Last night I overheard Fox News announcing the U.S. State Department’s worldwide travel alert due to possible increased terrorism risks. In an alert that extends until February 24, 2016, U.S. citizens have been warned to “avoid large crowds or crowded places… pointing specifically to large sporting events, theaters, open markets and airlines.” In light of the Paris massacres last week, exercising caution is certainly a good suggestion. But you shouldn’t cancel plans to visit Paris.
There are no words to describe the sadness and sympathy I felt when watching the heart-breaking news of Paris last week. These sickening attacks that occurred in the romantic City of Love jolted the entire world, making us question the future of humanity. It is impossible to understand the minds of these fully-devoted extremists willing to sacrifice their lives for a cause.
Unfortunately, terrorism is a reality of the world we live in today. Nowhere is 100% safe anymore, and we can’t really protect ourselves from these inhumane people with such a radical and incomprehensible ideology. They terrify us, and of course we are afraid. But we cannot let that fear govern our lives. If we remain paralyzed in a state of fear constantly hiding at home and refusing to live our lives freely, then the terrorists have won. The best response is to admit that terrorism exists, and to continue to live our lives to the fullest.
Many speculate that the UK Christmas markets will be the next target, but the reality is that terrorists can strike anywhere, anytime. They’ve hit national monuments like the World Trade Center, transport systems like London’s Underground, and tourist destinations like Tunisia, Sharm El-Sheikh, and Bali. Terrorism is unpredictable, but we can’t let that unpredictability keep us from living our life. Because terrorist groups strive for maximum impact, it’s more likely that they will target a big city. But when touring London last week, I couldn’t bear to skip Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey because of the slight chance they could be targets. And when visiting New York City next weekend, will I avoid Times Square or the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree simply because they’re crowded areas? Of course not.
Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, with an additional 20-50 million left injured or disabled. Does that stop us from driving? And the total number of deaths from guns in the U.S. is already 11,880 so far this year, with over 300 of those being from mass shootings. Do this mean we hide in our houses? Statistics such as these make me wonder, is it really so much safer to stay at home?
The goal of terrorism is to create gut-wrenching reactions, produce widespread panic, and to attain recognition by attracting the media. But we cannot live in fear of terrorists because that will mean they have succeeded. If you want to send your love and thoughts to France, don’t cancel plans to Paris just because it was the target of a horrific attack that is now past. You can type a Facebook status sending thoughts and prayers to the French people, but the best way to unite with them is to continue on traveling.
Don’t let these acts of terrorism keep you from visiting the simply magical city of Paris. Go and watch the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower as the sun sets below a neon pink sky. Marvel at the unique juxtaposition of old versus new at the Louvre (but make sure to skip the far-too-common Mona Lisa selfie). Escape the cold by slipping into a quaint café, where you’ll sink your teeth into a freshly baked baguette and sip a warm frothy latte. Be amazed at football player Iya Traoré’s mind-blowing performance on the steps outside Montmartre. Gaze up at the extravagant ceiling of Galeries Lafayette while you window-shop the perfect displays. Enjoy a beautiful city void of crowds that commonly accompany the summer months. Paris is an amazing travel destination, and the dreadful events that occurred last week shouldn’t stop anyone from witnessing its charm firsthand.
Don’t let terrorists stop us from living life to the fullest every day, for then they have won. Dare to live bravely and continue to explore the world, travel alert, or not.
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