I make this emphatic statement on the basis that while personal discovery abroad has its merits, personal security will trump such an experience every time. Simply put, life is too precious to loose to bad choices made instinctively.
According to AFP, after prolonged visits to Sri Lanka and India, American yoga teacher Aubrey Sacco, 23, decided to conclude her six-month excursion abroad, clearly a trip of a lifetime, with a solo trek in Nepal's Himalayas.
Prior to her departure on her trek, Ms. Sacco told her family that she would be hiking in Langtang National Park (a rugged area encompassing 660 square miles), which is situated on the Tibetan border. She also told them that she would contact them again in a matter of days. Sadly, they never heard from her again. That was in April 2010.
COMMENT: Ms. Sacco's mother, Connie, has now accused the Government of Nepal of indifference to a case that has flagged the dangers of solo women trekking alone in the world's most famous mountain range.
Mrs. Sacco has now visited Nepal on three occasions, meeting with Nepalese police officials in an effort to find out the status of their investigation. AFP quoted her as saying, "It should not be our job to investigate this, it's their job."
Ms. Sacco apparently was last seen in the village of Langtang on April 22, 2010. Villagers there initially told her parents that she left in the afternoon, but some later changed their stories, saying they had not seen her at all.
The Sacco Family have said that their daughter may have died in an accident, but they fear that Nepalese authorities refuse to consider other possibilities (e.g., robbery, sexual assault, etc.).
A search of the area near Langtang at the time and subsequent searches have turned up no leads as to found human remains and no avalanches that might have engulfed Ms. Sacco.
As part of their effort to find their daughter, the family has understandably involved US representatives in Colorado and even the FBI, all of whom blame "red tape" in Nepal.
Additionally, the US Embassy has offered polygraph examiners and ground radar equipment, which is often used to located bodies underground, yet there as yet has been no basis for using such equipment, considering that Nepal is slightly larger than the US state of Arkansas.
The Sacco Family has even alleged that the Nepalese government does not want to find out what happened to their daughter.
Admittedly, nothing is worse for a parent than the anguish and heartbreak of having an adult child disappear abroad. That being said, though, let me offer some perspective that not all of our readers may realize:
- Despite our worst thoughts, rarely do foreign governments intentionally NOT act because of an unwillingness to do so. Most of the time, it simply boils down to diminished resources and inadequate technological know-how;
- Often, our expectations from severely under-developed foreign governments are much greater than such governments can actually muster;
- Based on the above statement, it is understandable why resolution of a missing person's case often must be borne by the families of a missing family member; and
- When a country whose principal industry is tourism, why would such a country NOT reach resolution of a missing person's report? To not bring a case to closure only intensifies factors that would have a negative impact on tourism.
The sad news from all of this is that young travelers turn up missing abroad from time to time, often because of inexperience, traveling alone and a lack of acknowledgment of the risks involved.
Simply put, my 1,000+ postings underline the fact that young adults often make hasty, imprudent choices when traveling abroad, particularly when traveling alone, and often when they don't have the built-in security of traveling partners.
Specifically, I urge the parents of all young adults to encourage their adult children to have a traveling partner when embarking on a trip abroad.
Tragically, many of these incidents have irreversible results, which is why a number of foreign governments have urged their nationals to NOT hike ALONE in Nepal, both as an accident resolution measure, as well as discouraging crimes of opportunity on solo travelers.
Although there is no evidence to suggest that Ms. Sacco was a victim of foul play, the fact is that like in any country, criminals in Nepal often take advantage of vulnerable foreign travelers hiking alone.
In recent years, American, French and German women have either disappeared or died while trekking alone.
For the benefit of the Sacco Family, please see: