Don't Let Fear Stop You From Traveling

I’m going to touch on a subject that has been on my mind lately. I’ve heard a lot of talk about people not traveling to various places around the world for fear of terrorism.

Here’s the thing…the world is indeed a scary and dangerous place, but it’s also a wonderful, beautiful, friendly place full of amazing cultures, delicious food, beautiful architecture, spectacular art, and wonderful people. You have this life to live. You have this time on Earth and it is important that you make the most out of your time while you’re here. Don’t let alarmist news reports be the reason you don’t do the things you have always wanted to do in life.

Don’t be Afraid.

Yes, we’ve all heard of the terrorist attacks in places like Paris, Manchester, and Berlin, and yes, it’s horrible. That being said, you should absolutely not let that stop you from traveling to these places. First of all, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere in the world at any time. That means you’re just as likely to get mowed down in a mass shooting while picking up groceries near home as you are likely to be involved in a terrorist attack while sipping on un verre de vin rouge at a sidewalk cafe in Paris. Keeping that in mind, why limit yourself? Why stay home? Get out and explore the world. It’s a beautiful world out there!

Don’t be alarmed by my previous paragraph, however. Unless you live in a war zone or are planning on visiting one, you should know that the chances are still really, really slim that you’ll have any trouble of this kind. The only thing you’re in real danger of is having a fabulous time and building precious memories that will last a lifetime.

That being said, there are always things you should do in order to ensure your own safety anywhere and in any situation. Yes, even at home.

Be Aware.

You should always be aware of your surroundings. I grew up in L.A. so I’m no stranger to the dangers of the big, bad city, but I know that if you’re from a more rural or suburban area, perhaps you aren’t used to spotting shady looking characters and picking up on when things aren’t quite right. I know somebody who lives in the rural U.S. and she told me she will never come back to L.A. because she got robbed at gunpoint there. I was shocked! I’ve lived in So Cal my entire life and have never even seen anybody walking around with a gun (except police officers). So how does she go to L.A. for three days and immediately get into trouble? Turns out she was walking down the wrong end of Sunset blvd at night by herself, looking for something to eat. You know. The dark, sketchy end of the street. The part where there aren’t many shops or restaurants and not as many street lights or people walking around. It’s pretty obvious to me that walking down there alone at night was a bad idea, but for somebody with no experience of the city, she just didn’t think about it.

That being said, it’s not too hard to be aware. Don’t venture down any dark, creepy alleys by yourself at night. If you see somebody acting suspiciously or get a sense that you may be in a dangerous situation, get out of there. Don’t roam aimlessly into areas that might be dangerous. Walk around with a buddy if you’re feeling like being alone would be unsafe. If you’re traveling alone, do most of your exploring during the day or in well-lit, well-trodden areas. If you’re unsure of where is safe and where is not, ask a local. They know better than anybody! I would have told my friend in a second where to go to find food in Hollywood had she only asked, but she never asked.

It’s Going to be O.K.

In December, 2014 a Lindt chocolate café in Sydney, Australia was the scene of a hostage situation. It was all over the news as a terrorist attack. In March, 2015, just a few months later, I found myself strolling around downtown Sydney, having a fabulous time and making memories on one of my favorite trips to date. What if I had let that terrorist attack stop me from traveling to Sydney? I would have never climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I would have never toured the Sydney Opera House. I would have never met some longtime online friends in person, and I certainly would have never seen the amazing views from the top of the Sydney Tower. I would have never gone on day trips to the Hunter Valley wine region or the Blue Mountains. My life would have been that much less rich. And for what? Fear of something that already happened? Irrational fear?

In November of 2015, when the terror attacks happened in Paris, a woman I know announced that she would be canceling her scheduled trip to Paris. I couldn’t believe it! Having visited Paris in the past and having fallen in love with the city, I was appalled that she would let it ruin her chance to experience the beauty of the city at sunset, to linger over a coffee at a sidewalk cafe, and to wander around aimlessly and get lost in those beautiful streets. She wouldn’t be able to practice her French and she would never eat a chocolate crepe under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. I had other friends who went on their trips to Paris after the attacks (I know a lot of people who go to Paris a lot, apparently) and you know what? They had an amazing time. They loved being there and while there was a sadness in the air over what had happened, they reported back that they felt a warmth from the French people who were happy to see that tourists were still visiting them.

