When I told people I was going to Ukraine in the summer of 2015, I was often met with shocked expressions. It was a time when Russia invaded Crimea and there was a war going on in the southeastern part of the country.
Going to a country that is actively at war!? Was I crazy? Well, a little bit, but it was a mitigated risk. I was going to volunteer teach English, learn Ukrainian, and meet family I have there for the first time. If anything happened, I wasn't going to be alone or without any kind of connections.
But, as always, when I crossed the border into somewhere that people are afraid to go, I was met with nothing but friendliness and open arms. It wasn't possible to get close to the war and everywhere else I went was peaceful and beautiful. So peaceful that there was even an awesome cat cafe in the main city of Lviv.
Many times throughout my travels I have been warned against going to certain destinations from other foreigners. If I skipped that location, I often regretted it. I would find out later that everything you hear on the news are lies or that rumours are blown completely out of proportion.
Living in fear, or traveling in fear, is so crippling to many that we miss out on places and people that could have been the highlight of our trip, or life. Ukraine is an incredible place full of history, nature, architecture, culture, and it was an experience I hold close in my memories. I would not be who I am today or understand my family roots if I had not shrugged off the dozens of people who tried to scare me out of going.
Next time you hear that you shouldn't go somewhere from someone not from that country or location, second guess the validity of it. Do research, see if it's a perceived risk you are willing to take. Refuse to travel in fear.