To Travel or Not to Travel 16


I’ve been thinking a lot since the attacks in Paris, reading many commentaries and processing the implications of the question “To travel or not to travel in these difficult times?” The gut reaction to this for some people may be an absolute no, it’s too risky right now. But I will travel, and not just because it’s my job. It’s because I am not going to let fear win.

I haven’t wanted to write about this, mostly because the media has been flooded with every person’s opinion, and I’m the kind of person who can see when the cacophony is too loud to be heard. Too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. What I did was write my simple feeling on FB, which was this:

There are so many scary things going on in the world right now, it makes me want to stay in bed and not leave the house. But this isn’t the answer. According to the statement of the perpetrators, the goal of the attacks in Paris and Lebanon was exactly that, to make people afraid to sleep or go to the local market. That’s the point of terrorism, to terrorize you and everyone everywhere, to make every place feel scary.
There is no clear answer, no matter what anyone says, but there is one clear reaction. Defiance. I will NOT be afraid. I will travel, I will meet people of other cultures and understand them better. Nobody will take that adventuring spirit away from me and nobody can take my optimism and hope. I reject that attempt to make me afraid of the world and all of its beautiful inhabitants, and I hope others will too.

Travel at this moment feels like an act of defiance. There is not much I can do about the situation in the Middle East, but the only way I can do my part is by refusing to be manipulated by a small group of people thousands of miles away. I’m going to Paris, London, Rome and any other place I like and go about my business as usual. Because I must, all of us must carry on. And we do. Despite the rash of movie theater shootings in our own country, we still go to the movies. It is possible to get out into the world, perhaps being more careful and cautious, but continuing your adventures.

There is something else I’ve been thinking of lately which may help to answer the question of “To go or not to go”. I have a little story for you. My first trip to Europe was in 1985. My parents had the opportunity to take us to Europe as my father was in London on a business trip anyhow. We spent a month doing the Grand Tour, 1980’s style, and finished with a visit to the relatives in Northern Ireland. My mother is Catholic and so am I, and being a Catholic in a small Protestant village near Belfast in 1985 was maybe not the safest thing at that time. What the Irish call “The Troubles” was in full swing, the fight between the Catholics and Protestants. There were bombings in London, bombings in Belfast, terror alerts were pretty common due to that conflict. Terrorism may be a new concept for us, but it’s been around a very long time in Europe. Our visit was delightful, seeing aunts and uncles, cousins I’d never even heard of, but our visit was cut short. There was a Protestant march planned and we were advised to leave immediately, which we did. We changed our plans and headed to the south, the Catholic areas.

My adorable parents on their first -and only- trip to Europe together

I tell you this story because, as you can tell, that was also a time that people would probably have advised against travel to Ireland, particularly to Belfast and my dad’s village. But we went, we had the opportunity and we took it. I couldn’t be more glad that they did, because that opportunity has never come again, not for my parents or my sister. It was the last time my dad was able to visit his village and his brothers and sisters. Our family circumstances changed dramatically a few years later and we were never able to afford a trip like that again, and I’m afraid that’s it’s unlikely in the future. It was our only shot and we didn’t know it. If my parents had given in to fear and not gone, not only would that be a loss in memories, I also wouldn’t be writing you right now. It was that trip started my love for travel in Europe and this career path.

The point is this- if you have a dream to travel and can make it happen, don’t wait. Don’t delay. You never know what is going to happen. Your circumstances may change in an instant and the opportunity may never come again. I worry that many people may never travel because of fear, because they wait until a “safer time” which never comes. Don’t let your window of opportunity close. The most common question I get is “When is the best time to go to Europe?” Now you know the answer. The best time is now. Right NOW. Go, get on with your adventure, don’t let it pass you by.


About sarahinitalia@yahoo.com

Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.


16 thoughts on “To Travel or Not to Travel

  • Barbara

    Couldn’t agree more. I have friends who want to visit the Holy Land but are always waiting until it gets “safer.” Meanwhile, I have been several times and have even taken my kids. So glad I did!

  • Bruce Jewell

    I wrote a short comment on your Facebook post that was directly on the issue of travel and terrorism, but your last point above is actually more important. My wife and I have frequently talked about how you shouldn’t postpone travel. We’re in our mid 60s and in good health, but we are very aware how that can all change in an instant. And, so we go — even sometimes when we can’t really afford it. So far, the money issues have always worked out, and we end up with a few thousand photos and experiences that can’t be taken from us. Until the day comes that we just can’t physically do it anymore, we’ll keep going.

  • Terri

    Thank you for the story about Northern Ireland. It is hard to believe Ireland was such a dangerous place for so long and still there are separations. I will not be going anywhere near the middle east. I do plan to travel to the UK in 2016. I will be on my guard as I am in any U.S. city. Going while I am still heathy enough. Going on my second RS tour, the first one solo!!!

  • Barbara Sarkany-Gore

    Amen to that! A friend and I were in both London and Paris the summer of1982. During that time bombs were going off in trash cans, parks, etc in both places. We had a wonderful time even though the British RR was on strike! You just have to be aware of your surroundings and maybe avoid certain areas. Just ask the locals.

  • Michelle

    Good for you, Sarah!
    If we stay home “they” win!
    It was 1985 that I made my first overseas trip. I was headed to Nairobi, Kenya to represent a group called Women for International Peace and Arbitration at the UN International Women’s Conference. Within weeks of my departure there was a major incident involving a hijacking of a KLM jetliner. People advised me not to go. Really. Some fanatics are going to keep me for taking a trip I had actually dreamed of making for most of my life (Africa)? No way. I went, alone as planned. It was the experience of a lifetime.

  • Katheryne McEuen

    I wholeheartedly agree. My parents had just begun to travel when my father died at age 60. My mother constantly urges my siblings and me to travel NOW, don’t wait. My husband, sister and I had a trip planned to Scotland the Saturday after 9/11. All week we debated do we go/not go. Ultimately we decided to go and I am so glad that we did–we were on one of the first overseas flights out of JFK. I will never forget a taxi driver in Amsterdam driving us past the US Embassy and seeing the masses of flowers and notes that had been left by the Dutch people. My friends thought we had lost our minds for being willing to travel that week but as you say, we opted to go about our business as usual.

    • sarahinitalia@yahoo.com Post author

      I was on a plane 9/14, leading a tour as soon as I hit the ground. The people I met were so kind, it was an amazing moment to travel.

  • Jennefer Penfold

    BRAVO!! Very well said! I was IN Paris on Nov. 13 and it never occurred to me to go home, right then, or never travel again. I will definitely continue to go back, again and again and again. It is imperative that we travel, but always with respect for the history and the culture of the countries we’re visiting. Thank you.

  • Paul Hartwig

    Sarah, everything you stated is right on the mark. I was particularly affected by your comments on your parents and their trip to Ireland. My parents always wanted to travel abroad but could never afford it as they were school teachers and had 4 kids to put through college. They saved up in retirement to go on a cruise to Alaska but by the time they had raised enough money to take the cruise they were physically not able to go on the excursions and truly enjoy the experience. Now is the time to travel if one can possibly afford it.

    • sarahinitalia@yahoo.com Post author

      Yes, this is the same problem with my parents. They don’t have the money to travel and my dad can’t walk well. It breaks my heart that he hasn’t seen his siblings in 30 years. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.

  • Dee

    In 1986, there were mid-east crises, namely Libya. I had planned to travel with a group to perform at a music festival in England. Oh yes, I was leaving a toddler at home. You have no idea how I agonized over the decision. But….I did go, I did return and I had a fantastic experience.

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