Following the heartbreaking events in Paris last week, I was going to write about some very practical things you can do to feel a little better about traveling abroad. But I’ve decided to save that for another time. Today, I want to talk about being brave.
Travel can be a scary enterprise. Unfamiliar places, incomprehensible languages, strange food, baffling public transit systems. Add in the threat of terrorism and it’s understandable that a lot of people would rather just stay home.
You must not stay home.
I believe – without any scientific evidence to back me up – that one of the primary reasons we live in such a globalized and inclusive world today is because of travel. Travel connects us in ways that no amount of high-speed internet can. It builds our empathy, expands our perspectives, and increases our tolerance. It also drives economies, lifts people out of poverty, and sometimes even makes people healthier. Travel does nothing less than transform the world and the lives of the people who participate in it. It’s the most beautiful form of diplomacy and peace building.
For all these reasons and more, you must keep traveling.
Just as the people in Paris and Beirut and so many other cities must carry on with their lives, you must carry on doing your part to spread the traveler’s gospel of goodwill and love and joy.
And in case you’re not sure how to keep traveling in the face of so many nebulous risks and threats and fears, I’ll let you in on a little secret:
You don’t have to be fearless to travel. You simply must have enough courage to travel in spite of your fears.
I wish I could snap my fingers and make all our fears disappear. I try to banish fears, big and small, from my own life on a daily basis. But despite my best efforts, I’m not fearless. Quite the contrary. Fortunately, my love of the world outweighs my fear of the unknown. So I summon up my courage – which sometimes is more of a whisper than a roar – and remind myself of this wise admonition from Nelson Mandela: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Then I head out into the world.
And a remarkable thing happens when I do. Within days, or hours, or sometimes even minutes, the fears start to melt away, until they are a shadow of their former selves and I realize, again, that the world isn’t such a scary place after all.
Like millions of other people, I adore Paris. Thankfully, Paris will go on. And I will be there. I hope you will be, too.