Should a Worldwide Travel Alert Keep You From Traveling?
The U.S. State Department issued a worldwide travel alert today about the possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. (The alert will stay in effect until February 24, 2016.)
As a co-founder of a travel media company and a frequent traveler, I often get asked about the safety of travel, particularly to certain destinations.
Safety is a very difficult thing to assess, particularly in broad terms. I believe statistics—like how many people have gotten hurt in a neighborhood, city, or area relative to how many have not been hurt—are very useful in assessing risk. But of course that kind of thinking is retrospective, and ultimately we are worried about what is going to happen rather than what has already happened. And the fact is that we cannot predict the future.
Fear, as an instinct, serves a purpose. But my goal is not to act out of fear, but to act with an awareness of the risks and to make rational decisions based on those risks.
The bottom line: It comes down to one’s personal comfort level and values. To me, travel is a part of life. I can certainly do without it for a short while, but I have a hard time conceiving of life without it. That sounds like jail to me. But you have to ask yourself: What is important to you?
Terrorists want to scare us; they want to change our behavior. I am not saying that they can’t do anything to give me pause. I am going to pay attention to what is going on around me, where I’m going, and the advice of those in and around risky areas. The State Department is telling us to be alert. But so far flights are continuing to depart, people are continuing to move and to live.
I don’t think there is a right answer for everyone. I was in Paris last week. I’m off to Vienna tomorrow. Thousands of people are doing the same. There are no guarantees, but I think that these travelers are being very rational and that what they are doing is very important. I urge you to make your own decisions based not on fear but on your assessment of the risks and your values.