Inside the world's most dangerous countries with a VERY brave YouTuber

‘DON’T follow in my footsteps!’ Inside the world’s most dangerous countries with a VERY brave American YouTuber who films trips to Iraq, war-torn Ukraine, Colombia and Tijuana in Mexico

  • Conner McBee shares videos on his ‘Small Brained American’ YouTube account
  • ‘I really just want to see if these places are as bad as people say,’ he reveals 
  • READ MORE: American vs Delta vs United – three-way premium economy test

‘Every video is an experiment. Is it as dangerous as they say? Let’s find out.’

So says videomaker Conner McBee, who is drumming up a following on YouTube by sharing footage of his travels to places that are generally considered to be unsafe for tourists.

Over the past two years, the 29-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, has shared videos from Iraq, war-torn Ukraine, Colombia and the Mexican city of Tijuana, among other locations, under the username ‘Small Brained American’.

Speaking to MailOnline Travel, he says: ‘These places are so overhyped in the media, the average person is terrified to go. I feel it’s part of my job to show people my honest experience, whether that be good or bad.’ Read on for McBee’s main takeaways from these trips…


Videomaker Conner McBee, pictured, is drumming up a following on YouTube by sharing footage of his travels to places that are generally considered to be unsafe for tourists. He’s pictured above in Medellin, Colombia

It’s not recommended that travellers book a trip to Colombia – the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) notes that ‘the security situation can change very quickly in many areas’ of the country and the U.S Department of State says that tourists should ‘reconsider travel due to crime and terrorism’.

During his time there, however, McBee found that Colombians are ‘honest, polite and funny, and they’ll always help you when you need it’.

That was proven by the way locals leapt to his aid during a low point in his trip – when he was robbed at knifepoint in Cartagena, a city on the Caribbean coast.

A man started following McBee in the centre of town, he reveals, saying: ‘He [started] snatching for my phone, which was, stupidly, in my waistband. Easy target. I slapped his hand away and pushed him off of me. That’s when he pulled a knife on me. I froze. He took the phone, and ran away.’

McBee says that he started chasing after the thief and tracked him down to a group of buses nearby, but then lost sight of him. He recalls: ‘I’m standing there, heart racing, and reality is setting in: my $1,000 (£792) phone is gone, along with all my pictures from the last month in Colombia.’

One of McBee’s videos sees him visit a beautiful beach in northern Colombia

McBee was robbed at knifepoint in this part of Cartagena, a city on the Caribbean coast

McBee appears shaken as he recounts having his phone stolen in Colombia 

McBee continues: ‘Within 30 seconds, a new character emerges off a bus – a guy with a gun. He starts walking towards me, and everyone in the crowd is yelling and pointing at me, so naturally, I think I’m going to get robbed again… I’m frozen. I have no idea what to do. He’s walking towards me, gun in hand, and I’m standing there motionless.’

Thankfully, the man with a gun was actually coming to McBee’s rescue – he pulled McBee’s phone out of his pocket and placed it in his hands. McBee says: ‘I suspect the guy with the knife jumped on the bus to flee the scene, [and the man] with the gun saw what was going on and wanted to help.’

Another life-affirming moment in Colombia came when local geologists took him on a ‘hidden, off-limits trail only intended for geologists’ up an active volcano. He says: ‘After the hike, we rode our motorcycles to this naturally-sulfuric river and took a bath. It was a magical day.’


As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, both the U.S Department of State and the FCDO warn against any form of travel to Ukraine. McBee’s video titled ‘How dangerous is Ukraine?’ documents his trip to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv last September, at a time when air raid sirens would go off ‘every day’.

McBee says: ‘I was staying right next to a police station, and the sirens were right outside my window. The first time it went off, I was terrified. I was thinking: “What the hell am I doing here?”‘

The still above shows McBee in his hotel room in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv as an air raid siren sounds

McBee says of his time in Lviv: ‘I was staying right next to a police station, and the sirens were right outside my window’ 

McBee says he was ‘amazed’ by the kindness that Ukrainians showed him. He says: ‘I remember one instance where I was trying to pay for a coffee but I didn’t have enough coins, and as I was reaching for my wallet, a woman behind me insisted on paying. Once I refused her offer, she actually held my arm to keep me from paying with my own money, and instead slid her money into the machine.’ He describes the exchange as ‘absolutely heartwarming’.

Another highlight was when he got set up on a blind date with a Ukrainian model, who ended up showing him around the city.

One of the most frightening moments came on September 21, 2022, when Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 Russian military reservists into Ukraine. McBee, who was in Kyiv at the time, recalls: ‘When the air raid sirens went off the next day, I knew it was time to leave.’

He set off on a two-day journey on his motorcycle, riding from Kyiv to reach the border to Moldova. He recalls: ‘The weather in central Ukraine is freezing that time of year, so I was shivering on the bike, trying my best to avoid rain, dodgy roads, and military checkpoints.’

