“I bet this hurts your business,” someone said to me after the Brussels attack last week. And I responded with, “You’re more likely to be killed in a car accident than you are to be killed in a terrorist attack.” It’s true.
So, the question then, “Is it safe to travel to Europe?” And the answer is, “As safe as it is to travel here in the US or Canada.” Seriously, it might actually be safer in Europe because they have stricter gun laws than we do here in the US. (Don’t worry…I’m not gonna go there right now as much as I’d love to. I’m going to keep this about travel.)
Even though the US State Department is covering their ass by putting out the blanket warning, it’s still safe to travel to Europe.
Here’s what Secretary of State John Kerry said recently:
“I mean there are realities that there are dangers around. I don’t want to scare anybody. I don’t think you have to be,” he said. “The odds of being hit by a terrorist are far less than the odds of an injury in the course of daily life whether it’s an accident in an automobile or a home or elsewhere. So people do not have to live in fear. But it doesn’t mean you should be oblivious to your surroundings.”
Kerry said he wouldn’t suggest anyone cancel their trip to Europe, but that travelers must have an “awareness” of their surroundings when they’re vacationing outside of the U.S.
I’d say you should always have an awareness of your surroundings – no matter where you are traveling – Europe, Asia, the Caribbean or even here in the US. Maybe as a solo female traveler that just goes without saying. But, really, you should always be aware of your surroundings.
When I hear folks talking about being afraid though, it makes me sad. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – the world isn’t any more dangerous than it was 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 1000 years ago. Read your history books, folks. There have always been wars. There has always been in-fighting. There has always been a group of folks trying to inflict harm on another group of folks. It seems that it is simply human nature. Unfortunate, isn’t it?
In some ways, though, the world is safer because of things we now know, and all the great inventions we have created. On the other side of the coin is that some of our technologies make it easier to inflict harm on a greater number of people at one time. No more having to be right on top of a person to put your sword through them. But, in general, the world is safer.
Yes, there are bad people – of all colors, ethnicities, religions – and there will always be bad people (unfortunately). But, they’re a very small percentage of the world’s population who happen to be getting 99% of the press. Sad, really.
And there is no guarantee of being 100% safe 100% of the time. No matter where we are, what we are doing, or who we are with. Yes, some things we do carry greater risk. Climbing up Mt Everest is riskier than a simple walk in the park. And there are some places that are definitely riskier to visit and probably should be avoided – like Syria (sadly) at this time.
But, when we live in fear – afraid to do our normal and usual activities – then the bad guys win. That’s what they want. We can’t let them win. We can’t live in fear.
Now, would I avoid Brussels right now? Maybe, but only because some places might be closed (the airport). Would I avoid going to anywhere else in Europe? Hell no! I’d truly go anywhere in Europe if I could get on a plane tomorrow. And you know what, I’d go most anywhere in the world – including other places that have had bombings – Turkey and Pakistan.
Listen, there are folks out there who are going to try to tell you that everyone hates Americans. That the world is so much more dangerous than it used to be. It’s just not true. I have traveled to other countries, even a Muslim country (Turkey). They don’t hate Americans. They may not like our politics or our leaders (or potential leaders)…but, I think there are many Americans who don’t like our politics and our political leaders.
I’ve experienced so much human kindness in my travels. Complete strangers who have offered help and assistance or who have given me a warm welcoming smile. Really, people are basically good and kind.
You know, when I travel, I think of myself as an unofficial ambassador of the US. I may not be on the State Department payroll, but I see it as part of my roll as an American traveling abroad. So, in this role, I am kind and polite. I try to learn a few words of the local language. I am open to trying new things that are part of the host country’s culture – an interesting food, a fun dance, a new skill. I smile. I am open to new ideas. I don’t judge their traditions or ways of life. I simply learn. Because it’s through education that we gain a better understanding.
I hope that those of you who might be rethinking travel this year or even next year decide to travel – to Europe or elsewhere in the world. I’m not telling you to be all willy-nilly about your decision. Please be thoughtful. And certainly do what is right for you and what you feel comfortable with. But, please don’t let family or friends or the media or anyone else tell you the world is unsafe. It’s as safe to travel as it is to walk out your front door and drive your car to work in the morning. Maybe even more so. And believe me, the experiences you’ll have while traveling to a different country and culture, the things you’ll learn – well, you won’t be able to put a price tag on those memories. So get out there and see the world!