'A tourist looks an awful lot like a spy', says Robert Young Pelton, adventurer and author of Licensed to Kill. 'You have a camera, a video camera, they can Google you very quickly and find out you've work in other countries.' In the age of the blogger, Pelton argues, many young adventure-seeking tourists are blurring the boundary between amateur and professional. 'Quasi-journalists', says Pelton, are often compelled to 'report' on their experiences. Writers, photographers, and plain thrill seekers may take unwise risks, turning normal situations into 'dangerous vacations.'
Earlier this month, three American tourists were arrested and detained near the Iraq-Iran border by Iranian officials while hiking. This occurred shortly after the pardoning of American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee from illegally entering North Korea. Tourist or journalist; the risk factor remains the same when exploring a politically-unstable country. The author and filmmaker discusses the tendency of traveling youth to place too much trust in the visiting country's ability to keep them safe.
On the other hand, Pelton supports adventure seekers, as well as the 'quasi-journalist', as long as they take precautions. 'Before you choose a destination, go on the internet and deal with people from the area', as opposed to gathering your information from the media, says Pelton. After traveling to 36 war zones, being kidnapped in Panama, and witnessing the battle of Qala-I-Jangi in Afghanistan, Pelton says that it is near impossible to know truly, what constitutes a dangerous situation until you're in one, "Just know the different between fear and danger". Robert Young Pelton's website, ComeBackAlive.com offers a "place where professionals, adventurers, travelers & those who work in high-risk areas can keep abreast of the latest info & safety tips." -- Khayeni Sanders
Listen to the entire Brian Lehrer interview: