On the early morning of Saturday, October 31, 2015, I touched down at Heathrow airport just a week after having been in London for a week of work. This time, however, as the customs agent asked why I was visiting the United Kingdom, I told her with a grin that I was there to celebrate my 30th birthday. (It’s my secret mission to make serious folks like customs agents smile, and mission accomplished.)
The amount of time and effort to actually leave the airport after an international flight is long and tiresome, but once I got a hold of my checked bag, I was off towards the train to central London. By the time I reached Paddington Station, I was desperate for a cab to get me to my hotel and for someone to take my heavy bags away from me. I walked up to the taxi, lean in towards the window to let him know where I was going and hesitate, expecting him to get out and help me with my bags. At that point, the elderly driver, who had not moved an inch, says:
It’s a Saturday morning, a full week after I arrived home from my 30th birthday trip to the United Kingdom. I had wanted to write a few posts about my travels after I returned (because, honestly, I was too busy enjoying the experience of being there to write them in the moment) and I still plan to do that. But yesterday, a terrible tragedy happened in Paris and it has shaken me up a bit. Unfortunately, it’s not because this is the first time something like this has happened, but because it keeps happening. And I was just a short plane or train ride away from that very city only a week or so ago.
The world can be a beautiful place, but it can also be horrible and unpredictable. One day everything seems just fine and the next minute, there’s breaking news that no one wants to hear or see. This isn’t the first time that scary and dangerous things have happened around the time that I’ve traveled. It can be a bit surreal, and you bet that I say a prayer of thanks every time I make it safely to and from my destinations. But it hasn’t stopped me from exploring and having the time of my life.
And it shouldn’t.
I’ve been watching things coming pouring onto Facebook and Twitter about these attacks. It’s sadly addicting. But one thing I saw was a post from Rick Steves, who is known for his travels around the world. His message was that we can’t let the terrorists frighten us into locking ourselves up at home and hiding away. We should keep traveling and exploring because hiding away is just what they want us to do.
I think there’s something to that. When tragedy like this strikes, do we take a moment and perhaps stand still, count our blessings, thank God for what we have, perhaps check on friends and family? Absolutely. Are we more cautious about our travel plans–more thoughtful about where we’re going and when? Yes, I think that’s the smart thing to do. But should this stop us from going on our dream vacations and exploring the world? No, it shouldn’t.
Life is unpredictable no matter what you’re doing or where you are. When these sorts of tragedies strike, we come together. We pray. We help where we can. And eventually, life will carry on, and when it does, go explore the places you love near or far. Be smart about it. Do your research. Know what to do if there’s an emergency. But don’t let fear keep you from living.
The city of Paris and my friends on that side of the world are in my thoughts and prayers, and I look forward to the next opportunity to travel and experience the beauty that still exists in the world.