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.
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.