Why Travel Now in Difficult Times

Aug 2016

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 in difficult times?

Why travel now aerial of Alaska

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?

Why Travel now Jaisalmer India

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?”

Why is it so important to travel now?

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 it’s good to travel now in difficult times.  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!



Read more Tips on how to choose a safe traveling destination for your family , Natalie from The Educational Tourist has some great suggestions to follow.


  1. Alison,
    Great post young lady! It’s ironical we were headed to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and we’re supposed to fly out the day after the bomb. As normal we had a “family meeting” with our three sons to see what their thoughts were. The oldest was 13 I believe. All three stated they would not be scared by this incident and told us not to unpack. We went and had a wonderful lifetime memory!

    • alison says:

      I love your story Mike. So similar to ours and especially with the kids reaction. Our family still talks about the wonderful experience all the time. Making memories is priceless.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Good post. I think it’s vital to travel and actually, to be honest, as a British person I’ve observed that British and European people travel a lot more than Americans tend to.
    Why is that? Is it your media that instills fear into you because once you travel you see how great other countries are too and learn not everyone is ‘out to get’ you?
    It’d be like me listening to media and saying I would never go to the U.S. on holiday or to tour because I am bound to get shot.

    It’s refreshing for us, ‘across the Pond’, to discover Americans who aren’t afraid to explore.

    • alison says:

      I have to agree with you Rebecca. These days Europeans and Brits are the first people I run into when traveling. Media plays a role for sure, and I look at my work as hopefully sharing how wonderful travel can be, helping to dispel those myths and fears.

  3. Bravo! The more we travel, the more we discover that people around the world are more alike than different.

  4. Oh, Alison. This post is everything and more! I couldn’t agree you with any more than now, indeed, is the time to travel. And as a fellow nomad, I too, understand how this new reality, filled with fear and ignorance can instill doubt in doing what we love most. Seeing the world. A beautiful reminder – thanks for sharing!

    • alison says:

      How nice to hear from you Yana! I hope you are doing well and appreciate your kind comment. We’ve both come a long way from that initial workshop with Holly!

  5. Janice Chung says:

    Forget the “weepy”, I love how you ARE an optimist and continue to travel. Your story about your flight soon after 9/11 was particularly interesting and sadly today, the reaction by flight personnel would be much different. I agree it’s all about getting to know a country and it’s people. And it’s often a two-way street.

    • alison says:

      Janice-I had to laugh when I read your response. I am just one of those people that has a very low tear threshold-I’m talking Sound of Music type low! Every time I think of that flight, I kind of just shake my head in amazement at how much things have changed over the last few years.

  6. noel says:

    Iran is one of my top countries with all those amazing Unesco sites, I’m sure it is already popular with Europeans.

    • alison says:

      Yes, I’m hearing nothing but positive feedback from people who have recently traveled there. The different Unesco sites you speak of look awe inspiring in the photos i’ve seen. Thanks Noel.

  7. While I have no desire to travel to Iran, I applaud your reasons and fully support your wish. This post is wonderfully thoughtful and spot on about how insidious a media-spurred fear infection can be.

    • alison says:

      An infection is a perfect word to use when describing it Betsy. Unfortunately it is also highly contagious.Travel outside you comfort zone is certainly one of the best cures in my opinion

  8. Indeed, travel. Travel here. Travel there. Travel anywhere.

  9. Sara Broers says:

    Great points! It’s true that destinations change and you can visit today and in a couple weeks, months or years, things often look different.

  10. Agree that travel can remind you that the world is mostly filled with beautiful people just trying their best. The other thing that is brilliant for this is quality education!!

  11. Alison I am so glad you are dusting off your passport and continuing with your plans. You have to do what feels right. We departed for Paris 5 days after the attacks in November and also arrived into Brussels the day the city was taken out of lockdown. Not our ideal time to travel to these areas, but we didn’t want to cancel our plans and wanted to show support to the locals who struggle when tourism flounders. We were safe and we enjoyed our travel. Would we plan to travel to Europe at the moment with the continues troubles… hmm, cautiously I think we will.
    Enjoy Iran 🙂

  12. Holly says:

    The weepy optimist. Good one! Great post!

  13. Patti Morrow says:

    I agree with you that governments can be at odds philosophically without making it dangerous to visit each others country. I’m not a fearful person, and if it’s a country I’m interested in, I can’t imagine anything stopping me.

  14. Thanks for this thoughtful and inspiring post.

  15. Kenny says:

    I think it’s how travel could do to people and I feel the same way ~