As a New Yorker, and a traveler in London during the 7/7 bombing (You can read a personal essay about my experience here), a member of the world community, and a lover of travel, I want to encourage you to continue to travel in our changing world. While my street smarts weren’t always sharp, they developed rather quickly once immersing myself in the chaos of NYC.I have visited 20 countries and I have a strong desire to visit 100 more in my lifetime…maybe more. Terrorism doesn’t mean we have to stop traveling, but we should take a few moments to reflect on how we can travel smarter as the world continues to change around us.
- Let people know where you will travel. This has always been important. A quick email to a friend or family member with your flight itinerary, and your travel plans, if you’ve made any. This is more for the peace of mind for those who love you, than yourself. Be kind enough to let the people who care about you know where you plan to be and when.
- Know where the closest landline is. This might sound like archaic advice, but during 9/11 we had trouble connecting with family. And as recently as the Belgium attacks, the bombings caused such chaos that the phone lines were jammed for hours. A new alternative is the new Facebook feature that allows users to notify friends and family of their safety during emergencies. It was first used during the Paris bombings. If you have wifi access or the ability to use cell data, this is probably the fastest way to reach a lot of people.
- Be Aware of your surroundings. Recently I had notify the NYPD and Safety Hotline when a man entered a train with a large duffle bag which he left by the doors while taking a seat in the middle of the subway car. He then continued to fiddle with his cell phone and ask for the time to the minute repeatedly. And to top it off he was wearing sunglasses after dark. These were all red flags, so I exited the train immediately, notified the conductor, and called the hotline. While this might have been nothing, just a man with NO street smarts or respect for his fellow commuters, it was suspicious activity that needed to be investigated. As they say here in New York, If you see something, say something! This is our city and our world, and it is better to report suspicious activity than regret not doing it for the rest of your life.
- Wear closed toe shoes on the subway! This might be related to my irrational (or maybe not so irrational) fears of rats, but in the event of a terrorist attack on the subway, or even just a broken down subway car, you might be asked to evacuate along the tracks…where the rats live.
- Carry a snack and bottle of water with you at all times. Terrorist related or not, you might get stuck somewhere for a very long time during your travels. A train car, an elevator, or lost on a hike. Keeping a little food and water in your bag at all times will give you energy and eliminate your fears of starving to death during your unfortunate circumstances. You can use your mental energy to focus on solutions or just creating connections with the people sharing these moments with you.
- Don’t travel anywhere that makes you uncomfortable. While I am an advocate for travel, I encourage you to respect your own comfort level. There are ways to push the boundaries without making your life miserable. No vacation is going to be fun if your anxiety and fear are through the roof, but you don’t have to stop traveling completely. If the recent world events make Paris, New York, and London undesirable vacation destinations, travel somewhere more quaint. A local campground, a quiet beach vacation, or a Caribbean cruise.
If you love travel, don’t stop. Just travel smarter. We take risks every time we get behind the wheel or cross a street. Weigh your risks carefully, and live the life you want. There are countless ways to travel, just make sure you find the travel plan that fits your style and enjoy it. Terrorism does not mean the end of travel. We have the choice to live without fear, and I encourage you to explore it.