Ode to Murdered Travel Blogger Harry Devert

Harry Devert

I can count my heroes on one hand, and Harry Devert is one of them.

A former New York financial analyst, Devert walked out of his office one day to instead explore the world and experience grand adventure.

From A New Yorker Travels:

There is so much good and so much to love in this world I sometimes can’t understand how people find time to hate things or even find enough things to be upset about. I believe life is short and that we need to make the most of it, and while many people say this, I truly try and live my life accordingly.

Devert spent five years traveling, and his blog remains a wealth of information for up-and-coming backpackers. His position was a fortunate one–coming out of a high-paying job, he had enough money tucked away to travel with freedom from financial limitations. In other words, the ability to choose between high-end hotels and backpacker hostels, depending entirely on his preference.

The most heroic thing about Devert is that he walked away from the rat-race with no regret. He refocused the energy that had been used to achieve career success to, instead, achieve experiences and immerse in the rhythm of life and the diversity of distant cultures.

The writing on his blog is some of the best I’ve seen among the travel blogging niche. Honest and with a shining zeal for life, it’s hard to stop reading. According to his friends and family, Devert’s writing was a small example of his curious and brilliant personality.

But his adventure went awry. It started with the plans he outlined on his blog to take a motorcycle (that he didn’t know how to use) from New York all the way to the tip of Argentina, visiting the World Cup games on the way.

“Life is short, and like my mother used to say, if you’re going to do something–do it right.”

Not long after he began his journey, Devert stopped updating his blog. For months, social media campaigns were setup to try and locate the missing adventurer. Earlier this week, his remains were discovered in the gang-ridden area near the Zihuatanejo coast. Authorities believe he was murdered by cartel thugs.

Devert was a bold guy, willing to push the envelope. I can relate to a bit of recklessness, given my frequent visits to the despotic country of North Korea. But, while I want to abstain from any criticism in this piece, I can’t help but say it is possible to push the envelope too far. And this is an important lesson for other travelers to take note of.

If Devert had asked me for my opinion, before he undertook the motorcycle plans, I would have quickly advised him that it was a very bad idea.

Mexico officially warns travelers to stick to certain beach cities and safe states. Big parts of Mexico are currently paralyzed by cartel-military wars that are beginning to resemble a full-blown civil war.

And, once you get through Mexico, you’ll have central America to contend with, including Honduras, where the fighting and lawlessness has become so bad that 50,000 Honduran refugees (mostly children) are currently in internment camps in Arizona as they seek to escape the dangers of cities like San Pedro, which is considered the “murder capital of the world”.

Finally, South America is seemingly friendlier to travelers and backpackers, but it’s still not completely safe and I wouldn’t do it without a solid plan and a careful, strategic route, because robberies are quite common in many parts of Columbia and Brazil.

Furthermore, a traveler mustn’t underestimate the danger of standing out in a crowd of poor and desperate people. As I traveled around the poorer regions of Isaan in Thailand, there was more than one occasion where I felt I needed to be on-guard. And, this was even with a host-family and friends.

This isn’t to say that the world is always a dangerous place. The world is FAR less dangerous than people claim it is. Most natives of any country in the world are good-natured, and the vast majority of the time the only problems people face as they travel, even to poorer countries, is occasional petty theft.

But there are still specific places you don’t go to. I would never travel into the poverty and gang ravaged sections of Chicago aptly named “Chiraq”. Likewise, at this moment I have no intentions of going to Baghdad. On that same note, I would never explore inland Mexico without a careful understanding of what areas are ravaged by violence.

Devert’s journey was extremely dangerous. There is no denying it. I would sooner cross the Middle East on a motorcycle. In fact, aside from the severe situations in Iraq, Syria and parts of Lebanon, the general environment of the Middle East is grossly exaggerated by the media, and is in fact very safe. Meanwhile, it seems fewer people are aware of just how bad it really is south of the American border.

But I think Devert understood the risk. He wanted to do what others wouldn’t do. This is the spirit of an adventurer. And while his journey ended with his brutal murder in rural Mexico, I applaud his courage to raise the bar, live his dreams, and live as a true adventurer–going where others wouldn’t.

I will continue to honor the spirit of Devert throughout the rest of my future travels, the development of this blog, and even my personal life philosophies. For this – I thank Devert immensely.

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Pic courtesy creative commons.

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Kaesong

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Is this the signature of Oprah Winfrey in a North Korea hotel in the town of Nampo?

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