After the horrific events in Paris, where people going about their daily lives – eating in cafés, going to soccer games, attending concerts with friends – were targets of terrorist violence, we’ve been squeezing our loved ones tight, trying to make sense of senseless acts.
We have not been thinking about going to Paris.
We have been thinking of past trips to Paris, when we fell in love with its grand boulevards and tiny cheese shops, its art everywhere, its delicious broad vistas, its history, even its notoriously snooty people. We have family stories from our trip there – giving out pennies to trick-or-treaters at our Airbnb apartment, because we had no idea there would be any; taking an ill-advised family bike ride down the Champs Elysée dodging darting French drivers; and the magical hours spent at Shakespeare & Co. bookstore while a stranger played Cole Porter on the second floor piano.
Since we are travel planners, people have asked us, “Should we travel now?”
And this is where we’ve been stuck, trying to figure out what our answer should be. And what the answer would be for ourselves.
We have certainly been to places where there were security risks, even with our families. We always check the U.S. State Department security warnings, and we remain aware of our surroundings at all times. Well… most times. Sometimes we just like to be caught up in the joy of the moment and we forget about the risks around us.
We refuse to live our lives in fear.
Sometimes we are afraid.
And sometimes that fear turns into anxiety. And if the thought of taking a family vacation – the whole point of which is to build happy family memories – induces anxiety, well, it might not be worth it. If I had planned a trip to Paris for the near future, and if my kids were afraid because of all they see on the internet and in the media, I would consider canceling it. Not out of fear of terrorist activity (no, we won’t let the terrorists win) but out of fear of a bad vacation.
So maybe we wouldn’t go to Paris or Brussels right now, but we might instead go to Mexico City or Montreal, or Asheville or Austin. There are a lot of places to go that are not at war.
And you don’t have to go anywhere.
But keep in mind that no one can guarantee your safety anywhere, anytime. We risk dying every day we are alive. We’re not even safe in our own homes! This year we’ve seen a car go through someone’s living room wall, a tree fall on someone’s bedroom, and an electrical fire destroy someone’s kitchen. Thanksgiving, the joyous American family celebration, is the day the most house fires occur, by the way.
We can’t keep ourselves perfectly safe, no matter where we are. So with the U.S. State Department issuing a worldwide travel warning, are we going to stop traveling?
What we love about travel, particularly about traveling with kids, is the way that it opens our minds to other cultures and other ways of living. It forces us to challenge our assumptions about how we live. And in this time of global tensions, we think one of the clearest paths to peace is through understanding the differences and, more importantly, the similarities among cultures worldwide.
So we are not going to stop traveling. And when we do go, we are going with eyes and minds and hearts wide open to whatever we encounter.