Brighten your day with this chart of how Americans die abroad!
Last year, 68 million Americans went on jaunty international vacations.
The vast majority of them return unscathed, but a few returned very scathed, a.k.a dead. That's because every year, around 1,000 American tourists die abroad, many times from causes they'd never have to face stateside.
The US government doesn't keep comprehensive records of civilian deaths abroad, but the State Department is required to collect and publish information on citizens' deaths from unnatural causes. Over the last decade, they've recorded more than 8,000 American deaths abroad, and as such, a picture is emerging that tells us a little bit about vacation risks around the globe.
In much of the world, the causes of unnatural death for Americans abroad are similar to those at home—suicides and accidents, particularly car crashes. A handful of places show more unusual patterns: a high number of murders from Mexico across Central America and into Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana; terrorist deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan; and drowning in coastal destinations, including many island nations in the Caribbean and South Pacific.
In Vietnam and Indonesia, motorcycles are a common form of transport—and the top hazard for American travelers. In Nepal, thrill-seekers climbing Mount Everest fly onto a strip of asphalt in the mountains that's been called the world's scariest airport. Over the past 10 years, 13 Americans have died in air accidents there, the most common cause. (The data don't include deaths from this year's earthquake in Nepal.)
Drug overdoses kill more Americans than car crashes at home, but they're a far less common cause of death for U.S. travelers, with little more than 200 recorded in the past 10 years. Still, they were the leading reason Americans died in Cambodia and Laos.
The statistics tally deaths recorded by the State Department for U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad. It doesn't include members of the military or government officials posted in foreign countries. It's also not a comprehensive account, because survivors may not inform the State Department of every death, particularly of expats who settled overseas long term.
Earthquakes also seem to be particularly thirsty for American blood; over the last decades, the number of Americans who've died in earthquakes, particularly in Haiti and Japan, is between 725 and 850. That's roughly 10 percent of American traveling deaths right there.
If you're looking for a new region to travel to where you're more likely to return super tan than super dead, check out South America. It's recently become much safer for travelers ... however, the Middle East and Africa have gotten much riskier.
Still, while headlines about drug crime, civil wars or terrorism may cause travelers to pause before booking a ticket to Syria, it's the more mundane hazards such as car accidents or drowning that are statistically much more lethal.
"More people die from coconuts falling on their heads than shark attacks every year," says Robert Cavaliere, chief product officer at Allianz Global Assistance USA, a travel insurance company. "You hear about the shark attacks. You don’t hear about the coconut attacks." Although data on coconut injuries are sketchy ... we still think we'll stick to coconut-free destinations for now. North Pole, here we come!
Motorcycles are a particularly deadly form of transportation for American travelers too, particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia. Over in Nepal, adrenaline junkies ascending Everest fly onto a strip of asphalt in the mountains that's been called the "world's scariest airport." Over the past 10 years, 13 Americans have died in air accidents there so ... take an alpaca instead.
Interestingly, drug overdoses kill way more Americans at home than they do abroad. That Taiwanese ecstasy is probably pretty safe comparatively. Still somehow, they were the leading reason Americans died in Cambodia and Laos. Noted.
Moral of the story? You're gonna die anyway, so you might as well doing it riding miniature ponies through the heart of inner Mongolia. Good luck!