I’ve traveled alone for a decade to nearly 30 countries and territories. And, guess what? I’m as scared of traveling solo today as I was my very first time back in 2006 when I visited a tiny island in the North Atlantic Ocean.
It’s always the same thing. The night before my globetrotting adventures, I always lose sleep. First, I lay in bed wondering if I forgot to pack something essential. Second, for some reason, I have visions of arriving at the airport without my passport. It’s gotten to the point that I’m so paranoid I now leave my passport right in front of the door. That reassures me that I’ll never forget it. I also double and triple-check online news sites, TV news, and government travel warnings. I’ll be honest; some of my angst and nervousness comes from my experience of being a journalist for more than a decade. You tend to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly on a daily basis when you work in news. The rest of my feelings of unease comes from my fear of ISIS. OK, maybe not ISIS per se, but the fear of losing my life in a terrorist attack really does frighten me.
Just this month, I traveled from Los Angeles to Malta. And, although my flights couldn’t have been smoother, my stomach was still in knots. It’s because my mind was racing with thoughts. I thought about the recent suicide attack on a commercial airline in Somalia. Then I remembered the terrorist attacks at that beach resort in Ivory Coast. And, oh yeah, there was that car bomb that went off in Ankara, Turkey. Then came these three terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium where more than 30 people died. At times, it’s enough to make me want to have a moratorium on traveling. But, a little voice inside me screams, “Don’t do it! Don’t let this fear suffocate you and keep you from doing the one thing that makes you happy—traveling!”
I’m not alone. Plenty of other seasoned travelers and travel bloggers also weigh the benefits of travel with the risks. No one understands this better than Jodi Ettenberg. She’s an award-winning travel writer who founded the hugely successful travel blog, Legal Nomads. Ettenberg has visited nearly 70 countries, most of them alone. She’s been exploring the world full-time since April 2008. “Few people would have avoided Brussels or Paris prior to the most recent attacks,” said Ettenberg. “When I see these attacks, I worry that it means more and more North Americans will choose fear over truly trying to ascertain the practical risks that are out there.” She isn’t downplaying the very real threat of terrorism, but she wants everyone to consider the risks vs. the rewards. “To lock yourself up at home is not the answer,” said Ettenberg. “Travel is enriching, rewarding, and can make you a better and more compassionate human. Bearing in mind that some countries with frequent, systematic attacks should be avoided, I would urge people not to avoid all travel out of fear. Fear isn’t the answer.”
And, the globetrotting husband and wife team of Dalene and Peter Heck echoes that sentiment. In 2009, they left their jobs and sold everything to travel the world. Now, they run the award-winning travel blog, Hecktic Travels, and they own Hecktic Media, which connects travel brands with new media talent. Like Ettenberg, Dalene worries about terrorism and how it affects our perceptions of certain regions.
“Our first thoughts are always of the well-being of our friends who live there,” she said worrying that listening to daily news reports about terrorism may be doing more harm than good. “While I do understand the residual fear, it’s a terrible shame when people avoid these entire countries because of isolated events. As usual, media covers the horrible events and casts a blanket of fear over entire regions, but it is most often too grand. The truth is that the risk for travelers in any of these countries is still very small.”
The Hecks, Ettenberg, and I are wanderlusters. Some people understand this compulsive desire to learn about the world through traveling. Others wonder why anyone would take a nonessential international trip in an era of terrorism. For me, it’s simple. Traveling gives me life. So, I’ve decided to keep taking the risks.
Brussels, Belgium – Photo: Miguel Discart via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License (By 2.0)
Tags: Terrorism, Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings, Travelers