On Travel and Terrorism: Counting Our Blessings

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. 

On Travel and Tourism Counting Our Blessings - Kids Are A Trip

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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.

Travel and Terrorism-Kids Are A Trip
Why stay home when I could see this?

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.

Thoughts on Travel and Terrorism-Kids Are A Trip
There is already heightened security in preparation for the upcoming Christmas markets.

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?

64 Comments

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article It is great to see that you are living your life and enjoying it.

  2. Thanks Denise!

  3. I’m so glad your kids are in a school that supports travel and experiences outside of school! Mine was always so agreeable but my brothers not so much growing up. My parents took us anyway and I remember my dad getting frustrated and telling his principal that he would learn more in an afternoon at the Louve than he ever would from their crappy art teacher (hes a college art professor) ha

  4. My husband and I have been planning a European vacation next summer and Paris was on our list. I won’t lie to you, I am questioning whether we should go at all. I know only time will tell and luckily we still have several months to decide. I wish I could be brave and just go without worrying about it. I pray that I can get there and I admire that you didn’t let the fear of terrorism stop you from living. I will pray for your family’s safe travels and safe return. I can’t wait to see more pictures!

  5. When traveling abroad I’ve always taken pause and have headed warnings, but it hasn’t stopped me from going. I think what you are staying is smart and will keep you safer. Have a great trip!!

  6. This is fabulous. I’m so glad you didn’t let fear change your plans, but I’m also so glad you’re being vigilant and watchful and safe. We went to Paris this past April, and even then I was a bit scared, due to recent attacks, but it was incredible, and I’m so glad we went.

  7. I am so glad you guys continued on your trip. Honestly though you are safer avoiding huge crowds and the more popular tourist attractions, it is not a victory because you are still traveling and going about your life, but doing so in a cautious manner. We currently live in Amsterdam (we move back to the US this week though), after the attacks we made sure our teenager avoided large crowds with her friends, as parents we made sure they had an evacuation plan, made sure she knew the two quickest routes to the nearest consulate, etc. Those aren’t letting them win, they are just smart precautions to take. I hope you all continue to have a wonderful trip.

  8. I am thankful that you made it through the trip you were all very lucky and it is good that you don’t take it for granted. I sometimes think to myself what would it be like if you were in the right place at the wrong time and it is not a pleasant thought.

  9. How wonderful that you didn’t change your plans! I’m not so sure I would be able to do the same – fear is a strong motivator for me, unfortunately. I think the hardest part would be trying to explain it to my kids, mine are still quite young, and I try to shield them from this information (under 7 crowd here!). I hope you have a wonderful vacation, and are able to enjoy every minute of it despite how the atmosphere may have changed.

  10. I’m glad you were able to continue with your travel plans and wish you safe journeys. We were on a cruise ship for the first two of the current “wave” (pun oh so unintended) of terrorist attacks–everything was still sort of sinking in when we made it back to port and there wasn’t much change in re-entry, but I can imagine security will be ramping up there, as well.

  11. My daughter is going to Germany in June with a group of students, and she is now very nervous about traveling abroad. I am too, but I don’t think keeping her home is the answer. We will wait and see how events unfold.

    Safe travels to you and your family, Kirsten!

  12. well I am glad to see you did not let others hatred spoil your family time together in Europe – have fun!

  13. The point of terrorism is to inspire a sense of fear. I’m glad you didn’t let that fear stop you from going (plus, it’s a lot of money to throw out of the window). Not the trip you imagined, but I hope you can get the best out of it anyway.

  14. I haven’t traveled overseas in over 20 years, but I think if I was going to travel, I wouldn’t allow terrorism to affect my travel plans too much. I believe we can’t live our lives in fear. We can be vigilant, like you said, but only God knows when it’s our time to go so I would just trust that He knows what He’s doing.

  15. Oh man. That would be hard for my littles too! Enjoy your trip!

  16. That is so funny! I am glad to see your dad was right!

  17. Thanks Tara!

  18. I am glad you went too Esther. We can’t control this crazy world we live in, can we?

  19. Kate, those are good tips to think about. I appreciate you sharing. Have a safe move.

  20. Thanks Ana!

  21. Under 7 is difficult. Hard to explain so many things. Thanks for the warm wishes!

  22. Never thought about cruise ships, but you are right, I am sure changes are coming there too!

  23. Oh boy Dana. How exciting for her! Where is she going? All over? Can’t wait to hear all about it?

  24. Thanks a bunch.

  25. Thanks Eva. It is scary, but you just have to keep on going and remind yourself that scary things can happen anywhere.

