Throughout our travels our children have been exposed to many cultures different than our own, learning along the way to see people as individuals rather than judging them based on religion or the color of their skin. The recent collision of travel and terrorism has created many questions for us as a family. While we want to stay firm in our decisions to travel, we are finding unforeseen concerns along the way we need to address.
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Every November our family makes it a point to reflect and count our blessings. We keep a board in the kitchen where everyone writes one thing they are thankful for every day of the month. This year, due to the chaos of planning a Thanksgiving vacation instead of dinner, the board didn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t thought about how grateful we are for the blessings in our life.
This year travel has taken us in many directions. We have explored with grandparents and enjoyed one on one vacations with our two older children. Each trip gave us the gift of family time, moments of joy, and time to grow in our relationships with one another. Travel always allows us to disconnect from our daily lives and reconnect as a family, and for this we are grateful.
In August, we began discussing the idea of a “big European trip” over Thanksgiving break. Our children only have one day of school Thanksgiving week, so we thought we could work around this by taking them out of school a few days before and after the holiday. (Which brings me to another thing we are grateful for: wonderful, caring and communicating teachers and an understanding school district who understand the educational value of travel. Not every school system embraces traveling families with open arms, we are lucky our does. We thank them for that, and we work diligently together to assure our children make up any missed work).
We discovered we could fly to Europe using airline points, and the trip was decided. It was simply a matter of choosing a destination. We considered Prague, Vienna, and Germany, but quickly narrowed down to Germany and France and the planning began in earnest.
I won’t bore you with the trip planning details, but let’s just say our plans have been set in stone for over three months. Life was moving along at a steady pace and we were eagerly awaiting our upcoming trip. Then the Paris terror attacks happened.
It’s hard to explain what goes through your mind when you hear about an act of terrorism so egregious and horrific. You cry, you worry, you question. Nothing seems to help. You discuss the situation with others, and are thankful for those who are safe and continuing on, defiant against any terrorists and the fear they try to inflict. Then there are the detractors who say it is not safe, to stay home, barricade yourself in, and never go outside again. Who do you listen to? Who should you listen to?
I admire every person who has stood strong in their belief that travel and terrorism can co-exist, that everyone should go out and see the world. I will be the first to admit I am not always one of those people. I want to be, but on some level I am scared, and I would be lying to say I was not. Before we left for our trip, I had several people ask whether we intended to continue on as planned, and of course I answered naïvely that we would, not realizing just how different things would be.
Since we arrived, there has been a different attack or warning it seems every day. First there was Mali, then Belgium is on high alert, it is a heightened state of anxiety for everyone. Our children knew about the attacks in Paris, but felt a little comfort knowing the amount of distance separating us from the city. Yesterday we encountered border patrols and armed soldiers patrolling the streets. This was a little too real for our children as the men walked within arms’ reach. It did not phase us as adults, but our children were visibly concerned. For us as adults, the presence of the soldiers was reassuring, but for our children, it signaled there was immediate danger from which we needed protection. We explained it is better to have soldiers rather than the alternative, but I am not sure it alleviated their anxiety.
We also find ourselves being more vigilant, trying to steer away from large groups of people, observing the suspicious ones, but even as I write this, I am afraid this is a victory for the terrorists. I know I am not the only one doing this as I see others on the street are equally observant.
This vacation has only begun, but we look forward to enjoying it with our children and spending time together as a family. We will put aside the outside world and find our moments of peace, happiness, and laughter. There will be no traditional turkey dinner, but we will carve out special times to sit down to family meals without distractions, and discuss how blessed we are to be together.
There’s the saying, ignorance is bliss. In this case, I think ignorance is misguided. We can no longer turn a blind eye, acting like terrorism doesn’t effect our lives. Unfortunately the events of the last week show us otherwise. We need to be strong in supporting one another, being vigilant, being mindful, and being thankful. We can support one another and be strong together, counting our blessings each and every day.
What are your thoughts? Will terrorism change how you travel?