As the stories of heroism, survival, and horror continue to emerge in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris–a city I love, and have lived in–I’ve been thinking about what, if anything, I ought to say here, to you: people who come to this website because you love to travel, and dream of seeing more of the world. People faced with the question of how to travel after terrorism. Should I repeat the stock phrases–the ones that seem to get trotted out every time an event of this sort occurs? “Don’t be afraid to travel!” “Don’t let fear control your life!”
You probably know those statements well by now–which is, in and of itself, tragic. Sudden violence, at home and abroad, has become a regular enough event that the urgings of politicians and pastors and yes, even travel bloggers, about “not letting terrorists win” have themselves become well-worn. Which isn’t to say the statements aren’t true. But are these mini-lectures about not letting these tragedies affect us, change us, really what we need to hear again? I wonder.
Yes, Paris will recover, just as Bangkok is recovering from its recent attack, and London recovered following its 2005 tube bombings, and the USA recovered after Boston and 9/11. And yes, choosing not to cancel travel plans is, in its own way, a big fat middle finger at those who want to use our fear as a means to their ends. But is not trading in your plane ticket enough? Should we really be telling ourselves that the best way to respond to Paris, and indeed to the violence that is occurring in far less glamorous locales all around the world every day, is to continue to live our lives just as before?
Pardon my Battlestar Galactica, but frack that.
You want to know what I think we should say after acts of terrorism? Here it is:
Please, let this event change your life. Let it inspire you to not just go see the world, but be a force for good (and for supporting the good others do) in the world.
Let this event touch your heart in ways that will drive you to show love to others–not just in word, or in Facebook likes or tweets about #prayforparis, but in the practical, everyday ways that truly change lives.
Let this event help you develop more compassion for strangers.
Let this event give you new eyes which see how you can give joy to the people you encounter, whether at home, or during your travels.
Let this event give you a burning drive to take actions which, as our friend, and recent guest blogger Ellie Thometz wrote on Facebook yesterday, help to “overcome the darkness of the world.”
For heaven’s sake, don’t be afraid to travel, but more than that, don’t be afraid to do more than travel. Do more, be more than just a sight-seer. Be someone who changes the world.