WHY IT'S MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER TO TRAVEL NOW
Ahead of our upcoming trip to the regions of the world
that have, sadly, suffered in recent years from conflicts, instability, terror activities, and most importantly, lack of knowledge, we took a pause to reflect on our commitment in coming to these places. We wanted to know: do we still have, in 2018, the same conviction we had a decade ago to travel to places that may get a bad rep? Do we still believe it's more important than ever to come seek out for ourselves what media-distorted countries, and cities, and towns may look like on the ground?
We're happy to report that the answer to that is still a resounding "yes."
In less than a week,
we will be touching down
In less than a week, we will be touching down in Turkey. What used to be a relatively stable stronghold in the region has sadly become a hotbed of terror activities, with a string of attacks one bloodier than the other in the past several years. Many lives have been lost. The Turkish tourism industry has suffered a hard blow, down forty percent since 2015 according to some estimates.
This is our new reality.
Terrorism has entered into our everyday lingo and is probably here to stay. We can fear it, we can ignore it, or we can try to defy it, but it is not going away. So let’s examine how we can carry on in the face of this 21st-century threat.
Like any tragedy, terrorism is well... terrible, but what makes it even more fearsome is that it’s unpredictable. You can choose not to live in Chile or China where earthquakes are common, but you cannot get inside a terrorist cell members’ minds to predict the location of the next attack. It’s the volatile unpredictable nature of terrorism that raises the hair on our skin.
The irony is that there are far, far more frequent tragedies that don’t get the same attention that terrorism does. In fact, according to this op-ed by the Boston Globe (supported by other sources), we are more likely to a) get hit by a falling object, b) die from a lightning strike, or c) become a victim of gun violence than we are to fall to the hands of terrorists. Yet it is the latter that occupies our imagination most vividly. Why is it so?
We believe there are two main reasons we are afraid of terrorism.
Because our world is hyper-connected, we get almost instantaneous access to any attack and its details. The terrorists took a taxi just before blowing themselves up. One of them had a brother who lives in Boston. They are Belgian citizens. All of these details make an attack feel more tangible than what it should be to the news-watching world. Our twenty-four-hour news cycle adds to the grievance as stories get recycled many times over, spreading not only on social media but also into our minds and the collective subconsciousness. Data suggest, however, that, with respect to terrorist attacks, we are living in the safest decade yet both in the United States and in Western Europe.
The other reason terrorism occupies our minds is that as humans, we are naturally drawn to stories and narratives. When a natural disaster strikes, it is just that — a natural disaster. There isn’t a plot or a grand design at work (we will ignore the effects of global warming here as it is not the subject of this article). With terror, there’s always a story. For better or for worse, there’s a narrative out there about radical movements fighting an enemy. We are drawn to that narrative, sometimes against our best intentions.
So what is an individual to do when faced with a decision to go or not to go somewhere? Consider the risks, of course, and travel smart,
but please continue to travel, we implore you.
Because if you, and we, and all of our friends and loved ones stop traveling, then they — the terrorists — have already won.
The goal of terrorists is to spread terror, fear, and division among those they’re opposing. Coincidentally, the best antidote against terror, fear, and division is travel.
When we travel, we become more humane. We see that people on the other side of the globe, while different from us in their customs, beliefs, and cultures, are fundamentally the same. They have the same needs as we do for food, shelter, love, affection, friendship, and well-being. The decision to go somewhere is a life-altering decision, not only for a traveler but also for those he or she is encountering along the way because traveling opens doors and builds bridges that terrorists want to blow up.
So we will not stop coming to Istanbul. We will not cancel our plans for Egypt and we will someday visit Brussels. We will not stop dreaming about London or Paris and we will continue planning our trips to Africa. We are not naive and we know that bad things can — and do — happen. But we are hopeful that our collective response to this — to continue choosing light over darkness — is bound to eventually make a difference.
In the poignant words of Antoine Leiris, a Parisian who has lost his wife in the 2015 Bataclan attack and has written an open letter to terrorists,
Yulia is a founder of NOMⴷD + JULES and a freelance travel photographer and writer. She was born in Kazakhstan, grew up in Estonia, and now lives in the United States. Yulia has traveled the world extensively and turned to a travel journalism career after spending more than ten years in large organizations - first as a Navy Sailor, then as a brand manager at Fortune 500 companies. Yulia's work appears in Lonely Planet, Afar magazine, Turkish Airlines Skylife, and others. See more on her Website and Instagram.