Six times I’ve narrowly avoided disaster while travelling

“The world is a dangerous place oi. You could get, ya know, blown up or something.”

My former co-worker’s words of warning still ring in my ears every time I check the news.

I remember thinking ‘The dangers of the world are not going to keep me in Auckland my whole life!’ (Which is already quite a dangerous place.) What are the chances that I’ll be right there when something awful happens?

Apparently quite high.

Not once or twice, but I’ve counted six occasions I’ve been within the country, city, or street of a worldwide disaster. I don’t know if I’m just ridiculously lucky because I keep missing the worst of these incidents, or if I’m actually cursed and if countries knew what was good for them, they’d  hold me at immigration.



After the horrible events in Paris a month before I left NZ, the threat of terrorism was a real one. I’ve never let it sway my decision-making because it’s too random to factor in, but it struck just a few short weeks in.

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta was hit by terrorists in the middle of January. Suicide bombs and guns were used to attack one of the busiest streets in the city, injuring 19 and killing seven. They reckon it was ISIS.

I was an island away, practising for my big music gig in Bali. I didn’t hear about the attacks until I’d left for Thailand. There are thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, so to be on the one next to the affected was pretty scary. I thought that was going to be my big run-in. But I still had a few to go.


Once I landed in Malaysia, hell-bent on relaxing and doing nothing, British, Australian, and NZ governments issued terrorist warnings for not only Kuala Lumpur but for the very street I was staying on. They said western tourists would be targeted. That was when I really hoped mum wasn’t following the news.

The Chinese New Year fireworks blowing up outside my window did not help ease my paranoia. I genuinely thought they were bombs and I went into full Rambo survival mode. I wanted to leave for Borneo before anything got too serious.

However in the same warning, they also said to stay away from Borneo because pirates were targeting westerners for ransom. It was a bad luck sandwich. A foot-long. With that peri-peri mayo shit.

I’m sure you would have heard by now if either of those warnings came to fruition, which they did not. It still didn’t stop me from checking behind us in the speedboat as we sailed around Borneo’s islands.


While planning my epic trip through Vietnam I heard of three British tourists who died canyoning in Dalat, which is the first spot tourists go to when they leave Saigon. I was in Saigon when it happened, and met up with a friend who had come from there. He said news outlets were all reporting different things, but everyone knows it was just old, faulty equipment that didn’t stop them from falling.

I decided to skip Dalat after that. Turns out I wasn’t the only one, as half the companies who offer canyoning tours closed down afterwards. Although I was a full city away, it was shocking news because friends had come from/were going to Dalat and knowing it could have been anyone opened my eyes a bit.


OK this one was serious. I was gallivanting around South Japan having the time of my life. I left Kumamoto on a bullet train and by the time I had got off, the area I was just in had been rocked by a massive earthquake. Including the aftershocks and all, about 50 people died, with thousands injured.

I was facebooking my friend who went south to Kagoshima, and felt all the shakes. She ended up flying to Osaka to escape it all. I realized I left mere hours before it all turned very pear-shaped. If my trip was a day later, the rest of my trip would have been very, very different.

5. MT ASO ERUPTION – 16/04/16

Staying with the Japanese theme, this gets a separate mention because it wasn’t an earthquake, but a goddam volcanic eruption. I was hiking Mt Aso in Kyushu three days before it violently erupted.


I was literally as close as you were allowed to get to the crater, on top of a number of grassy hills that would have made for a long and most likely unsuccessful descent. The volcanic eruption was linked to the quakes, so I got out of there at a pretty optimal time.

6. PARIS FLOODS – 2/06/16



Notre-Dame Cathedral in the pouring rain

Finally one I actually kind of saw. It was raining cats and dogs non-stop for most of my time in Paris. Each day I’d come home soaked, even with my umbrella. I tried to keep to inside touristy stuff, like spending a lot of time in the Louvre (which they had to shut because of the floods) and the catacombs, but I still got owned.

Paris in the rain is bittersweet. It’s still so picturesque and gorgeous, but it’s amazing how little you care about pretty buildings when you are freezing your ass off. I knew I got too lucky in London, as the notoriously rainy English capital was mostly rain-free for me.

I thought it was just bad luck for the tourists that it rained so much, but it’s actually pretty serious. The same weather system has killed people in Germany, plus thousands are without power across France. It’s all pretty full on.


Despite these close calls I am very safe, healthy, broke, and grateful. I’ve found it tough to be upset at all this year because everything has worked out so well. The world is dark and full of terrors, but I continue to cheat death Jon-Snow-Gandalf-Final-Destination style.

Fingers crossed I keep this lucky streak up for a few more months. If not, then like everyone when they leave their house every day, I took a calculated risk and lost. Not much you can do about that.

Oh here are some pretty photos from rainy Paris!


My favourite sculpture in the Louvre



“And they slapped his face on every vase – on eeeeeevery VAAAHHHHSE”



Inside Illuminati HQ – Louvre Pyramid





I took so many better photos of me smiling, being all happy and excited etc. I mean it’s the tower! But this one is my favourite, it was an accidental take and I randomly look really upset and it cracks me up


2 thoughts on “Six times I’ve narrowly avoided disaster while travelling

  1. Wow! Shawn, you must be carrying a lucky horseshoe as my Da would say Only put a little differently..LOL I love your writing style. You would make a wonderful photo journalist 😉 Stay safe and keep those tunes coming. we so enjoy your versatile style. Aunt Lorie


  2. Pingback: London to Rome by bus | Shawn Cleaver

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