One of my neighbors has a child working on her Ph.D. in London. She asked me a couple of weeks ago if I felt like it was safe to travel to Europe right now. My response was simple: of course I do. If I didn’t, wouldn’t it be criminal for me to do my job?
Y’all, I struggle so much to write what needs to be written today. I couldn’t write it last night without emptying out my tears into a diatribe that wasn’t what anyone needed to hear. I couldn’t even summon up the energy to post on social media. The only thing I have thought about for the last week is France. I have moved in to my guidebooks and blogs and websites so that I could pass along some of what I love about this country to you. I have mentally been in France for the last week. I’m not making this about me, but the attacks in Nice last night felt like a sucker punch. And I know what follows…the same question.
Is it safe to travel there?
Here’s the thing. It’s time to ask a different question. Nobody can predict safety. Cars get recalled for faulty brakes. Dressers fall on toddlers. Drivers run red lights. Football players get concussions. Weather happens. Fires happen. Road rage happens.
The questions we should be asking about travel are the following:
- How big is the perceived risk?
- Is it worth the risk?
When I say, “Yes, it is safe to travel to XYZ,” I am really answering those two questions like this:
- Marginal – to – insignificant for your purposes.
What I’m NOT saying is this:
“There is zero risk involved in air travel, taking a taxi, eating/sleeping/touring a foreign country.”
Because that would be ridiculous.
What I am saying is that people get injured zip-lining, but my daughter is absolutely going to ride a zipline at camp in two weeks. I’m saying that drug cartels have not even slightly interfered with any of my clients’ vacations at a resort in Playa del Carmen. I’m saying that there’s a greater chance that your September trip to the Caribbean will be interrupted by a hurricane than your trip to Burgundy being interrupted by a terrorist. I’m saying that we can only look to the predictable risks and exercise the appropriate caution.
I’m saying that Europe is a continent with some risks, but those risks are—to the millions of people who travel and tour there each year—marginal-to-insignificant.
How can I say that in light of what we’ve seen on the news lately?
- The same way I go to a movie theater and don’t worry about someone coming in with a vest full of ammo.
- The same way my black friends drive a car/pump gas/wear a hoodie/do anything.
- The same way people of all sexual orientations will continue to go to dance clubs.
- The same way we get in our cars, drive to church/restaurants/shopping malls/work/anywhere when we could easily get creamed by a texting mom or a drunk college kid.
- The same way college girls go to frat parties where they might get date-raped.
- The same way a widow and her children attend a military funeral where they might be accosted and spat upon by radical “Christians.”
- The same way I send my daughter to her small, private school everyday—praying not for protection from gang violence, mean girls, or cafeteria food poisoning, but from an unknown neighborhood sociopath with an automatic rifle.
We don’t give it air.
I heard today on the news the comparison of terrorist activity to cancer. Here’s what: fear is to terrorism what a day of sunbathing is to melanoma. Fear does not protect us from what we dread the most; it exacerbates it…it feeds it…it tells it, “hey, keep up the good work.”
We get honest about perceived threats to our safety.
We live in a country full of turmoil, and these last couple of weeks have been nothing short of disgusting. But, when it comes to travel, we have some seriously misguided notions about what is safe(ish) and what isn’t. And, if we are afraid to travel, we have some very hypocritical views about fear in general.
We live our short lives in a way that honors our Creator.
I am a Christian, and I get that you may not be…so whether you are a follower of Christ, Buddha, or Justin Bieber, I want to be extra clear in this moment of honesty about my faith. I have a few principles straight outta Gospel that I think have some of the answers to the questions we are facing…
- Do not live in fear. Be full of courage. 365 times the Bible tells us to reject fear and place our hope in the One who is over the earth. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” -Matthew 10:28
- Go out into the world and spread God’s message—which is one of love, joy, humility, and peace. Regardless of what faith you claim—if any at all—you have the ability to be good, to show kindness, to exercise justice and mercy. To deny hate and demonstrate love.
- To the Christ-followers in particular: Loving God means loving people (all people—no matter what). And being kind to them. Because those people—the ones whose skin color urges you to lock your car door; whose choice in lover is important to you even though it is seriously none of your business; who have a baby out of wedlock; whose political party is different from yours; who are hurting, broken, angry, tortured, and fighting battles that conflict with your priority list; even those whose religion is not Christianity—are people your God loves. If you are judging them or acting against them with prejudice, I would urge you to consider what God did to a certain Pharaoh and his army when they decided that they were the superior race and that Hebrews should be subject to vile mistreatment, slavery, and murder. If you believe God’s Word then you believe those people are His kids. And you best not be messing with someone’s kids.
What does this spiritual rant have to do with terror attacks around the world? It is historical fact: when you decide that your religion or race or political view is worthy of the decimation (or forced assimilation) of a person or people who dare to stand on the other side of the fence—you become the terrorist.
Just so you know, this is not a message I take lightly. It is undoubtedly the heaviest thing I’ve ever written and I cringe that it even has a space on this travel blog–the function of which is to encourage having fun.
I just don’t think we can talk about fun with this elephant in the room, so I needed to clear the room.
I now plan to go on with my life today because, unlike 84 people in Nice, I have a life to go on with. I have no doubt that there will be another attack someday, somewhere. There will be attacks both foreign and domestic waged by enemies both perceived and not. Our lives are never going to be without risk, so we might as well live them. And as for my own opinion on those two questions…I have several trips to Europe and elsewhere planned for the next year—including a couple of weeks in France with my family. If a terrorist wants to find me, he’ll have to look farther than my address in Lubbock.