“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.” — Samuel Johnson
A few weeks ago when I began telling our family & friends of our plans to move to Egypt, it became pretty clear that people fell into one of two categories. First, there were those who were super-excited for us. Many had wished they had done something like this themselves before life got too busy. Others were just excited that we’d be able to experience such an amazing adventure.
The second group was much more cautious. “You realize things are pretty unsettled/unsafe over there right now, right?”….”What kind of security will your wife’s school have for you?”….”Make sure you don’t get yourselves injured/kidnapped/ killed/etc..” In fairness, this last one was usually made in jest, but I still think it speaks to people’s fears.
And the thing is, these concerns are valid. There are issues in Egypt right now. Since the 2011 revolution to oust former President/Dictator Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has seen regular demonstrations (some turning violent), increased crime rates and economic turmoil. We’re not exactly walking into an ideal situation.
Yet, I don’t for one moment second-guess our decision to move to Egypt. Here’s why:
Life is about evaluating and managing risk, not avoiding it all-together.
I don’t want to be the type of person who is so afraid to take a risk that I miss out on what could be a life changing experience. I know people that refuse to go hiking in the mountains because they’re afraid of encountering a bear. For me, its well worth the risk. If I wanted to eliminate all risks in my life I would never leave my house. I certainly would never have climbed Mount Rainier, trekked amongst Incan ruins in Peru or studied Spanish in Guatemala.
I think what is sometimes lost on people is that minimizing risk is something we all do everyday. Gotta drive to work? Put on your seatbelt. Work in a laboratory? Make sure you wear your lab coat and eye protection. Going for a bike ride? Don’t forget your helmet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a daredevil. I always take reasonable precautions before engaging in any potentially dangerous activity. When climbing, before I ever contemplated travelling on a glacier without a guide, I took a mountaineering course. Egypt will be the same. Educating ourselves ahead of time will be important. As will avoiding legitimately unsafe areas and being respectful to local practices/traditions.
Its also important to be honest in your evaluation of the true risk involved in anything you do. Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freaknomics, discussed people’s ability (or lack thereof) to accurately evaluate risk here. He says “we tend be scared of big, noisy, anomalous events”, but tend to overlook more common, appearingly safe activities. In other words, when we see news reports of violent demonstrations in Tahrir Square we translate this to mean that this is what all Cairo citizens are encountering on a daily basis. Perhaps a few are, but there is no way this can be representative of the daily lives of everyone in the city. Statisically speaking you have a much greater chance at being injured/dying while driving to work than being the victim of violence in Egypt, but most would never consider foregoing their vehicles.
Obviously, everyone has their own comfort level in terms of risk, but I encourage you to be honest in the evaluation of the true danger of any activity or opportunity that comes your way. Don’t miss out on a potential life enhancing opportunity due to an irrational fear.
As Mark Twain once said, “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”