With the recent terror attacks around the globe, it's easy to write off traveling to foreign countries. With upcoming trips to India, France, and Germany, and a good friend came to me and said, "I'm afraid for you to go to Europe... what happens if there's an attack while you're there?"
Such an innocent question, yet it's a growing concern for travelers. "What ifs" are becoming "whens" and it does seem inevitable. However, it's important to continue traveling. It's not easy to look potential danger in the face and say, "Eff off," but you can and should do it. See the world, show others that you are good and understand they are good people too. Also, remember you're more likely to be involved in a vehicle accident in your own town than to be in a terror attack abroad.
1) What you learn while traveling can't be taught or explained
Regardless of terror attacks, who you are, or the country in which you live, you have the opportunity to learn. Everywhere is different: Eastern North Carolina is different from Western NC and all of NC is very different from California. The States are different from Europe and so on. There's no class to teach you about the actual people you'll meet, food you'll eat, and things you'll see. All the image searches, books, and articles can't prepare you for the piece of your soul that changes when you go somewhere new.
Something very deep changes within you when you travel and most globe trotters will attest that the more uncomfortable you are, the more of you changes. You begin to see people for who they are and not a nationality. Also, you understand why some stereotypes may exist, for better or worse. Finally, you realize how our opinions have been shaped by our parents, friends, and the media.
These are just a few of the intangibles about traveling. No private school education or post-grad work can teach you what you learn while on an adventure.
2) Staying home means the bad guys win
Seriously. Any terrorists from any organization or country at any point wants to strike fear into people. They want to disrupt the good lives we live to prove they have some sort of power or control. Don't let them win. Ever.
Now, I'm not advocating rolling up in a war zone to prove a point. Be safe and be smart. That being said, don't cancel your trips and even more - don't ignore your dreams or your bucket list. Don't let them win.
3) Break down barriers by seeking to understand
When you seek to understand, you'll be able to ask the right questions. Instead of asking in China,"Do you think the Chinese should free Tibet?" Perhaps you ask, "Tell us what you know of the history of Tibet." The conversation changes drastically - from defensive to excited. People want to share who they are and their culture with you, just as you want to share your way of life with others. When you ask better questions, you can truly understand the actions of people. You won't be disappointed. By breaking down these barriers and trying to understand the culture and the individual, you will gain more respect as a traveler.
4) People are inherently good
For you cynics out there, this might be a hard pill to swallow. Whether in China, Russia, Ireland, or Spain, there are good people and not so good people. Most folks really are good and helpful even with a language barrier. If you keep an open mind and respect the culture, no matter how different from yours, you'll have successful trips time and again.
Happy traveling, friends.