Many people never travel abroad because of the fear of the unknown. I do not let that happen. I believe that, if we do our homework and take some easy precautions, we can avoid troubles while abroad and still enjoy traveling. My family and I were living in Strasbourg, France on September 11, 2001. We sat in our apartment and watched the World Trade Center Towers come tumbling down. I knew that this one event would change how we travel for years to come if not forever. Tensions rose in Europe, as did anti-Semitism. Not long after, we began to see refugees streaming into Europe unchecked, mostly from the most troubled areas of the Middle East. This changed the dynamic of Europe fairly drastically.
If I stopped there it would be easy to talk myself out of traveling to Europe ever again. I, however, continued to travel into and out of Europe. I have been throughout Germany, France, England, Greece, Holland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Austria. I have traveled on trains, by car, even gone into Muslim neighborhoods. Now, I did not go in wearing the stars and the strips. I took precautions to make sure I was not standing out as an American. I’ll admit, I even told people at times that I was Canadian, but that was mostly because of the anti-Bush tensions that developed in Europe right after the start of the Iraq War.
Everything has settled down, with the exception of the increase of the refugees from the Syrian Civil War. Now, most of these refugees are just that, they are refugees seeking a life not destroyed by war. At the same time, there are some who have used the influx of refugees to come into Europe and the United States for the purpose of causing problems.
Then in Israel we have the time-honored conflict between the citizens of Israel and the citizens of most of the rest of the Middle East, particularly the Palestinians. The conflict has been filled with violence and has created a lot of unrest. The Israelis have dealt with that conflict by building walls to separate themselves from the hostilities coming out of the Palestinian territories. I have been through the checkpoints between Israeli controlled areas and Palestinian controlled areas. From Israel into Palestine it is as simple as driving through an unmanned checkpoint most of the time. Coming back into Israel involves stopping at a guarded station and working through. For tourists this is a simple process. Both sides understand the value of having foreign tourists spend money in their stores and restaurants.
The question you are asking yourself right now, is “Why should I take chances with my safety and travel to Europe or to Israel at this time?”
- Europe and Israel are full of historic sights that are not to be missed;
- Travel expands your horizons and makes the world a better place;
- If we do not travel, then the terrorists win;
- The spoils of travel go to the bold.
I will go through these four ideas one at a time to help you better understand just what value travel adds to your life, especially travel into Europe and Israel.
Europe and Israel are full of historic sights that are not to be missed. I could go through the sights one at a time and build a list of everything you could never see if you let fears of travel stop you from traveling. Think about never seeing Jerusalem, the Garden Tomb, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Acropolis, the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, the Colosseum, the Brandenburg Gate, the castle Neuschwanstein, or hundreds of other places. Image letting those who have no value of western culture to steal those sights from us. In this blog, I will talk about those different places and sights more specifically.
First of all, just listing these sights gets me excited. I want to see them, even if I have seen them before, I want to go back and walk through the Brandenburg Gate. I want to tour the Tower of London again, with Roddy Llewellyn a friend of mine from London. I want to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower at least one more time. I want to wander through the ruins of the Acropolis and climb up onto Mars Hill in Athens, Greece and hear my good friend Vassilios Tsirmpas laugh his infectious laugh again.
That is the value of travel. Once I leave the comfort of my house and brave the world, I find people who are ready to share their lives with me. Not only that, they are also willing to share their country with me, make me feel at home when I am with them. That is what Europe and now, Israel have come to mean to me.
Travel expands your horizons and makes the world a better place. It is hard to hate people you know. This is one of the great benefits of travel. I find that when I travel to foreign places I learn to love people I might have been indifferent towards before I met them. I might even find that people I did not like are suddenly more likeable once I take the time to better understand their culture and their country.
Many people in my father’s generation, born right before or during World War II, have long harbored bad feelings for Germans. We lost many good men and women destroying the Nazi regime. It was a bitter time and some of that generation did not get over it.
I have many friends who live in Germany, some of them the same generation as my father. The more I get to know Germans the more I love their culture. The more I love their ability to turn from evil and rebuild a country that stands for freedom, much like we believe America stands for freedom. I have slept in their houses as their guest. I have eaten with them, drank beer at their table. I have gone to church with them. My friendship with Germans has enriched my life. I did not meet them living here. I me them in their own country, living their lives, raising their children. I have had the same experience in Greece, France, England, and other places as well. Every one of those experiences has enriched my life and increased my understanding of the world, making it a smaller and safer place for me.
If we do not travel, then the terrorists win. I really believe in the ideals of the west. I believe that freedom is one of the greatest gifts that God has given to man. I believe we should relish our freedom and not take it for granted. I take it as my duty to fight terrorism. I am not a soldier, have never been one, but I still feel that I can do my part in the war on terror. I can refuse to be ruled by fear and travel wherever I want to travel.
I think that we can overcome the fear they are trying to instill in us by traveling. I refuse to sit at home and be afraid. I really believe that we are ambassadors for the west, for the United States. It is our duty to go forth and show the world that we are good people who only want to live in peace with those around us. For too long we have exported only the bad sides of America. We have exported the filth of Hollywood, the celebrity status that it seems only Americans worship. For better or worse we have exported our music, McDonald’s, and Starbucks.
The first time I was in Germany we were out to dinner with a man we had met in Munich. He was talking to us about Americans and how the Germans dislike Americans, but when they meet us it is hard to hate us because we are so happy go lucky and friendly that we overcome their prejudices. That is what we need to be exporting. One of the best ways to battle terrorism is to travel and show the world that we are a friendly people who are not bent on the destruction of everyone who is not us.
Of course, if you are bent on the destruction of everyone who is not us you should stay at home.
The spoils of travel go to the bold. One of the greatest reasons to overcome your fear and travel is the reality of all you will miss if you do not stand against the fear. There are great adventures awaiting you, whether it is in Israel, Greece, Germany, France, or elsewhere. Instead of giving in to fear, let’s fight fear together and travel the world with fear, being smart about where we are at any given time. At the same time, never giving in to fear, but expanding our horizons with a smile that it seems only Americans can share.