Why Now, More Than Ever, Is The Time To Travel

  • Copy by: Whitney Haldeman
  • Feature Image By: Da Bélgica

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. 

  • JayFromJerz

    I have to admit, I am one of the people you are refering to. I really wanted to go to Paris and London this year, and as I was starting to do research and get excited, the terrorist attack happened. After reading and watching the news coverage, I was terrified of going any where in Europe. But i must say, after seeing lots of people still traveling to Paris now (Padma Lakshmi, Vashtie Kola, ETC) on Instagram, I am starting to feel more confident about booking that trip sooner than later.

    • Anna Yasmin

      Go! You will not regret it. 🙂

    • Irisgeist

      Don’t be afraid, it’s not like you are trying to travel to Syria or Afghanistan. While the attacks in some cities in Paris have been heartbreaking, the overall statistics matters. The probability of being in an attack while traveling to a major European city are still quite low.
      Just consider how many mass shootings have occurred in the US from Jan. 1st 2016 to April 1st 2016: 85, with 121 people killed (and a total of 371 mass shootings in 2015, see https://massshootingtracker.org/data/2016). Does it mean that you stop doing your everyday activities and stay the whole time at home afraid? No, you get up every day and get to work/study, and live your life. If you have the time and the money to do the travel of your dreams, by all means, do it. You never know what life will bring you later.

  • Melissa

    What an incredibly well written and refreshing piece. I agree wholeheartedly with you but it’s not often you come across this perspective. Thank-you for sharing your thoughts and I hope your future travels are filled with lots of wonderful experiences 🙂

  • Susieq

    Amen to you Whitney! I am 51 years old and have been traveling internationally since I was 16. Back then it was the threats from the IRA and the Red Brigade. There will always be someone trying to take our freedoms away. But we cannot let them instill fear into us. I just returned from Vienna with my 13 year old daughter. Everyone I met was very kind to us. I too believe that love will prevail. I’ve starting planning my next travel adventure to Budapest.

  • LOVED this article. What a great read! I am about to embark on a ten week backpacking trip across Europe, and all the comments I’ve heard regarding my trip are mustered with fear. It’s a shame, really. To live your life under a rock full of fear. I agree with you, Whitney – I can’t stop traveling. And I won’t. Life is too short to be crippled with fear.

  • I really liked this article! I believe that exposing yourself to a new world is the best way to cultivate open-mindedness and that’s what we need in this fear ridden society. Traveling can help us relate with the world’s citizens instead of seeing them only in headlines!

    http://www.thebusinessofblooming.com

  • I love this! Great piece, Whitney. Although I agree it might make some people feel worse, not better, I definitely agree with you that “I’d argue you’re not really safe anywhere.” I’ve had people question my decisions to go to Rwanda, Thailand and Boston (right after the Boston Marathon bombing—though I felt the city was probably safer at that point than it had been before simply because of the extra caution), but to be totally honest, I’ve felt more unsafe walking through San Francisco or New York City than I have in any foreign country. I think the important thing is to be aware of yourself and your surroundings when traveling and to be prepared. Thank you for this beautiful reminder, especially in a time like now! 🙂

  • Maggie

    This is perfect and I wish more people shared your attitude!

  • LovingSomething

    Sure, there are always reasons to fear, but there are so many more reason to be fearless. You really encompassed what I’ve learned in my travels so far, and why we won’t slow down anytime soon.

    http://www.lovingsomething.com

  • Caroline Brindle

    This is the most perfect article — 100% correct in every way! Great job. 🙂

    twenty-fitandfab.blogspot.com

  • Mey

    Well said!!! I really enjoyed this read. You’re story and reflection about the man that gave you directions in Paris… “no wall, even a language barrier, can hide the light of human decency and kindness” was beautiful!

  • Irisgeist

    Well, let me tell you something. I’ve been living in Europe for almost 6 years now (first in Germany, now in Austria), and had the chance to travel to several major capitals, including Paris. Having the money and the time, I would travel again on the first chance without hesitation.
    Statistically, when you consider the amount of mass shootings in the US in the past years, you have more probabilities of being shot there, than being the victim of a terrorist attack in Paris. So I agree completely with this post. If you have the chance, travel when the opportunity comes up. Life has unexpected turns and twists, and you never know when you will have the money, the time, the health, and the freedom to do so. Be aware of your surroundings, and take all the precautions you would have if you were to walk alone in NYC. And as Whitney described, remember that while there is evil everywhere, there is also kindness and genuinely good people.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I can’t live in fear, then you live a small life and the enemies win. I am going to Europe this year, will say a prayer for the whole world and myself, then have a ball. Love this cover photo!
    http://www.pippihepburn.etsy.com

  • Christy Bassett Baker

    Loved this, thank you.

  • I can to make plans by myself