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Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Why I Am Never Going to Canada Again.

T he title of this article is actually misleading — and I blatantly admit it up front to you…

…so why did I use it?

I just read an article written by Steven Zussino, who is the author of the Canadian Travel Hacking weblog; and the title of it is Why I am never going to Jamaica again. 

In that article, Steven cites the following reasons: “High murder rate, tourist traps, everyone with their hand out – reasons why we will never return there. So many other beautiful places in the world to visit.”

I have never been to Jamaica; but I do hope to visit one day. With an area of 4,240 square miles, the Caribbean island nation might be small compared to Canada, where the total area is approximately 6.2 million square miles…

…but an absolute conclusion pertaining to an entire country should not rest on one visit to Montego Bay, in my opinion.

Does Jamaica have a high murder rate? According to this “listicle” posted at The Huffington Post, Jamaica ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world in terms of its murder rate of 39.3 per 100,000 people in 2012…

…which means that your chances of getting murdered in Jamaica are .000393 per person. Is that really a reason not to visit a country?

Colombia, South Africa, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Swaziland, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize and Venezuela round out the top ten countries with the highest murder rates — with Honduras having the highest murder rate in the world at 90.4 per 100,000 people. Should I not visit those countries either?

I was born and raised in New York — Brooklyn, to be specific. In 1991, there were 2,245 murders reported in New York. Last year, there were 334 homicides reported — a record low — but the murder rate is expected to increase this year, according to an article written in January earlier this year by Ryan Sit and Tina Moore of the New York Daily News. Should I not return to New York in 2014 because I might have a greater chance of being murdered this year than in 2013?

By the way, I am scheduled to be in New York this autumn. There goes that theory.

I suppose there are no murders in major cities in Canada such as Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver. If there are, should I not return to Canada?

Did you read about what happened on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba in 2008, Steven? I will never forget about that awful and gruesome story.

By your own admission, Steven, you have “travelled to over four continents and thirteen countries” with your nine-month-old daughter — and I am certain you have traveled to more places than that in your lifetime. Tourist traps abound. I cannot stand them either. I detest crowds. I dislike cheap junk as souvenirs. Overpriced food does not interest me in the least…

…so do your best to avoid those tourist traps — like I do. Every country to which I have been has them — including Canada. Not that I necessarily consider Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver a “tourist trap”, but I do offer Lynn Canyon Park and Suspension Bridge — only a few kilometers east — as a free alternative.

As for “everyone with their hand out” — well, I remember when I traveled to Côte d’Ivoire, little children would literally run up to me with their hands out while asking “cadeau?” with eager anticipation. Depending on the circumstances, I gave each of them a franc. Is that a reason not to return?

I have had people come up to me seeking a handout in countries such as Thailand, Mexico, Senegal and the Bahamas. Heck — I have had people approach me in New York asking me for money: spilling something on my windshield and offering to clean it for money; running up behind me and asking for some money for a future meal…

…and I will never forget the time I was a passenger on the L train in Brooklyn when a “blind” man had a cup out while asking for donations from fellow passengers. Unlike others who have not feared to tread before him, he actually stayed in that car for several stops as he slowly worked his way from one end of the car to the other; and the car was not crowded with people. When the train reached Myrtle Avenue, a “colleague” of his ran into the subway car and alerted him to come with him — I was not sure of the reason — and the “blind” guy suddenly darted out of that subway car faster than a runner in a marathon.

This guy was truly convincing to the point where I actually wondered if he was authentic — something I virtually never do — but you should have seen the looks on the faces of all of the people who donated money to him after he bolted out of the subway car. There is nothing like the sinking feeling of just having been — er…shall we say…“taken for a ride.”

Should I not return to Brooklyn because of that incident?

I certainly have nothing against you, Steven — and I do hope to meet you someday…

…but I guess what I am trying to say is that it is not fair to cast a negative pall on an entire country based on one visit to what seemed to have been to one area. Every place has its good and bad areas; and places can be vastly different within the same country. Halifax is quite different from Vancouver, which is again quite different from Montréal in Canada. I remember how much I could not stand much of the island of Oahu in Hawaii; but I thoroughly enjoyed Kauai. You can even simply go across town in many places and have a completely different experience.

