My son finished his first year at Princeton and promptly set out for his walkabout—5.5 weeks of backpacking and hammocking his way through Denmark and the French/Spanish/Italian Mediterranean. Nice (France) was already in the news for terror threats that affected Euro Cup soccer games. Then they made headlines when a Wacko mowed down hundreds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84.
My boy arrived right after the first drama. He’d moved on before the Bastille Day tragedy. But it leaves a dad to wonder: Should I worry?
Of course. That’s what dads do.
Yet this stuff isn’t exactly new. And even when terrorism isn’t flaring, fears and threats persist. Some are relatively benign, but memorable: The time some Italian went ballistic at me on a train—no violence, but close—and I have no idea what set him off; strikes in Paris and Rome that look (and sound) edgy and can cancel critical travel plans; fights and gangs in front of your face (in US cities, of course).
As travelers, we move on. Literally and metaphorically. But as travelers, we also strive to be wise—embrace reality rather than feign Pollyanna.
Years ago, I created the Five Five-Word Mantras for seminars, speeches, and workshops. My thinking was more on preparation for complications and interruptions than global violence. Yet the advice applies, even to these extreme times:
Mantra #3: When all else fails, punt.
Before or during your Getaway, the Bad Thing could happen. A “What-if?” could become a “What Now?” If so, drop everything and tackle that problem. Put your Sabbatical on the back bench, or just plain punt. You can take another run at it later in this game we call Life.”
- Five Takeaways from that Five-Word Mantra
- Bad things happen. Terrible things too. Even in Nice, France.
- Shit can hit the fan before or during your BreakAway. Risk never stops, and long-term travel exposes you to more than you can logically list.
- Practice, with self-talk and chat with friends, working through what you would do and get courageous, savvy strategies ready for the scenarios you fear most and variations of what-might-be.
- If the Bad Thing hits, drop everything. Say to yourself (as suggested in another Mantra), “I knew this might happen.” Put your (new) plan to work. As Winston Churchill said, “Keep calm and carry on.” And, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
- If need be, “Put your Sabbatical on the back bench, or just plain punt. You can take another run at it later in this game we call life.”
Recent random violence is eating away at our souls and taking large tolls on everything—including travel. But is this new? No. It’s just more terrible, unpredictable, and (for lack of a better word) televised.
My son is home safely, in New Jersey. But who knows what evils lurks there? That guy on the train didn’t assault me. But might not a stranger with a gun tomorrow?
Life is short. Change never rests. Maybe there’s no such thing as a Comfort Zone.
All the more reason to travel. Happy sails.