (and bus bear spray incidents happen a lot).
Why do we get so afraid? Often it’s because we’re out of our comfort zone, so we are naturally more on defense, looking out for the worst. It can also be attributed to news coverage that puts things out of context and only shows one side of the story or one snippet that ends up representing the whole. Popular movies and TV shows feed into these fears even more for entertainment (who wasn’t afraid of sharks after watching Jaws? And I can only imagine what people think about bears after watching The Revenant).
Finally, if we’re used to routine, almost anything can feel incredibly dangerous, so you might just be out of the practice of experiencing new things! Let yourself off the hook, it’s ok to be nervous... but don’t let it stop you from experiencing new things. I would hate to see people avoid the mountains because of bears, and I would hate to see people avoid experiencing Bali because of a deep fear of earthquakes or their own cultural misconceptions.
At the end of the day, I’m glad when people ask me whether Bali is safe because I can assure them that I return there because I feel safe. And really, there is a always a risk to doing anything, even everyday things like driving. But we do them anyways, because living fully is more important than never doing anything at all.