Now, if you decided that as a result of having visited Jamaica that you have now already been there once and have no desire to return, Steven, that is your preference and opinion to which you are absolutely entitled…

…but the reasons you cited as to why you were not returning to Jamaica are just not compelling enough to warrant an article, in my opinion. I would have preferred that you gave a trip report on your experiences from which you let the reader decide as to whether or not to visit Jamaica — or at least live the experience vicariously through you.

So other than what was included in the article, what did you do in Jamaica, Steven? What did you eat? Where did you stay? What areas did you visit? How long was your stay? What was the cost of goods and services there? Was there anything about your trip to Jamaica which you actually enjoyed? If so, what? Why did you decide to visit Jamaica in the first place — even though its reputation for a high murder rate was already known? Did you have any adventures while you were there?

As someone who has never been to Jamaica, these are only some of the questions I had after reading your article. I still would like to know, if you are willing to write another article about your visit to Jamaica in greater detail.

As for the souvenirs part, I intend to address that more in general in a future article here at The Gate

…but in the meantime, let me state for the record that I indeed intend on visiting Canada again. In fact — after having been to all 50 states in the United States — I hope to one day have been to all ten provinces and three territories in Canada.

I have one minor question, though: could someone please explain to me why Newfoundland and Labrador were not separated into two provinces?

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I would agree. I have been to over 70 countries and the only time I had an issue was from Montreal Canada where I was conned and threatened. Never had any issues in other countries.
    I avoid Montreal like the plague. Using my own travel experience as well as common sense for future travels but at times they get those stats wrong.

    1. That is a shame, Matteo — and I am sorry to learn that that happened to you. I enjoyed my visit to Montréal — including the smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s; the visit to the stadium where the Expos used to play; and the “hike” up Mount Royal.

      You have given me an idea for a future article, though: I might consider writing about how to prevent from being conned while traveling…

  2. If the reason on that other article aren’t enough, why would murder rate of NYC be compelling? I have a blacklist of places I’m not even considering going to, and most of them check the boxes that Steven mentioned.
    World is full of interesting places and we only have a short window of opportunity to visit them during our lifetime. Why waste it to deal with issues not present at other destination?

    1. That is a very good question, Lack.

      I suppose for me, it is because there are times that a person might have a pre-conceived notion of what a destination is like — and be surprised that it is not at all what was originally believed once visiting that place. Of course, that could work both ways where someone visits a destination with positive thoughts and is thoroughly disappointed once having visited there.

      For example, India is not high on my list of places to visit — but I have not been there; so how do I know on what I am missing out?

      In fact, there is a discussion on FlyerTalk on that very topic. Please consider reading it to learn of which destinations shattered the pre-conceived notions of FlyerTalk members and why.

      For me, one of the most important aspects about travel in general is having an open mind…

  3. Not traveling to a country because of something you read on the internet, IMO, makes one “ignorant.” The US State Dept has had an alert on Israel for years, but there isn’t one on Jamaica or many other “dangerous” countries. No matter where I go, I research and make my own judgment calls. I doubt many people associate Israel with danger unless there is unrest happening at the time. Great post and thanks for stating what I’d deem as obvious. I love Jamaica, I’ve been countless times for various reasons.
    Although we travel, we aren’t all enlightened.

  4. Sure, that might be the case. But why not learn on someone else’s mistakes, given the ample choices we’re provided in modern times? Maybe if you’re visiting a different island in the Caribbean every weekend it’s not much of a gamble, but for someone with two weeks vacation time in a year the odds are very much different.

    1. You have no argument from me, Lack.

      The world does not seem to be all that big until we venture out into it — and there is indeed so much to see and experience that it is difficult to decide exactly where to go and what to do…

  5. What? Chatzkies like coozies and magnets are awesome! I hear you on hawkers though, no thanks.

    Sorry to hear about Montreal, a truly great town to visit May – November.

    And Brian…10 is so much easier than 50. C’mon man get with it!

    1. You are right, The Weekly Flyer — I do need to get with it.

      I have already been to four out of the ten provinces…

  6. Newfoundland and Labrador was until 1949 a British colony (later dominion). In 1949, it voted to join Canada as the 10th province. The colony and province was known simply as “Newfoundland” until 2001, when there was a constitutional amendment to change the province’s name to “Newfoundland and Labrador”. “Newfoundland” refers to to the part of the province that occupies the Island of Newfoundland, whereas “Labrador” refers to the part of the province that is on the mainland on the Labrador peninsula. The two regions share the same history, culture and language (Newfoundland English – which is the reason some people think we all say “aboot” up here), so that is why they have “not been separated”

  7. Wow Brian…excellent and well thought out post. I love it… Shake it up, you have the balls to question the ignorant, bigoted people. I’m sick of it myself. I live part time on the east coast of Mexico, but am from the UK. Without boring you… My family and I had repeated violent attacks in and out of the home in London, without any real police mitigation (they are overloaded) conversely never ever had any major problem in Mexico.