McBee passes by sandbags piled up outside a police station in Lviv 

The first border crossing he tried was closed, so he set off for the next one. He says: ‘I had no idea that 90 per cent of the road ahead would be in no-man’s-land between Ukraine and Moldova. There was absolutely nothing. It was raining, it was dark, and it was cold. It was so cold that I would periodically stop the bike and put my hands on the motor to keep them from going numb.’

He continues: ‘I was alone – I hadn’t seen any flicker of light or sign of civilization in hours – and honestly, I was scared.’ McBee eventually made it across the border to Moldova, where he spent hours trying to find a place to sleep for the night. ‘I spent between 1am and 3am on an impressively unpaved Soviet road seriously questioning my life choices,’ he recalls.


A highlight of McBee’s time in Iraq was meeting a ‘legendary’ local named Ali in Baghdad. He says: ‘He spoke perfect English, and let us into his home for a traditional Iraqi BBQ. We ate on the floor, drank tea, smoked cigarettes inside, it was a very local experience. He grew up during the American occupation, so he had a lot of stories and was super open and honest about his country and Iraqis’ views on Americans. It was an incredible conversation.’

McBee was surprised by ‘how friendly and generous the Iraqi people were’, particularly as he’s American. He says: ‘They were actually delighted to see an American tourist in their country. Honestly, every time I think about Iraq I get a little warm fuzzy feeling. It was such a heartwarming experience.’

Locals teaching McBee how to play a traditional drum instrument in Iraq

McBee visits a mosque during his time in Baghdad. McBee says of the Iraqi people: ‘It actually blew my mind the lengths they were willing to go for a stranger, especially an American’

A highlight of McBee’s time in Iraq was meeting a ‘legendary’ local named Ali (pictured left) in Baghdad

He adds: ‘It actually blew my mind the lengths they were willing to go for a stranger, especially an American. Whatever I needed, whenever I needed it, the Iraqi people were ecstatic to help me.’

The low point of McBee’s time in Iraq was when he spent a day with a man who claimed to work for the U.S embassy and promised to introduce him to high-level Iraqi politicians, only for Conner to realise that he wasn’t who he said he was. ‘It was one of the weirdest experiences of my life,’ says Conner.

It’s worth noting that the FCDO advises against all travel to all provinces of Iraq except the Kurdistan Region in the north, and against all but essential travel to the Kurdistan Region. The U.S Department of State, meanwhile, warns against travelling to the country ‘due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict [and] civil unrest’. 


Violent crimes are common in the Mexican city of Tijuana, which lies near the border with California – the FCDO advises against all but essential travel there, except for those transiting through the airport or border roads. The U.S Department of State recommends ‘reconsidering’ travelling to the wider state of Baja California, and notes that ‘the high number of homicides in the non-tourist areas of Tijuana’ is ‘of particular concern’.

McBee’s videos Tijuana’s Zona Norte neighbourhood, which he describes as ‘an area known for sex and drug trafficking’

A local tells McBee about the dangers of spending time in Zona Norte in Tijuana 

Conner says of Tijuana: ‘It honestly surprised me how dangerous it was. I usually go to these places with the understanding that it’s probably not as bad as they say, but Tijuana lived up to the hype.’

The YouTuber reveals that during his time in the city, he ‘made the mistake of looking for the most dangerous area’.

He explains: ‘I knew Tijuana was dangerous… but I didn’t understand the extent of it until I showed up solo in Zone Norte, an area known for sex and drug trafficking. Five minutes into filming, I got a crowd of people around me demanding that I stop and telling me to leave. The swiftness with which they all ganged up on me was very scary – I was holding a $1,100 (£872) camera, I was alone, and five or six people immediately surrounded me. I felt rightly intimidated.’

McBee adds: ‘Terrified and not totally understanding what was going on, I left, but not before getting some undercover footage and asking locals more about what goes on in Zona Norte.’

In general, McBee recommends that travellers be ‘smart, respectful and aware of [their] surroundings’ in places with a bad reputation.

McBee says: ‘I knew Tijuana was dangerous… but I didn’t understand the extent of it until I showed up solo in Zone Norte’

The YouTuber continues: ‘I’ve definitely had some bad experiences in dangerous places, like Tijuana, Colombia, and Ukraine, and I’ll always be honest with my viewers about that.’ The majority of the time, however, he has a ‘totally fine’ experience and finds that ‘the locals are sweet, the food is good, [and] the tourist infrastructure is hurting’ in these places.

McBee continues: ‘I think the average person deserves to see what a regular person’s experience is in these “forbidden” places, whether it be true to the media image, or the complete opposite. But the truth is usually somewhere in between, and much messier than you could encapsulate in a 15-second sound bite on the nightly news.’


McBee doesn’t recommend that people follow in his footsteps with their travels. He says: ‘For the general public, I would say don’t do it. Just watch my videos, do your research and decide for yourself if you want to go to these places. I know it’s risky, but for me, I enjoy the challenge of going to a place that’s difficult to navigate.’

He adds: ‘I view it as an experiment – I really just want to see if these places are as bad as people say. And I fully acknowledge that it’s a risk that doesn’t work out in my favour sometimes.’ 

To see more videos from Conner, visit his YouTube channel and his TikTok account.

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