We’re no stranger to the tragic news headlines that haunt society. The growing list of cities like Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul that have been hit with senseless terrorist attacks is enough to make anyone feel deep sadness or burning anger. And I’d agree—feeling either of those emotions is perfectly justified. But while letting human feelings emerge, let’s also be mindful to not give way to one of them: fear.
You see, I’m a traveler. My heart skips a beat every time I feel those airplane wheels leave a runway. One of my browser tabs will always be a map plotting my next adventure. And it pains me that one of the first things I seem to notice every time one of these tragedies strike is the fear driven comments that people make about my upcoming trips.
“Be careful. Airports are scary places these days.”
“Keep your head on a swivel.”
“Are you sure you still want to go? I’d reconsider if I were you.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no stranger to fear. I’ve had my fair share of middle of the night tossing and turning about big projects, tense arguments, or health scares. But please, please, don’t be afraid of traveling.
Travel is a vital teacher. It reveals that meeting people with opposing ideas does not have to be dangerous, scary, or divisive. It reminds us we’re all connected, all human, and more often than not, all kind at heart.
I could offer lots of reasons why you shouldn’t be. For starters, the motives behind these attacks have proven they could happen anywhere, to any of us. I’d argue you’re not really safe anywhere (though it may not make you feel any better). On top of that, we live in an advertising driven society. News organizations know that the more clicks they can drive, or the more views they can get, the more money they rake in. And the more that our fear grows, the more likely we’ll keep a very watchful eye for well-informed updates (insert ever-growing clicks).
But let’s put those points aside. And please hear me when I say I’m not belittling the serious weight of these attacks or denying that they’re a big deal—because they are. I realize there is serious darkness that exists among us. My heart breaks for the lost lives of mothers, children, husbands, friends—all gone too soon.
But while evil exists, I believe love abounds even more. And so halting our travel experience does not save us from any evil, but only robs us of the joy we can receive and the love we can spread when we do.
Travel is a vital teacher. It reveals that meeting people with opposing ideas does not have to be dangerous, scary or divisive. It reminds us we’re all connected, all human, and more often than not, all kind at heart.
When I went to France for the first time, I was lost in Marseille trying to find a market to pick up some lavender products to bring home. It was Bastille Day, and most of the stores were closed (just my luck). I asked a man in the streets (who didn’t speak any English) for help. And after a few minutes of genuine effort (and a whole lot of unofficial sign language) he managed to point me in the right direction before parting ways with a warm smile.
Halting our travel experience does not save us from any evil, but only robs us of the joy we can receive.
I don’t know how that man and I were similar or different in regards to our religious beliefs, incomes, or any other debatable issue. But that day I was reminded that no wall, even a language barrier, can hide the light of human decency and kindness.
That is what happens when we travel. And so if we stop, we give into fears that lead us into hiding from one other. We feed the giant lie that is “us verses them,” whoever “they” may be.
I, for one, don’t want to live in a world of cowards. I want to live among people who are brave—who believe the best in one another. Who believe that love will always win over evil. Who are willing to learn more about the world and all the fascinating people who inhabit it.
We mustn’t let fear dictate how we live our lives. I love to travel and I refuse to let anyone ever take that away from me. And so even if all the critics are right about their fears, even if I should be afraid, even if it’s incredibly reckless and stupid of me to continue traveling around the globe, I won’t stop. Because I’d rather live a life filled with all the wonder and delight that travel evokes than to spend an eternity snuggled up warm, yet terribly bored, in my comfort zone.
They say to travel is to live. So let’s live loud and with all the passion and love for one another we can muster.