Fight or Flight

By: Kiana Moridi

Don’t take another step. Stay right where you are. Avoid plane rides, metros, trams, trains and heavily populated tourist attractions. Cancel that Euro backpacking trip you’ve had planned for months. The less you travel, the safer you are. This isn’t the time to explore.

Terrorist attacks, bombings, shootings, stabbings- these are all things that we have grown numb to. Every day, we hear horrifying stories about attacks not only outside of the U.S., but here on our own American soil. We are advised to avoid hundreds of countries. Entire websites are dedicated to alerting and warning travelers about dangerous countries to steer clear of. But, at what point does the line between paranoia and taking precaution begin to blur?

Taking traveling precautions was once a distant idea to me- one that rapidly transitioned into my reality. With the Brussels attack hitting just a few weeks after my move to Italy, my plans to travel to other countries became questionable. I had been planning a weekend getaway to Greece when my host dad said to me, “Stay in Milan but don’t go near the Cathedral. Tourist attractions are at a high risk right now. It’s best if you don’t leave Italy right now.” Here I was living in a new country, itching to explore yet somehow still confined. Wasn’t this the very reason why I impulsively decided to move to a new country totally on my own? In my mind, that was a big enough risk in itself.

Despite any ounce of sound advice I was given, I packed my tiny carry on and hopped on a plane to Athens, Greece with little to no hesitation. Had I lived in fear of the unknown, I would have missed out on what was quite possibly one of the greatest three days of my existence. I would have never experienced the massive 11pm Greek meal with a larger than life, refreshingly outspoken, warm Greek family. I would have never experienced the pure joy of standing ocean-side of a church, lit candle sticks in hand, hugging local Greeks while the church bells rang to the firework-lit night sky, bringing in the Easter holiday. I would have never experienced the make-your-head-spin techno thumping clubs while dancing like an amateur American trying to imitate the nightlife professionals around me. I would have never experienced the satisfaction of gorging on any and every kind of meat your most carnivorous imagination could think of. I would have never had the memory of spending an entire day on the beach, toasting under the Greek sun with new friends. I would have never experienced the feeling of genuine liberation during a time of panic-stricken fear.

The following months I continued to take countless buses, trains, planes, and everything in between to explore a new city/country. Simultaneously, ISIS continued to attack countries worldwide and never claimed to do otherwise. Just two weeks after having a layover at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, the bombings occurred in the exact gate I was at. Naturally, I was shaken, thinking that could have easily been me. They continued to harm innocent people as I continued to see the world-the beautiful side of the world that is seldom deemed newsworthy. My trips lived on, my sights grew broader, I created lifelong friendships with fellow travelers from all over the world. I never stopped getting lost because I didn’t seek to be found.

The world is a scary place. Bombings, shootings, plane crashes, and hate crimes flood our television screens on a daily basis. But how much of these terrible instances are actually a part of our travel experiences? The world is also a beautifully magical place. Strangers connect through language barriers and cultural differences. The more we travel, the more we see how different yet similar to the core we are. Venture out now while you can because the worst type of regret is missing out on the things that once could have been.

Lark ReelyComment