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Our day on Tuesday started quite normally. We awoke at our hotel in Barcelona and walked about 10 minutes to a Metro station for a quick ride to the main train station. Another family would probably have taken a taxi, but that is just what we are used to. Even with a baby in tow, we do it our way.
This story is of course not about our Metro ride over, although Ellie did surprisingly well and didn’t seem bothered or scared which was nice. This story also really isn’t about our train ride up to Paris which did suffer from some delays, but for the most part was alright. It is instead about what happened in Belgium on the same morning.
We found out about the bombings from a Dutch passenger on our train who was traveling to his home in the Netherlands via Paris (and through Brussels). He seemed more annoyed that he would likely be stuck in Paris than he was angry or scared of what had happened. I am not sure what to think about that, but we all react to these types of things differently.
Throughout our journey up to Paris we noticed an increased police presence in all of the train stations. Other than that it was business as usual. We didn’t hear one other person talk about the bombings and no one seemed scared or on edge. It was almost surreal, but then again I sort of felt the same way.
A lot of people know how much I love to travel and even follow me and my family as we globetrot. To be truthful I love “sharing the world” with people in that way, but don’t love the other side of it where they worry about everywhere we go and what we do. Ironically, I never thought anyone would be scared of us going to Paris, but that is seemingly the case.
Back in 2007 when we traveled around the world, we skipped going to Bali because of the bombings there. We did however travel to Guatemala which is known as one of the most dangerous countries in Central America. Does that make any sense? No, not really. We should have gone to both. I learned in Guatemala that the average American’s perception of what is safe is skewed.
When you travel enough, the preconceived notions of what is dangerous and what is not tend to go out of the window. I eventually did go to Bali and totally fell in love. At no point did I feel unsafe. That has also been my experience in just about every place that people have told me to “be safe” when traveling to. (Cough cough Colombia.)
The truth is I am safe, because most of these places are safe. Just like every major Metropolitan area in the United States, other countries and cities have crime. By being vigilant and using common sense, it is fairly easy to stay safe. So safe in fact that I had no issues taking my then six year old son around the world and won’t have any problems bringing my baby.
Sure there are random events such as car accidents, sinkholes and even terrorist bombings. While they shouldn’t have to be accepted as being normal, they are a fact of life. Yes, the random tourist sometimes gets robbed and killed in country ABC, but statistically it happens so rarely. Yes, it happens, but I could also get hit by a car while walking down the street. (Which is something that happens way too regularly in Vegas.)
My point is, we heard some devastating news on the way to Paris. News that made me incredibly sad and was a stark reminder of the struggles our world is dealing with. What it didn’t do was make me scared to travel or scared to discover the world with my family. We will of course always try to be as safe as possible, but I suppose it all leads back to what you think safe is.
Will the events of this week keep me from traveling? Absolutely not. It isn’t just because “if we don’t travel the terrorists win”, but because I believe it is such an important part of my education as a human being and more importantly the education of my children. The world is a vast and amazing place full of amazing, warm and wonderful people. Some of those people were lost a few days ago and that breaks my heart.
Stay safe, but please don’t stop traveling.
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