By Daniela Harrison
We live in uncertain times.
Terrorism is all around us, and it’s slowly becoming the new normal. A terrorist’s goal is to place the public in a state of permanent fear and paranoia. Our family, friends and even our government advise us to stay home and not leave familiar surroundings unless we really have to. We’re being told to be afraid of attending events, like football games or concerts.
But what kind of life is that?
Do we really want to reduce our existence to a pattern of working and barricading ourselves in our own homes, creating a false illusion of safety?
Soldiers have been fighting for our freedom for centuries. Don’t we owe it to them to live our lives to the fullest?
Personally, I refuse to be scared. I worked hard for my personal freedom, and nobody has the right to take that away from me.
Of course, safety is a very personal issue. People need to address this topic for themselves. I highly encourage you to weigh your fear of traveling in uncertain times against the loss of personal experience and growth.
I like to remind myself that travel will change the world one life at a time. It forces us to engage with the world, rather than hide from it. And that in turn forces us to learn that deep down, we’re not all that different. Travel will cure bias and preconceived notions of superiority. If you are planning a trip this summer, there are a few things you can do to add a level of safety to your travels:
- Register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals who are traveling. STEP lets you enter information about trips abroad so that the Department of State and its embassies can better assist you in an emergency. You can receive email updates with travel alerts for a particular country as well.
- Create a detailed day-by-day itinerary of your trip and include contact details along the way. List your hotel, with address, phone, fax and email contact if available. The more detail the better. Hand this itinerary to family/friends staying at home so they can get ahold of you in case of an emergency.
- Use travel apps. TravelSafe will load your phone with the correct emergency contact numbers (police, fire, medical) for the countries you’re visiting. For a minimal fee you can also gain access to embassy contacts. The Companion app lets a family member track your every move on a live map. This is especially helpful if you and your family get separated in case of an emergency. Pocket Travel Consultant is an app that not only provides a day-by-day itinerary but also supports a live messaging feature. It lets you stay in touch with your travel companions, as well as your travel agent.
- Work with a professional travel consultant. We book vetted accommodations for our clients. Generally we know the hotel staff and have additional people on the ground that can help our clients in case of an emergency. Most of us also hand out our personal contact details and have an after-hours emergency number. There’s always someone around to help our clients when help is needed.
- Purchase travel insurance! While there are many different policies and coverages, most will include emergency evacuation. Not only will you have a 24/7 backup at your fingertips, but should there be an emergency in your destination, chances are the insurance company has already secured a safe place for its travelers and will help you get home as soon as it’s safe to travel.
These are just a few thoughts I like to share with my clients. I hope you find them useful as well.
The most important thing while traveling is to use common sense. If a situation doesn’t feel safe to you, chances are it isn’t. Trust your gut and rely on your instincts. Being cautious and being afraid are not the same thing.
Now remember, it’s okay to enjoy yourself and to experience new things. Have an adventure and make new memories with your loved ones. Show the world that you’re not afraid. As Gandhi said, let’s be the change we want to see in the world.
I invite you all to keep traveling and to experience all this world has to offer — and with that, I wish you all Happy Travels.
Daniela has been a Travel Consultant since June 2010. She works for Avenues of the World Travel, Flagstaff Ariz. 86004. For more information please contact Daniela at 800.230.3322 or Daniela@avenuesoftheworld.com.