I just got off the phone with a doctor. I woke up a few days ago with some swollen salivary glands, something that happens to me occasionally, and my doctor likes me to get in touch with him when it does. As we were talking, I told him I couldn’t come in to be looked at because I am currently in Europe. Usually, the reaction I get when I say that is something along the lines of, “Wow! You are so lucky!” or “That is amazing! Good for you for getting out there!” Instead, my doctor quietly responded with, “Are you scared? Are you staying safe? Are you anywhere near France?”
These are all valid questions, and I understand why he asked. The number of people who have contacted me in the last few days to check on me has made me feel very loved. The concern is kind, and warranted in the wake of what happened this past weekend.
I responded to his questions by saying, “I am safe in Germany right now, but we are all staying cautious.” He informed me that a German soccer stadium was evacuated today because of the threat of an attack. It could happen anywhere.
When I really take a step back to think about it, yes, I guess I am a little scared but scared isn’t an appropriate word. I am nervous. I am nervous everytime I step off the train into a new city. I am nervous when I go to sleep with my purse by my head to make sure I don’t get anything taken during the night. I am nervous when my mom doesn’t text me back within two minutes (I am a worrywart). I am nervous that I will end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am also excited. I am excited when I check into a new hostel and drop my bags ready to explore. I am excited when I meet new people from all over the world. I am excited when I can’t read a menu or a sign and have to communicate in broken English with strangers on the street. It breaks my heart that others may be too afraid to ever know these feelings.
There will always be bad people in the world. No matter where you live or how far you run, there will always be a chance that something terrible could cross your path. For some, violence and fear are a part of daily life. I am thankful to be priveledged enough to have a home where I feel safe, to have people who care about my wellbeing. Not everyone does.
So this is my theory. Instead of letting the villans of the world scare us into hiding, into boarding up our windows and locking our doors, open them wide. Meet as many people you can, see as many places. Learn about different cultures and religions, and discuss them with open minds. Ask questions and listen to the answers. The more we listen, the more we will see how similar we really are, no matter where we come from or what we believe in.
We are all citizens of the world, and we need to start acting like it.
I hope this doesn’t seem preachy, or like I am trying to sing kumbaya over the sound of exploding bombs. I am not naive. I know it isn’t so easy. But if there is one thing I have learned, it is that this world is too beautiful to waste and so are the majority of the people who inhabit it. So no, I am not scared. I will continue to travel, to continue to see everything I can and meet as many different people as I can. I am so lucky to have this opportunity, and no one will take that away.
My hope is that those who can travel, will. That people will want to explore this world, to protect it and those they share it with. That people will band together regardless of borders or the title on their passport. Why waste time with hate when there is so much to love?
I can tell you this- as I walked through the Catacombs of Paris two weeks ago, one thing was very clear. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you believe in, underneath it all, everyone’s bones are the same.
Thank you to my amazingly talented sister, Emma, for the artwork, and to everyone I have met who has shown me how great the world can be.