France. Syria. Turkey. Belgium. The list keeps growing and the constant fear of where and what will happen next stirs within us all. We watch for updates, fearful that the words “attack” and “terror” will pop up into our next CNN notification.
We live in a new world, one often full of violent extremism, hate, and confusion. In times of chaos and tragedy, it is so easy to want to be isolated, to hide from the world and feel safe within the walls of our own towns, cities, states, countries. We think that hiding and keeping quiet will keep us safe. “We” become us versus them, lines that were never there before become pronounced and dividing.
When I booked a trip across Europe for this coming summer, my thoughts were far, far from terror attacks, even when I watched the news and tragedies pile up over the past year. My thoughts were on warm croissants, swimming in the Mediterranean, traipsing across ancient ruins I had only dreamt about.
Now, when the topic of my trip pops into small talk with coworkers and classmates, I hear a lot of “at least you’re not going to Brussels” or “I hope nothing happens while you’re abroad.” And don’t get me wrong – I have thought about these all too terrifying realities. I’ve considered what I would do, where I would go, who I would call. I’m aware that danger is out there, that I need to be smart and safe and aware of my actions and the actions of those around me.
But, I never once considered canceling my trip. Never ever ever.
The thing is, fear cannot stop me from following a dream I’ve had for as long as I remember. We can’t hide away because of what could happen. We can’t create barriers because of the possibility that something could go terribly wrong. A lot of things could go wrong, and a lot of things unrelated to violent terrorist acts could go wrong– car accidents or muggings. Those things are statistically more likely to happen, but they’ve never stopped me either.
When it comes down to it, it’s not about proving terrorists and extremists wrong and declaring as loud as possible “I’m not afraid of you.” Fear is natural and a completely normal response to the ugly realities that loom over our world.
But rather, we need to travel now more than ever because we need to create those connections, understand the lives of others, connect with cultures on an entirely real and overwhelming level. Rather than creating divisions, we need to be coming together and learning from one another. More than ever, we need to bridge the difference between countries, cultures, races, and religions and learn to accept one another with welcoming and loving arms.
Isolation never works – nightmares still exist and they could happen exactly where we’re trying to hide. We need to take these times of uncertainty and use them in the most positive way we can.
Book your trip. Learn from one another, breakdown barriers, bridge that gap between “us” and “them”. We’re all human and we’re all in this together. Let’s try to act that way.
“The answer to the world’s problems today is not to turn inward. We simply have to seize every opportunity to promote understanding between countries and across cultures. And there’s no better way to do that than to explore the world with an open mind, a sturdy carry-on, and clothes that don’t wrinkle.” –Madeleine Albright
Image via Kellyn Simpkins
Doodles via Molly Longest