“Travel safe!” (or some variation thereof) has become a standard farewell for someone departing on a trip. And to be frank, I don’t much like it. As well-meaning as the phrase may be, it belies an underlying worry for the traveler, which can plant seeds of anxiety and blemish the excitement of the trip before it even begins.
Why do we worry about people when they travel? Is it the distance? Perhaps we just don’t like the idea that our loved ones are suddenly far away. Is it the specter of the unknown? Perhaps we believe that other countries are more dangerous than our own. Is it the foreign-ness of it? Perhaps we worry that in an unfamiliar place, our traveler might become more accident-prone or won’t be able to get help.
Statistically speaking, we’re far more likely to “come to harm” in or near our homes. For instance, the odds of being killed in a terrorist attack while traveling are so slim, you’re more likely to die from an asteroid hitting the Earth (an asteroid!). Fatal car accidents vastly outnumber airplane crashes. The number of people who die each year falling out of bed defies belief. But we don’t say “be safe!” when our loved ones are getting into bed at night.
And remember, the rest of the world is not so different from home. There are hospitals and police officers and stores that sell band-aids. And a person who can walk down the street in their hometown without falling into a manhole is unlikely to forget how to walk just because they’re in a foreign country. Unless someone is traveling to a war zone, there should be no greater cause for concern than for a random Monday trip to the grocery store.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t take precautions when we’re traveling – or at any time, actually. Using common sense and being aware of your surroundings (like watching out for manholes) go a long way toward preserving your bodily safety. But maintaining a positive state of mind also goes a long way toward making your travels safe. Traveling the world in a constant state of anxiety and fearfulness will, ironically, only make you more vulnerable. Plus, it’s so much harder to enjoy yourself.
Travel requires trust. And that includes each of us trusting our favorite travelers to take care of themselves while they’re abroad and trusting the world to take care of them, too.
When sending your friends and loved ones off on their travels, the best farewell is not a dwelling on the negative but a blessing for the positive: very simply, wish them a wonderful adventure.