I didn't hear the news of Paris until I arrived home, in Florence, late that Friday night. I'd spent the evening outside of the walls of my city, high on a hill overlooking the countryside. I was the only American at a dinner party consisting of people from many countries. We came together to celebrate the new olive oil, and, in doing so, shared lively conversation and laughter for hours.
The news of Paris stung as I sat alone on my couch and felt the gravity of another act of terrorism.
Social media responded with force, imploring us to pray for Paris. Pushback on immigration and refugees thrived, and fear took a measured grip on major cities throughout the world. Did it take a grip on each of us as well?
I say the antidote to terrorism is travel. Locking our doors, closing the windows, and turning on the barrage of sensational news, only creates a climate where fears grow.
The first two months I lived in Florence, I only shopped at a small grocery store behind the Duomo. It rarely had everything I needed to make a meal, but it had something I needed more ... a friendly face at the cash register. Throughout the days, when I didn't know another person in the city, this beautiful woman from India would look up at me with recognition, and smile as I would
enter the store. A connection, however small, that made a difference in my day.
Enough with the tourist vs. traveler debate ... we are all tourists. Some are better tourists than others, but getting outside of our culture and comfort makes us an outsider. It requires our humility; to ask for what we don't know, to accept a different norm, to value our similarities.
In the face of violent hatred we are inclined to feel paralyzed and seek comfort in the familiar. Is it safe to travel now? I've answered that question many times this week. I say it is. Cautiously, of course, but rationally and intelligently, travel.
And while some may cancel their plans to visit Paris, Rome or London this year, I encourage you not to. See these cities that have existed for centuries, throughout history with thriving cultures and people! Return to the place you call home, with new eyes and new understanding.
We have strength in numbers to come together and not be afraid. We have strength in unity to continue to embrace the freedom and joys found in traveling to new places, meeting new people.
Mark Twain said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."