A common concern about travel is how safe going abroad really is. The concern is often heightened when going to a developing part of the world – like Southeast Asia, India or Central America. And taken up yet another notch when the travel plans include children.
The good news is that by and large the concerns that we have about going to exotic destinations are rarely realized. Travelers to third world nations rarely die of malaria, yellow fever or hepatitis B. That shouldn’t sound dismissive. Part of that good luck is dependent on vaccines, preparation and planning, and excellent health care for tourists when they do fall ill. (Locals aren’t nearly as fortunate on their encounters with illness.)
The truth is travelers often takes risks while traveling that they otherwise would consider rash, irresponsible, or just plain stupid (see our family photos below). Risks and scenarios that are eschewed at home, are taken on eagerly and happily while on vacation. It’s not always easy to know where to draw the line. You are traveling in a foreign country where the idea is to adopt that country’s norms and standards.
There have been times I insisted on a different vehicle because the seat belts wouldn’t work, strapped my kids safely in only to feel a little ridiculous as we passed one motorbike after another with entire families laboring to stay aboard.
And other times when I’ve shrugged my shoulders and rationalized to myself that the chances of an accident on any individual journey are fairly small.
Let’s have a look now at some of the Hogg family’s worst moments in child safety.
I don’t know how many safety recommendations this setup breaks. Let’s see: rear facing in the front seat with air bags. Did I miss any?
Cars in Indonesia don’t have seat belts in the rear seats so it was either here or sitting on our laps in the back and I chose this. That’s one big difference between Bali and Vietnam. Cars in Bali just have working seat belts in the 2 front seats. Cars in Vietnam have no working seat belts at all.
Another photo from the “travel without seat belts” file.
I had this idea that they were somehow protected from harm if they kept their bodies behind the seat and I would find myself inanely reminding the boys every few miles to “stay behind the seat! Would ya”. Like if the van did a flip I’d be telling people afterwards, “luckily the boys were standing safely behind those 2 big front seats.”
It says right on the little white tag: The Baby Bjorn has not been tested on elephant rides – but what could go wrong on an elephant ride?
Well, for one: the large beast could get hungry. Our Elephant went … how should I put this … a little crazy.
I found out later that he was very hungry and had somehow saw or sensed that it was feeding time. He was trying to fight his handler and go directly to the food. He trampled off the path, across a large field and away from the other elephant and the intended route. (Thinking we were dead my wife and her elephant continued on to the lodge where they were offered some lovely Balinese fruit.) It took only a few minutes for our guide to get our elephant under control. This will sound like either a short or long amount of time depending on if you are reading this online or were actually on top of the animal at the time.
At least the life jackets were within reach! And it only happened this once.
Ok, maybe twice.
Come on – What’s gonna happen on a river?
On a boat near Hoi An in Vietnam, our son got to take the steering wheel and was very happy with himself.
While Samuel was driving, the boat would occasionally do a pretty dramatic 180 in the river and we’d turn around to see him turning the wheel as the boat pointed this way … and then that way … and the boatman would be down on the floor of the boat playing with our other son completely unconcerned.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with an American guy who married a Vietnamese woman and often took his kids back there to visit her parents and family. He was amazed at how different their sense of risk was. He’d hear them saying stuff like, “Oh look at the baby up on the roof playing with the knife – Isn’t he cute?”