In America, we hear a lot about "The Border," the line of barbed wire and desert separating Mexico from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. That imaginary line -- imaginary in the sense that it has been drawn and redrawn and has no real geological basis -- helps define what it is to be American exactly as similar lines help define the nationalities of people from all over the world.
Unfortunately, borders are not always about positively defining a community. They can also be about keeping people who aren't part of our community or country, at bay. Well-traveled tourists have been through these checkpoints, where inspection takes on racial, political and violent overtones. Still, as fraught as many crossings are, there are really only a handful of international borders that travelers would do well to avoid at all costs.
The world's most dangerous borders sit between rival states, countries with long simmering resentment and economically uneven nations. They also run through jungle and desert, landscapes that blur lines and provide additional threats of their own.
South Korea/North Korea
The two Koreas have been staring each other down for so long that the border area between them has become a flourishing natural park and <a href="http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=262156">a major area tourism attraction</a>. That said, the landscape bristles with landmines and tanks. Yellowstone, this is not.
Thanks to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/drug-war/">the escalating Drug War</a> and the flow of migrants across the increasingly militarized desert zones of southern Mexico, America can safely boast that it now has one of the world's most dangerous borders. If the drug cartels and immigration police don't target you, there is always the desert, where <a href="http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2016513,00.html">hundreds die of thirst.</a>
Pakistan and India are famous for their nuclear jockeying and outspoken distaste for each other. That said, while these countries guns are pointed across the border, they've also found a way to coexist and bring in tourist dollars by creating <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_PzMSw6jZo"> an angry spectacle of military might along the Kashmiri border,</a> where visitors can cheer on the military they support.
Because having one terrifying border isn't enough, India built up a second. Though <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nLIqjjWjsg">parts of the border between India and Bangladesh are beautiful jungles</a>, the whole area is incredibly dangerous for Bangladeshis (or anyone who might look Bangladeshi) thanks to India's <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2011/jan/23/india-bangladesh-border-shoot-to-kill-policy">"Shoot to Kill" policy</a>, which makes U.S. immigration look positively friendly.
The border shared by Saudi Arabia and Yemen is not unlike the border shared by the U.S. and Mexico in that it has become a focal point thanks to hoards of immigrants looking to improve their lot. Yemenis <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/30/us-yemen-migrants-idUSBRE84T0WU20120530">have historically flooded over the border</a>, which is a physical presence thanks to a wall erected by the Saudis. And if patrols weren't enough, there is always the desert.
Missile strikes have done nothing to improve relations between Syria and Israel; the ongoing fighting in Syria isn't helping either. Though all of Israel's borders are dangerous, the Syrian border is particularly so because of the instability that lies just to the north and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/glogin?URI=http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/world/middleeast/israel-worries-as-syria-deteriorates.html&OQ=_rQ3D0&OP=bece5da6Q2FQ20Q3DjQ7EQ20rwQ7EQ20Q26Q26Q26Q209Q7E,gQ20ZQ3DBEcQ3DQ3DQ7E_Q20_0D_Q2001Q20_0Q20Q26Q3DcgZQ20,SZZgQ7BQ7BPEQ7EQ20SEcPQ7BgJQ26Q3DccSQ7BEJPEJEwcSPJZQ7BQ7EQ7BcSQ3DcPQ7EQ7BEM9Q7E,g">the Israeli fear that it could result in incursions</a>.
Though Colombia and Ecuador are by no means geopolitical foes, their shared border has become a hotspot thanks to the presence of FARC rebels, <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20080328-ecuador-colombia-invisible-border-reporters">a violent group that finances itself with drug deals</a>, in the region. While the rebels keep the guns, both countries point fingers.
Though neither Niger nor Chad is particularly stable, the border between them isn't dangerous because of any military build up. The border is dangerous because it runs through the middle of the Sahara Desert, drawing a line through one of the most frightening landscapes on Earth.