The other night I felt like taking a walk.
I used to walk everywhere before I moved to Roatan. When I lived in Vancouver, one of the biggest cities in Canada, I regularly walked to/from work downtown to the neighborhood I lived in (Kitsilano). I walked home drunk by myself from downtown after going to the bar with friends. I walked to concerts, dinner dates and shopping. I never had a problem in 5 years of living there, and I never felt unsafe.
When I first moved to Roatan it was a bit of a shock to me that it was so unsafe for me to walk anywhere outside of the main street at night. I had enough close friends and acquaintances who had been robbed (sometimes at gunpoint) just walking home, that I decided it wasn't a risk I was willing to take. My friends who live in town still carry pepper spray or tasers when they walk on the main road at night! Even when I lived in town, I still sometimes took a taxi home at night because I lived a bit off the main road and wanted to be safe. A couple times people tried to rob me, but I don't ever carry anything on me besides a cheap phone and less then $25 so I never lost much. I have been around long enough on the island that most people know I'm not a tourist, and also I'm not tiny and walk assertively so I hardly ever have issues these days. That being said, I'm not going to purposely put myself in situations that I know aren't safe (hello, common sense) so I don't walk at night.
Now back in my sleepy hometown in Saskatchewan, I felt like going for a walk after dinner. I said to my mom that I wanted to go for a walk, and she said, "so...take a walk then!" and without thinking, I immediately responded, "but it's dark out".
In two years it has been so ingrained in my every day life that I can't walk around at night that I forgot it's completely safe to take an after dinner walk in a small city in Saskatchewan. Or a big city like Vancouver. Or anywhere in Canada, really.
I felt like a 16 year old with a brand new drivers license and a car... I could go walk anywhere I wanted! Even though it was 8:30pm! What freedom!
I bundled up (hey, it was 3C/37F out - I'm not used to these temperatures anymore!) and got ready to go.
As I set out for a walk through my quiet neighborhood, I thought about how wonderful it was that I could go for a walk. I thought about how lovely it was to be walking and not sweating and feeling like I'm about to die of heatstroke. And then I realized about 20 minutes in that I was CONSTANTLY looking over my shoulder and feeling a little anxious. I didn't see a single human being during my entire hour-long walk, but I couldn't shake the sense of uneasiness.
It was shocking to me that even though I am perfectly safe walking around in Canada, that after two years of knowing and being told it's not safe (in Roatan) that I couldn't fully enjoy a walk around my neighborhood here anymore without a nagging feeling that I was doing something I shouldn't and that I might be in danger. Clearly my brain was functioning on autopilot, and I'm glad I'm not immune to it sending out safety signals, but I can't help thinking what a shame it is.
This really got me thinking - do I want to live in a place that is so unsafe for me to walk around alone at night? This is not an exaggeration or 'crazy gringo talk' - it is a real and serious safety issue where I live in Honduras (for me and for people from there...you won't see locals walking home outside of town either) and now it so it is entrenched in my brain that I can't walk around in Canada without feeling unsafe. I don't really like the idea that I have this paranoia even once I'm not there.
I wish things were different in Roatan but it's not my country to change. That's up to the islanders and their government to do something about this kind of stuff that affects their residents and visitors alike. All I can do is decide if I want to be a part of a place where this is the norm and isn't going to be different anytime in the near future. I guess being back in Canada has given me a fresh set of eyes on it as I never think about it while I'm there - it's just what you do and you don't really think twice about it. So I'll keep pondering that question... but in the meantime, I'm going for a walk.
Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me figure out where my pepper spray is. So there's that.