  26. You are so right Janet. Completely out of our hands.

  27. Thanks Debra!

  28. Glad that you continued your trip and enjoyed it! It is sad to see so many violence this days 🙁

  29. I didn’t have any plans to travel outside of the country previously, but I don’t think I would at this point. Not for fear of terrorism, but for not wanting to risk going somewhere and being stuck there due to something occurring.

  30. I’m glad you’re able to enjoy your vacation still and not give into the fear the attacks were meant to instill. It looks beautiful and I hope you enjoy the remainder of your vacation!

  31. Wow! I think that’s absolutely awesome that you took your kids on the trip anyway! Good for you! I think that’s absolutely the right thing to do. It’s important to have our kids see the world – even the hard parts of the world like a city recovering from a terrorist attack.

  32. Agree Diana! Thanks for your thoughts

  33. That’s a good point Kiersten that I didn’t think about. Getting back. Crossing fingers and hoping that doesn’t happen.

  34. Thanks Taylor!

  35. Thanks Susannah!

  36. Wow. It is so crazy the world we now live in. The boys and I are going to be traveling without my husband and I am a little nervous.

  37. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to take my boys there right now. My sister had plans to go last year when other attacks occurred and she used the travel insurance to get most of her money back rather than fret over what might happen if she was there.

    Enjoy your trip as much as possible. I’m sure it is an amazing experience even with the terrorist alerts. Sadly, I don’t think they are going away anytime soon.

  38. It’s good that you didn’t let it spoil your trip. What’s important is you and your whole family learned so much from your trip.

  39. glad to see you keepin with your plans but I have no desire to ever leave our country! 😉

  40. Yes, you have to live your life. Be aware. I can imagine that was hard for you, but I am happy you are there.

  41. When I travel I say my prayers and always think positive!!!

  42. This is such a real post… you can’t ignore it any longer. But you don’t have to let it suck the joy out of you either!

  43. This is such a great post. I applaud you guys for continuing your trip. In that way, the terrorists have failed. They want us scared and to back down to them. I must admit my anxiety would be a wreck. You guys are awesome. Enjoy your trip!!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! LifeAsLex

  44. Great post! I am glad you decided to go and make the best of it. Still all so scary and I am glad to hear you and your family are safe.

  45. I will not leave in fear! I appreciate your thoughts and hope that we can continue to travel safely.

  46. Thank you for sharing. It’s insightful to hear how you tackle discussing such a difficult situation with your children. Props to you for not allowing the recent events have an impact on living your life.

  47. It’s so scary! I don’t travel much these days, so I am not sure it effects me at this time and am not sure if it will when I do. However, good for you for still carrying on! Europe is beautiful and it’s a shame that there is so much evil happening!

  48. Yeah Jen it is crazy. Best of luck to you!

  49. I am glad to see that your family is still travelling and experiencing your trip. Although, it may be changed slightly based on recent events, I like that you are focusing on your family time and reflecting upon what you and your family are truly grateful for. It puts things in perspective. Enjoy your time together.

  50. Thanks Laurie. It is a weird situation for sure. Hoping everything passes without incident.

  51. Yes, we are enjoying ourselves and thankful for every minute together.

  52. I feel that way too sometimes!

  53. Thanks! It is an interesting trip for sure.

  54. Great advice (and believe me I have been doing a lot of that).

  55. Thanks Erin! That is right, trying to be strong for everyone.

  56. Thanks Lexie!

  57. Thanks Nicole!

  58. I agree Krystal. I hope we can all continue to travel and feel safe, but it might take awhile.

  59. Thanks Kiana!

  60. I agree Jaime! I hope the situation goes away sooner than later, truth be told. The world is a beautiful place and everyone should be free to see it without fear.

  61. Thanks Nicole! Focusing on the positive!

  62. Thanks for your wonderful social media posts, Kirsten. I’m glad you persevered and hope your family had a great experience. I don’t think the recent attack has done much to change my travel thinking. There were already many destinations we would have gone to five years ago that are only remote possibilities now.

    My only experience in Europe thus far was when the borders were still up (and there was an East Germany). The embassies in Rome were guarded by armed guards in plain view. So, in a way, these are the things I still expect to see and experience. For better (I think it is better) or worse, I have little reluctance to take our family over. We will be wary, as you said you were, but will also look forward to it.

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