Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan

Part 2: Afghanistan travel q&a

If you haven’t read part 1 of our travel interview with Shane about his Afghan adventure, you can read it here.

If you have, get straight into part 2! Happy reading!

How did the locals treat you?

Wonderful hospitality, I was invited into many homes for many cups of tea – how many times does that happen during a standard holiday? Not many, if any, I would guess.

Did you meet many tourists during your time there?

I met one other tourist in the whole week I was in the Wakhan Corridor. He was from New Zealand, and he arrived the day before I left. I was the first person to travel along the Wakhan Corridor that year, and he was the second, even though it was late May.

What are your pointers for travelling somewhere like Afghanistan?

Infrastructure is really poor. In the Wakhan Corridor and in Ishkashim (the village at the entrance to the Corridor) I had no running water the entire time, all showers were with a bucket, and sleeping was very basic. Bring warm clothes to sleep in at night as it can get very cool, even in summer. Ensure you have everything you need in a medical kit, as any help is far away. The roads in the Wakhan Corridor are the worst I’ve ever seen, so be prepared for days of bone-jarring and very slow travel. If you love adventure, you’ll love the Wakhan Corridor. If you don’t love adventure and don’t love roughing it, best to stay away.

How is travelling for women there?

It’s the only country I’ve visited where I think travelling as a solo woman is not advised. Not because it is dangerous, but culturally, a woman travelling or walking on their own is so different to daily life there that I’m unsure how it would be received by local people. Best to err on the side of caution and travel with others.

Did you feel limited as a free traveller?

Only limited by the fact that I needed a translator to translate conversations and I needed to go through a few hours of paperwork to obtain permission to journey along the Wakhan Corridor.

Why should people visit Afghanistan?

Apart from the obvious highlights of the mountains and people, Afghanistan gives people a chance to travel the way I did in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There was no Internet back then so any journey was more of an adventure, and it was a more isolating experience – as you couldn’t send Facebook or WhatsApp messages, nor have a Skype call.

Some people today like to go to places to get ‘off the grid’ even though the option is still there to connect to the outside world if one wants (by turning on their phone). In the Wakhan Corridor, there is no Internet and not even mobile/cell phone coverage – so you really are getting ‘off the grid’ with no chance of getting in communication with the outside world until you leave.

Have you been to any other ‘dangerous’ countries?

I don’t travel to dangerous countries, but I visit countries that have incorrectly poor safety reputations. Thus to answer that question, I’ve been to Syria, Yemen, Iran, Kurdistan (Iraq), Somaliland (adjacent to Somalia), North Korea to name the more notable countries.

How do you know if a country is safe to travel?

Only rely on information from people who have visited a destination or who live in a destination. Ignore all other advice, especially the media and family or friends who have never visited.  I’ve observed that the people who are the loudest critics on the safety of a destination are almost always those who have never been there – so please ignore them. Treat government advisories with caution, they are usually overly cautious in advice they can give, but they still can give you an overview of a country.

Is the world a dangerous place?

Overall, the world is a safe place. The vast majority of destinations in the vast majority of countries are safe, and the vast majority of people you meet when travelling mean you no harm. But remember, everywhere in the world is dangerous if you do not use common sense.

I strongly dispute information shared by those who take to the media to fuel fear about the world – usually from journalists, officials, and so-called security experts. They take an isolated incident in one part of a country to spread security and safety fears about the whole nation, region and even a continent.

I’ve now travelled to 100 countries and in my experience, the dangerous world scenario they paint is clearly incorrect. Sure, there will always be incidents, but these are minuscule in comparison to other times when these incidents do not occur.

Be sure to follow Shane’s journey, via his blog, The Travel Camel and his Instagram.

Skipped straight to part 2? Read part 1 here.

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