No amount of darkness in the world can ever stop the light from shining through.
My most recent trip to Europe brought me to London two days after the recent terror attack. Many people asked me whether we would still go and if we were scared to travel. As a native New Yorker who lived there during 9/11, I’m no stranger to terrorism and the fear it spreads. However, I made a conscious decision back then that I would not let fear stop me from doing the things I love. So, I told them all no, we would not be stopped from traveling to London – one of our favorite cities in the world.
And let me tell you, it was so emboldening and so inspiring to be there. We didn’t avoid the major tourist attractions. Rather, Yoni and I walked across Westminster Bridge where it happened and stood by the endless rows of flowers and notes to pay our respects, but also to prove that we won. It was our way of showing solidarity, just like all those women (many of whom were muslim) who stood hand and hand on that very spot a few days later. Humanity wins with its resiliency and pride – we refuse to stop living life the way we want or live life in fear.
Now, that’s not to say when traveling you should be carefree and reckless. As my Poppy who traveled all around the world would always said, “Don’t forget to keep your wits about you.” Whether in your hometown or traveling internationally, you should always be aware of your surroundings. I also recommend doing research about whichever country you’re looking to plan a trip using the State Department website prior to traveling. Unfortunately, there are some places in the world that they don’t recommend traveling to, especially for Americans. But when you are abroad, there is a balance, and you shouldn’t let worry paralyze you or stand in the way of the experiences you seek.
The world is such a diverse place and I believe that the only way to truly understand and build common ground with one another is by experiencing the various cultures that make this planet unique and beautiful. Traveling throughout the world has taught me so many lessons unable to be taught in a classroom. When visiting a city, though I am a tourist, I seek authentic experiences and ways to indulge in the culture and lifestyle of it. Step inside not only the monuments, but the churches, synagogues and mosques. Learn the history of the destination – the good and the bad. Try new foods, follow the dietary customs and adjust your meal habits to match theirs. Or, simply sit at a coffee shop and engage those around you in conversation. When I travel, I don’t want to just visit a place, I want to truly know it.
But the power of travel doesn’t end when you board the flight back home. Not everyone gets to see the world, so those who do, should share the lessons and experiences they take home with them. Education is fundamental in helping bridge gaps across cultures and fostering understanding of others’ customs.
At the present moment, traveling is one of the most profound ways to connect with the diverse world we live in. Diversity is abundant in many communities and is especially growing in the United States. Embracing this diversity, and actively connecting with it, is not only something we should strive for, but is something we should instill in our future generations.
I’m not writing this post to be political, but I do wish as a society we could all be more open and understanding to cultures and ways of life other than our own. And I do believe a good place to start is through travel. Though it won’t put an end to extremism and terrorism (since those people are completely absent of reason), I am certain it can bring the world together in spite of it.