Recent terrorist attacks in Brussels seems to be the talk of the month. I was doubting if I would write about the terrorism and how it influences the way we travel, but here I am… I have read quite some articles on the topic in the last weeks and it seems that most opinions are very much black or white. While some people take the ‘keep on traveling’ attitude and swear that terrorism doesn’t influence the way we travel, some others cancel their trips to Europe altogether…
We live in Europe. In Belgium. And Brussels airport is the airport we fly from most of the time. As a matter of fact, we had a trip booked from Brussels just days after the attacks. We learned later that the attacks were originally planned for the day when we travelled… All of a sudden terrorism is VERY CLOSE to home.
European Travel After Terrorist Attacks
To be completely honest, I’m also on the ‘keep traveling’ camp. At the same time I also have to admit that – whether we like it or not – terrorism does influence the way we travel and the way people make (travel) decisions.
Did we cancel our trip right after the attacks? No. Were we afraid? No. The security measures were draconic! I don’t think there was a safer place than a Belgian airport at that time. Did terrorism influence the way we travel? Yes, a lot.
Brussels airport was closed for days and it’s still not operating at its’ full capacity. Our flight was rerouted to depart from another airport, in Liege, and we had no idea whether we would fly to Brussels when we came back. A week later we flew back to yet another airport in Belgium, close to Antwerp. Both airports felt more like military camps rather than public places. There were military vehicles blocking the roads to the airport, we saw heavily armed soldiers every couple of meters, there were excessive baggage and identity controls, etc.
But it doesn’t stop here. The recent attacks and the fear for potential new ones have influenced the way we all live in so many ways. The school gates are closed during the day. Field trips and other activities have been cancelled. Some friends told me that they didn’t go to the shopping mall during the spring break even though they had promised to their kids they could join some of the Easter workshops there. The others said they are changing their summer vacation plans since they don’t dare to fly. I read tens of articles of Americans saying they would avoid Europe now and for the next couple of years. The hotels in Brussels and other major European cities have never been this empty before… And there was no way I could get to the funeral of my grandma in time because of the current security measures at Brussels airport… So yes, terrorism does influence the way we live and the way we travel. And that’s its goal, I suppose.
Terrorist attacks and fear
I have recently read a book ‘The Gift Of Fear’ by Gavin de Becker, in which he is talking about the fact that ‘we tend to give our full attention to risks that are beyond our control (air crashes, nuclear-plant disasters) while ignoring those we feel in charge of (dying from smoking, poor diet, accidents), even though the latter are far more likely to harm us’. The author also gives a lot of statistical data showing how the things we fear the most make the least victims. Here are some troubling statistics from the book:
- ‘By this time tomorrow, 400 more Americans will suffer a shooting injury, and another 1,100 will face a criminal with a gun… Within the hour, another 75 women will be raped…’
- ‘In America, a woman is killed by a spouse every two hours’.
- ’19 children died in the Oklahoma City bombings, but that same week 70 children died at the hands of a parent, just like every week’.
It’s a very good book, by the way, and it helps you put many things into a different perspective.
In another book, ‘Why The Reckless Survive’, Dr. Melvin Konner points that ‘We drink and drive without our seat belts and light up another cigarette… and then cancel the trip to Europe on the one-in-a-million chance of an Arab terrorist attack’.
My husband has some friends in the U.S. who haven’t flown since 9/11…
Should we stop traveling? Should we stop doing fun things and stay inside our homes? Should we postpone family reunions or stop seeing friends who live abroad? Should we avoid big cities and busy places? Maybe. But what about people who live in Brussels, Paris, London, or New York… Should they stop going to work or using public transport?
The truth is that there isn’t the perfect answer to what we should or should not do and everyone makes their own decisions. Call me a fatalist if you like, but I believe that it’s purely a matter of bad luck and there is nothing we can do about it. Wrong time, wrong place.
As for us, we don’t intend to change our travel plans, but I also understand if you do.
I’d love to hear how recent events in Brussels and Paris impact your travel plans. Do you avoid big cities, leave your kids at home, spend the whole summer at a ranch in the middle of nowhere? Or maybe just the opposite – you take advantage of the cheap hotel deals and plan on booking that European city tour that has long been on your bucket list? Feel free to comment and leave a reply below.
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