Why Travel Now
Lately, I must admit that a dark cloud had come over my thought process. All the bad news and divisive rhetoric I was hearing put a heavy weight on my shoulders. I felt paralyzed when I sat down to write; why does sharing what I’m posting on Green With Renvy even matter amongst all this negativity? With everything going on in the world and more importantly in our country, why is it more important then ever to travel now?
It came to a head recently when my sister was preparing to leave with her family for Munich the same night we were glued to the TV watching yet another incident of gun violence unfold in the very city she was due to arrive in the next morning. Should they go? The city was in lockdown, what kind of a vacation could they possibly expect, and of course I was fearful for their safety. Talk of terrorism was again all over the news, rolling across my twitter feed as I checked for the latest updates to get news to them. To be honest, in that situation, at that exact hour when we had our last text before they left, I didn’t want them to go. And there it was, for a small moment in time, terror and fear had gotten under my skin and was working to change my behavior.
If it can happen to someone like me who lives to travel and starts to dream about planning her next trip before her suitcase is unpacked from the last, I can only imagine how this climate affects others. That moment helped me understand the effect fear is having on people around the world. It also galvanized me to get the word out about why NOW it is more important than ever to explore and understand other cultures.
I was reminded of attending the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Six months after 9/11, we talked a lot about safety and if it make sense to bring our family into such a high profile venue so soon after the event that changed the world. It didn’t take us long to decide to go, with the caveat of be aware. As our plane was taking off from Boston at sunrise, a bearded man in light colored clothing and a prayer shawl stepped into the aisle and started the ritual rocking or shekling as he started to pray in the center of the plane. Needless to say, passengers started freaking out and the flight attendants got him seated down right away.
It was far enough from my seat that I could not hear what was being said. As it turns out it was a man just trying to recite prayers before the sun came up. Perfectly innocuous, perhaps more than a little stupid considering the circumstances, and 4 hours later we arrived in Salt Lake. We were all a lot more innocent and a bit shell shocked back then. If it had happened today, six beefy guys would have tackled him within seconds and the plane would have been turned around back to Boston. The passenger would probably have been arrested, or at least taken in for questioning. Travel is a different can of worms these days and the message to be fearful of other cultures comes at us from many different directions. What is the answer?
For me it is immersing myself in another culture. I have lived a very blessed life and it’s important to step outside my comfort zone and continue learning. Without getting too political, I think governments can be at odds philosophically without making it dangerous to visit each others country. When I traveled to Myanmar, one of the things that struck me most was the fact that by getting to know a country and it’s people, I could share what I was experiencing with many who will probably never get the chance to visit, never get to know much more about a place than what they might see on the nightly news. We all know that scratching beneath the surface offers much more that the soundbites and images coming across our screens.
The same concept could be said about traveling to Cuba, a spot where everyone thinks the country will change in a matter of months. That is just not the case. You should go now if you can, but it will be an unusual and beautiful destination in the Caribbean for years to come. The infrastructure won’t change overnight, but it will change with time.
One of the places on my list for 2017 is Iran. The only people who think it’s a good idea to travel there are the one’s who have already been. Why in the world would you want to go there? I think about fear often and the way it affects us. Greg Sullivan, co founder and CEO of AFAR media recently returned from visiting the country. Safety was never a concern for him. “We have to make decisions every day about what we are going to fear. But if we only do what’s comfortable, then what is life?”
My husband often calls me a weepy optimist, one part sunshine, the other part tears. That’s ok with me. I like to believe. After a bit of gloom and doom, I’m back to being a believer. I believe in travel, I believe in spreading your wings and I believe that connecting with people around the globe is one way to give your life meaning and find common ground within this beautiful world of ours. Dust off your passport and travel now!