When Travelers Take Too Many Risks is a series of articles from the NYT inspired by the recent incidents in which “reckless” American travelers were detained after illegally entering North Korea and Iran. The articles present a range of thoughtful—and thought-provoking—opinions, including these:

  • While Americans are celebrating the return of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling after four months of captivity in North Korea, there’s also been an inevitable backlash. Some commentators have suggested that their actions — and the pardons apparently negotiated in exchange for a visit by President Clinton — have jeopardized U.S. strategic interests….

    Whatever the particulars of these two cases, the argument misses the broader point. We as a society benefit enormously from the work of U.S. journalists who travel to remote and dangerous places and report back on what they see.

  • One thing I learned — it’s not heroic to get into a tight spot. I didn’t feel like a champion when I was fearing for my life and fingernails. On the occasions when I’ve gotten into a corner and might have needed someone’s help to get out, I also had a sense of failure….

    But that’s not the right story. The central characters, bathed in digital light and hugged by a former president, should not be the Americans who get out (and they almost always do). The heroes are the local people trapped in dictatorships that keep them beyond our gaze and beyond our rescue.

  • It’s part of the responsibility we all have as Americans to realize that when we travel abroad we can inadvertently become pawns in complex foreign or even domestic affairs between or within nations…. The hikers captured in Iran failed this basic test of common sense and maturity, and they should be reprimanded for it….

    Lost hikers seem harmless enough to all of us in the Western world who take our freedoms for granted every day. But this kind of gross negligence has done irreparable damage to a genuine freedom movement in Iran just as it was gaining momentum.

  • Perhaps travelers should realize that personal freedom comes with responsibility….

    I wouldn’t prohibit travelers from knowingly taking risks, as long as they understand that they may end up footing the bill. In general, I would also argue that hikers, skiers, swimmers and others who deliberately flout the rules should pay back the cost of their rescue.


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