Should You Travel to a Destination After a Natural Disaster?

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Recently, I went to Mexico City and Cuernavaca on a two week holiday, just months after a 7.1 earthquake hit. There was extensive news coverage of over 200 deaths and over 40 collapsed buildings in Mexico City. My mother and I briefly looked into the situation and decided to still go. This is what surprised me. While I heard many reports about damage in Mexico City, I personally saw only one destroyed building during my trip. In contrast, I had heard nothing about Cuernavaca and yet two of the main sites we wanted to see, the Palace of Cortes and Botanical Gardens, were closed indefinitely to the damage.

This reminded me of when I went to Boracay after Hurricane Yolanda, which was the deadliest hurricane on record in the Philippines, killing around 6,000 people. Many of my friends in the US were shocked that I still went even after all the horrible news coverage. Having been to the Philippines many times before, I knew that the hurricane hit a completely different part of the country. Moreover, I messaged my friends that live there and they assured me that was very little damage on the Boracay. That year, however, there were about half the tourists, which personally I liked (less crowds), but I knew that economically it was hard on the locals.

Both of the situations made me wonder, should you visit a destination after a natural disaster? Here are some tips and considerations you should have before making a decision.

Research, Research, Research

No one wants to vacation in a place that may be experiencing shortages of food, gas, or shelter. Neither do we want to go to a place if the destinations we want to see most have experienced damage. However, you don’t want to rush to conclusions. Sometimes, the media exaggerates the damage. Other times, there’s barely any coverage. In addition, you should consider that natural disasters tend to affect one or two cities, not an entire country.

Many countries rely on tourism income, so a natural disaster can plunge the country’s entire economy into a free-fall that can take years to reverse. Often times, the locals will really appreciate your business. Besides, since natural disasters just affect one or two areas, I recommend making alternative plans within the country.

Should I Volunteer?

There are many kind hearted people in the world who feel compelled to help a destination after a natural disaster. However, jumping on a plane to offer help could be one of the most irresponsible things you could do. First of all, you really need to consider whether you have skills or abilities in disaster relief. Secondly, you might be taking a job that should be given to a local resident. Lastly, you would need to ensure that you sign up for a responsible and well organized volunteering project. Unless you have excellent contacts in the destination, you could easily end up with a negligent organization.

Don’t Complain

Your vacation plans may have changed but no wants to hear you complain when lives have been lost and livelihoods destroyed. My mother and I still very much enjoyed Cuernavaca despite not being able to visit two of the destinations on our list. We simply traveled more slowly. Highlights included shopping for silver at the local market, visiting the Robert Brady Museum, and sampling the city’s gastronomic delights at its numerous restaurants.

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Cuernavaca is a very beautiful city.

 

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The Robert Brady Museum was my favorite destination in Cuernavaca.

 

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A pretty church in Cuernavaca.

 

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A gorgeous restaurant in Cuernavaca

 

  • Jeanne Slater

    Good to know – especially since some scientists are anticipating an increase in earthquakes in 2018 due to changes in the earth’s rotation. And then there’s increased flooding from rising sea levels!

  • Lisa Rivera

    I really enjoyed reading this post, and was able to see a different perspective. It’s hard to decide whether to travel to a disaster-hit country or city. However, I’m glad you did, as your photos of Mexico City are stunning, and shows off the beauty of the country.

  • I don’t know if I would be willing to visit a country for pleasure that was recently struck by a natural disaster. These things can affect a country physically and its people emotionally. I would definitely not want to be a tourist but perhaps do a volunteer trip instead.

  • Adrianna Vogel

    Its terrible how few minutes can destroyed so much! Ive never visited any place after disaster, so I don’t know how it could be but as you’re saying some places make money from tourist to survive so somehow we can help them. I was visiting place “before the disaster”, Bali right when there was a warning about the volcano. A lot of people cancelled their holidays, it was very sad to see lots of empty restaurants and taxi drivers were going down with prices so much just to go with them. Cuernavaca looks so lovey though I would love to visit it one day!

  • heidi medina

    Having grown up in a place where hurricanes hit often, I can say yes, go to places after a natural disaster but do wait until it’s safe to go and things are back to “normal.” All these places depend on tourism so going will help the local economy repair faster. It looks like you had an amazing trip and did your homework before going.

  • I do think that we should travel to a destination after a disaster hits because our trip will help the economy and the reconstruction of the place we go to. I remember hurricane Irma that hit the Caribbean this summer. Islands are still destroyed and people are avoiding to go there. Indeed, it’s not the same anymore but by going there and spending money in a hotel, we help that establishment with the repairs, by eating at a local restaurant we help the local people keeping their jobs which provides them with the salary that the need so much to rebuild their houses. I would say that it’s essential we travel to a place a couple of months after a natural disaster hits.

  • This is really good advice. Of course things like safety are a priority when travelling, but usually after a natural disaster, the worst damage has already been done. But you have to make sure you’re not getting in the way of disaster relief. And that means not just suddenly throwing yourself into a volunteer position as sometimes extra people can get in the way. We went to Fiji shortly after Cyclone Winston (before moving there a month later) and drove through some of the worst-affected areas. It was very apparent that tourism was going to be vital to getting the country back on its feet.

  • Samah

    I’ve never thought of this before, it’s great that you shining light on a new travel perspective. I agree that tourism in a country takes a hit after a natural disaster, so you could help by still visiting the country, although I feel I’d have to vigilante with all that comes after a natural disaster. I like the idea of volunteering to help though.