A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak live on radio across Melbourne, Australia. It was one of those experiences like when you buy a red car, thereafter you see red cars everywhere. Except in this instance rather than seeing red cars, it was addressing travel in the context of people’s fears and concerns given the perceived increased threat of terrorism and safety.
Months prior to this opportunity I had received an influx of messages, questions and Instagram comments from all sorts of people asking whether I was afraid to still travel. As I sat queued on air, waiting for my chance to respond to people’s concerns, I listened to those phoning the radio station. One caller sounded incredibly stressed, saying he had literally saved for most of his life for a trip to Hawaii, and had just bought and paid for the trip 3 days ago. Yet instead of excitement he felt fear, anxiety and was considering deliberately forfeiting the entire trip as he was worried he may fall victim to an act of terrorism, in some capacity, be it victim or bystander. Admittedly, I understand exactly where he is coming from. It’s in the media everywhere we turn. The veiled threat, and undercurrent is in the air as tensions run higher than I can ever remember when in airports and around many significant landmarks and monuments. Whilst I understand that this is a normal human response to fear, you know what else I understand? I understand and more importantly recognise that as humans we are terrible at risk analysis. We allow emotion to cloud our judgement and to cloud reality. Statistical the things that we are most afraid of are often irrational and emotion driven, these fears we overestimate the risk, whilst the realistic, and statistically most likely ways to die (or have something go wrong), we underestimate those. Like driving a car, which is the most dangerous thing you do every day.
So granted, if and when that human emotional response of fear kicks in, it requires deliberate effort to override those emotions with logical, and rational thought. And as I hear my voice carry across the radio, discussing this very thing, it becomes an out of body experience.
I hear myself saying that with the increased threat of terror, and with a heightened awareness for the fragility of life I want to live more. And by live more I mean resist those fears that would inhibit something as liberating as travel. I hear of ancient buildings being damaged and destroyed, and I don’t want to run away, I want to run to it before the next one standing is destroyed and forever lost.
The glaciers, reported to be rapidly melting, I want to rush to them before they’re lost forever. Or my children, who won’t be children for too much longer, before they’re grown, independent and going their own way, I want to envelop them in a family bubble of memories, and together explore, create, appreciate and become more culturally educated and sensitive. Cocooning ourselves in our everyday comfort doesn’t protect us, it imprisons. The life we seek to live becomes un-lived, when too afraid to venture out and see, explore, adventure.
And whilst still on the radio I hear my rational side of the brain argue that the epiphany came when I realised if something as innocent and inconsequential as buying a hot chocolate could unfold in tragedy as it did at the Lindt Cafe, Sydney, then anything can happen anywhere. It happened in Australia. We’re alive not to exist, but to live. Life is precious. Life is unpredictable. Life should be lived to the full, without fear.
And what of safety? Or precaution? I’m all about informed, sensible living, but the two are not mutually exclusive as some may think. And as I wound my radio air time up I suggested that because we as humans are terrible at risk-analysis the Australian government website, smart traveller is a useful starting point to gauge the level of caution needed when travelling if you’re the nervous type, along with helpful advice.
So start conservative if need be, but just start somewhere, because as I’ve mentioned anything can happen anywhere, even in our own back yard, literally. And in light of how terrible humans are at rational risk evaluation, I’m convinced the world in general is a safer place than the media portrays. Would you rather live a life enriched with meaning, purpose, appreciation, something that travel helps provide clarity towards, or will you continue being captive to procrastination and fear? It’s kind of a no brainer for me. Here’s to a life well lived, lived being the operative word.