Banana Republic Survival For Dummies
For many people travel can be relaxing and therapeutic, a way to chase the doldrums of our ordinary existence into a corner and, for a short time, to live adventure. For some, it is the ocean which calls them, and they find that taking a cruise can be a tame way to satisfy both the need for relaxation and the desire to take to the seas. And as they hop from port to port they are met with a small taste of the flavor of many different nations.Or, at least, they can sample the curated stereotypes that await them in the "tourism districts" and from which they are instructed not to stray. For many of these ports of call are in very poor nations that depend on tourism to stay afloat. While most will not prevent tourists from exploring further, they go out of their way to discourage it because they know they cannot guarantee a tourist's safety outside of the confines of these safe spaces.In Belize, the situation is so dangerous that the government cannot even guarantee safety in these zones without posting armed guards with machine guns in plain sight. This is done because tourism in Belize accounts for more than 25% of all jobs and is the second largest industry and a major priority for the government. And the government knows, better than anyone, how dangerous Belize can be and the threat this poses to their thriving tourism industry. Like many Central and South American nations, Belize is also a destination for expatriots - people that have left their native land and sought to build and explore elsewhere, to live a daily experience radically different from what they are accustomed to. It also has jungles filled with mystery and abounding with archaeological and medical wonders just waiting to be discovered by some adventurous soul. But for these strangers in a strange land there are no safe spaces, and for the American expatriot in Belize part of the experience is the danger they face daily.For John McAfee these dangers were compounded by his known wealth at the time. Having money in a nation where most people are poor and desperate carries with it both responsibility and increased risk. Every account of McAfee's time in Belize indicates that he took the responsibility seriously. He created jobs and opportunities for the locals, contributed to the economy and made generous donations to the government. He also took the risk very seriously, increasingly so as signs of it revealed themselves to him.In a nation where drug cartels roam the countryside at will, murder is a daily occurrence and where everything and everyone has a price, no one can be too careful. One great way to make money in this environment is to kidnap or merely threaten someone that has it, or their loved ones, demanding a ransom payment for their safety. It happened to John McAfee on multiple occasions, along with other, more subtle attempts to part him with his money by threatening his safety.As a ghostwriter for John McAfee's upcoming tell-all autobiography, I probably have as great an awareness of these events as any human being alive, save John McAfee. It is so real to me that I can almost taste the danger, the fear, associated with his lifestyle at the time. It is not difficult for me to imagine how I might feel, and more importantly how I might cope and adapt to survive. For that is what we do, as human beings, when faced with difficult situations.It is not difficult to imagine how I might feel when receiving, for example, a letter like this one:In it, the author very bluntly states that the police are after him and he needs money immediately to finance his flight. The author, Eric Swan, was wanted for murder. His brother, James, had been shot a month before this letter was delivered. Such is life in the jungles of Belize.Mr. Swan tells McAfee that if he will follow some instructions to deliver $150,000 to him, McAfee will never see or hear from him again. Of course, he also told McAfee that he was being watched, and that if he did not pay he would be "a dead man by Sunday night."This letter is just one example of the culture of violence, and the very real threats, that John McAfee faced while living in Belize. Reading it, and the story behind it, will make your skin crawl, especially if you use your imagination and become a stranger in a foreign land.John McAfee arrived at the conclusion that many people in his situation do. Very much as a disadvantaged youth growing up in gangland might do, he resolved to build a reputation to frighten off those that would seek to do him harm. He hired the baddest bodyguards he could find, and took credit for any and every unsolved crime that came across the coconut telegraph. He flaunted this reputation, much as a Bearded Dragon flares out to frighten potential predators.And like most things John McAfee does, he did this very well. He became, for a time, the Kaiser Soze of Belize - a legend whose only connection to reality was a name. Unfortunately this technique, which served him well in a dangerous time, is now being used against him. Despite a lifetime of evidence to the contrary and despite every indication given by his behavior and disposition towards others, some people actually believe that, for a few short years, John McAfee was a supervillain.The truth is far more prosaic, and extremely human. It is easy to understand, and easy to imagine unfolding. If we are honest with ourselves, that is.