Traveling Into Danger

The engines roared as I braced myself for an emergency landing on the flooded tarmac.

This was the mental exercise I practiced 25 years ago before I flew to Seattle with just a suitcase and my Golden-Lab retriever to start a new life. It was just after Thanksgiving, November 1990.


SEATTLE, WASHINGTON  Portion of I-90 Bridge sinking into Lake Washington. November 1990.

In the days preceding my departure from Washington, DC, I closely monitored the news featuring my favorite anchorman, Peter Jennings.

The excitement over my future home was dimmed by scenes of houses being swept away by raging rivers, and the Seattle floating bridge, sinking.

At the departure gate in Dulles International Airport, my worried father asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to change your mind?”

I nodded Yes, although I knew I was flying into a natural disaster.

November 26, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my plane made an uneventful landing at SeaTac International Airport.

Later, watching the local Seattle news, I realized the national networks had left out a few pertinent details: the floods were in a town over two hours away. And the Interstate 90 bridge was sinking because the doors on several pontoons had been left open before a storm.

In the following weeks I learned my new neighbors had no idea that the national news had the rest of the country believing the city of Seattle was in the midst of aquatic Armageddon.

I remembered this as I told people I was going to Jordan this summer to do volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI). On CNN, Jordan is mostly known as a haven for Syrian refugees and a target for ISIS. After a pregnant pause, some would ask, in so many words, “Isn’t it dangerous there?”


“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” ― Albert Einstein


News soundbites can never define the reality of an entire community, city, or country. If they did, then every American would own a gun and be one hair trigger away from a rampage (sadly, this is becoming our stereotype to the rest of the world).


Angry camel in Petra

PETRA, JORDAN. My teammate Nina learns not to pet a an ornery camel

While in Jordan, the only time at which any of the volunteers’ felt at risk was from an encounter with an irritable camel during a tour of the Lost City of Petra.

I have other experiences that I’ll cover in future posts about my time in Jordan, but for now, I’d like to share a message I received from my friend Steve (yes, the same one who dances with shamans) after one of his many trips.

Steve was born in 1937, and has witnessed the world change throughout his life and across the 196 countries and territories he has explored during that time. Last year Steve visited Zamboanga, an area of the Philippines identified by the State Department as a high security risk for tourists.

Excerpt from letter from Steve following a trip to Zamboanga:

…”While looking at the photos, I noticed that at one point while mixing with the Badjao (Sea Gypsies) I was in danger from above. I have attached the photo to show just how dangerous my trip was.”


Zamboanga, Mindanao, Philippines

ZAMBOANGA, MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES. Stephen Williams visits with members of the traditionally nomadic Badjao people.


Albert Einstein said that, if we believe the universe is hostile, our focus would be on building walls and weapons. But if we believe the universe is friendly, our focus would be on exploration, because power and safety come from understanding.

Categories: Travel, Volunteer

1 Comment

  • Deborah Perkins says:

    You continue to amaze and inspire me. I have to learn more about your trip to Jordan. It sounds like you had an amazing adventure.


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