The thing is…if you really don’t want to let the terrorists win, that means not letting them stop you from living the life of your dreams. It doesn’t mean not being aware. It doesn’t mean not considering your choices, but it does mean living a life you love in spite of the dangers out there in the world.

For instance, you probably shouldn’t travel to Syria right now. It just wouldn’t be a good idea. I sincerely hope that someday that changes and that things improve for the Syrian people. I want happiness and good things for them. I want them to have a country that is stable and rebuilt and when that happens, I would love to visit them someday and meet the people, try their cuisine, and soak in their culture. In the meantime, however, it’s probably not the best place for a holiday. But Europe? Go! Enjoy! Explore! Live. If you don’t, the terrorists win.

People are  People

The one other thing I want to touch on while we’re discussing this topic is how alarming I find the current trend of bigotry in this world. Everywhere you turn, people are announcing their hatred and fear of those whose ethnicity, religions, nationalities, or cultures differ from their own. Perhaps it’s because I do travel and also because I was lucky enough to grow up in one of the most diverse cities in the world, but I’ve never understood the barriers people put up between different groups. I’ve always thought other cultures and religions were fascinating and I’ve always been compelled to learn as much about those who differ from me as possible. Growing up, I had friends from many different races and religions. We weren’t so different. We were all just kids. Sure, we had different colored skin and such, but we weren’t so different. We all seemed to like playing outside and riding our bikes in the street, so clearly we had things in common. That’s how I always thought of it. I was horrified the day I realized racism was a thing.

I would also like to make a note on the fact that the Muslim community gets the blame for the vast majority of terrorist attacks in this world. That’s unfair for several reasons.

  1. Most victims of Islamic terrorism are in fact Muslims living in Muslim countries. These are fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and grandparents. These are innocent people just trying to live their lives and care for their families the best they can.
  2. Islamic terrorism gets a lot of attention, but, at least here in the United States, far more people are killed annually by mass shootings from legally acquired firearms by Caucasian, U.S. citizens than Islamic terrorists. Remember that.
  3. Yes, there are Muslim terrorists. But….the vast majority of Muslims are just people, like you and me. They live in our communities. They contribute to society. They have friends and like to see movies and enjoy having dinner with their families, just like you and me. These people deserve our love and support. As difficult as it is living in a world where there is a fear of terrorism, imagine living in a world where not only are you afraid of terrorism, but you’re also afraid of getting blamed whenever there is terrorism? Perhaps even getting beaten up by people who are blaming you for terrorism?

The world is quickly becoming a big, giant blame game where all the different sides point fingers at one another. That’s a dangerous game. Want to stop terrorism? Love one another. Reach out across political party lines. Make friends with somebody from a different religion. Travel to another country and befriend some locals. Talk to somebody from a different race and really listen to what they have to say. Take into account the fact that your point of view in life and your frustrations are certainly valid, but that doesn’t make somebody else’s views invalid if they differ from your own. It just means they have a different experience than you. If somebody from another group points a finger at you, or your religion, or your country and tells you that you’re the problem, maybe even says some horribly insulting things, take the high road. Know that their attitude comes from a place of ignorance and fear, but that underneath that facade they may have some valid reasons for feeling the way they do. Maybe they lost their job and are frustrated. Maybe they have had a bad experience. It doesn’t ever make hatred and bigotry right, but it does help to understand why it is that they feel the way they do. Without understanding, it’s impossible to break down those barriers. Work to change their mind. Show them through love and kindness that they are wrong. If it doesn’t work, convince the next person. Terrorism thrives on a culture of fear and a divided planet. Let’s not give them fuel. Let’s be united. United we are strong.

What it Boils Down To….

Don’t be afraid! Travel! Live! Explore! Get out and meet people. Talk to the locals. Dine. Drink wine. Eat dessert. Go hiking. Go shopping. Have fun. Spread the love. This is the essence of what life is all about. Are you going to let some alarmist news reports that overly exaggerate every situation in order to get ratings stop you from living a life you love?

I’m not. You shouldn’t either.

You can read more from Heather Hopkins on her blog.

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