    People think if you go to London, maybe Prince William will meet you at the airport with a cup of tea, but set foot in Mexico you’ll probably be kidnapped three times in the baggage hall. Partly media BS, partly people wanting to believe drama and they live in the very best part of the world. By the way… The rest of the time I live in the US, which is amazing and for the most part I love. But as you point out, they are some pretty shady (and dangerous) corners in it! Once again…nice post…kudos!

  8. Point taken, but in his defense, I’ve been to several parts of Jamaica and the “bilk the tourists” mentality is not isolated–sad to say.

  9. I have visited all the Canadian provinces and territories and all of the lower 48 and Alaska. Hoping to find cheap airfare to go to Hawaii.

  10. Hi Brian,

    I appreciate the post – I hope you come to Canada soon! I think every traveller is different and I have been to enough places to know what I enjoy (natural beauty and good hiking and feeling comfortable). Next winter I am taking my family to Sydney and to New Zealand for 1 month (both heavily researched and areas where I have good idea that I would enjoy).

    The Jamaica trip was part of a cruise (that I loved) but the point of the post was that I am sure there are destinations that every traveller would rather not return to.

    I still don’t get the quest of heavy traveller’s to see every country in the world! Why?

    My budget only allows me limited vacation to experience an enjoyable holiday with my family (so what is wrong with that).

    1. Thank you for interpreting the article in the spirit in which it was intended, Steve. It was not meant to attack you in any way; rather, I wanted to find out more about your time in Jamaica, as I had never been there.

      I think that part of the allure of seeing every country in the world is not so much the crossing of imaginary borders created by humans; but rather the ability to experience unfamiliar cultures, architecture, food and other items and activities we would not be able to experience near where we live. It is the opening of our minds — although I admit my mind is certainly not always open to all things — as well as for learning and enrichment in order for us to become better human beings and understand each other better.

      Also, sometimes a less-than-positive experience could also be interesting from which others can learn; and in my personal opinion, that is what was missing from the article that you wrote. That does not necessarily mean that I am correct; that is simply how I felt. I wanted to find out more about your experience — especially as what you might have disliked, others would have completely enjoyed — from which I and others might have learned.

      As for budgets — well, may of us are on limited budgets; and taking full advantage of travel on a limited budget can be quite challenging. Of course you want your holiday with your family to be as enjoyable as possible — and there unfortunately will be times where those plans just do not work out that way…

      …but based on my experiences, I believe you will truly enjoy Australia and New Zealand. I was in those two countries for three weeks and would absolutely recommend traveling to both of those countries for a variety of reasons.

      Lastly, you are correct: every traveler is indeed different. Imagine how boring the world could be if every traveler were exactly the same!

  11. @Steve
    A BUDGET should only limit a vacation and not limit a person’s ability to reduce knee-jerk stereotyping of an entire nation.

    I hope people understand you do not speak for the rest of us Canadians.

  12. I won’t go to Canada as their immigration are just rude and difficult. When I tell them I have an aunt who lives in Calgary they assume I am trying to immigrate to stay. Never again – not even connecting.

  13. I was falsely imprisoned for 30 minutes and threatened with my life by a hotel employee who pushed his way into my room in Nairobi and stole all my money and my phone. This was at a four star luxury resort in Nairobi. I’d still go back there.

    1. You do realize this is one of those stories about which others will want to find out more information, Nathan. Would you please care to elaborate? I hope that your belongings were returned to you and that you received compensation…

  14. Newfoundland and Labrador made a serious mistake. They were the last significant British possessions in North America. But they didn’t know they had huge oil and gas reserves plus other great undiscovered natural resources. Thus, they made the famous mistake: they joined Canada in 1949. They lost their country for trinkets and vague promises.

    1. I found that information very interesting, Reg Handford. Thank you for sharing it.

      How do you think Newfoundland and Labrador would have fared as an independent country or territory?

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