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I had another post planned for today however it didn’t seem appropriate when I knew we were setting off on our Easter break to Amsterdam via Belgium. As you are probably aware terrorists killed and injured at least 200 people yesterday in Brussels, Belgium’s capital. As I am writing this, we know that ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attacks but will we ever really know why? And somehow it doesn’t matter. Families have been devastated. Friendships have been ended abruptly. Lives have been shattered.
— Sylvain Grand’Maison (@sgrandmaison) 22 March 2016
Sadly, as we all know, terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Though it does seem to happen a lot more regularly now. When I first lived in the UK I worked in the City of London and we would regularly be evacuated over terrorist threats – in those days the perpetrators were the IRA. The difference back then was news took a lot longer to reach people at home and by then the facts may have been better established and reporting was, to my mind at least, a little less sensational. But the fact remains, unfortunately terrorism is a reality of the world we live in. As citizens and governments I believe we could be doing a lot more to mitigate the risks we face. However as individuals and families that travel I think we also play an important role.
Why traveling is important to me
Traveling opens your eyes to different perspectives and ways of doing things. There is always some beauty to be found in the unknown and unfamiliar and that helps to allay any fears you might have. A favourite memory of mine is hearing a gamelan orchestra while we ate afternoon tea at our hotel in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I’d never heard these unique sounds before and while the sounds did not have the melody of western music you could see the skill and pride the musicians had in their playing. The next morning the calls to prayer from the nearby mosque had a similar resonance. People responded by quietly going to pray. This ritual was my first exposure to Islam so I have this to reflect on when atrocities are committed in the name of that religion.
Patience and understanding become essential qualities for enjoying your travel experience. Recently we were stuck on a very crowded train platform and later on a train in Italy’s Cinque Terre. We and our small children were being squashed and I was (unsurprisingly) the target of pickpockets. The kids were freaking out. It was quite a stressful situation but we really had no choice but to stay calm and composed for the sake of the children and because actually that was our only option. The upside to this situation was that, apart from being on the beautiful Italian coast, we were helped by some friendly American backpackers and some retirees from our hometown Melbourne – thank you! While traveling you will see the worst and best side of people but in the end you realise that it’s the good ones you remember the most. And even the most impatient person (me!) can build patience and tolerance.
Appreciating our privilege in being able to have these experiences is equally important. Our ability to travel freely is a luxury that very few people on this planet enjoy. I feel as a person and as a parent it is important to grasp this opportunity with both hands. It is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the world and its people. And to discover how we can work together for peaceful outcomes to our problems.
As we travel and experience different peoples and cultures my views on the importance of tolerance and respect grow stronger. I believe 99% of human beings are well meaning, kind people who want to lead a purposeful and quiet life. Unfortunately there are the 1% that want to spoil it for us all. But I choose not to let that 1% dictate my life or how I choose to live it.
We are going to Belgium tomorrow and we will do everything in our power to have a lovely time and keep our children safe.
I thought I’d finish this post with this beautiful thought from Belgian author and Nobel Prize for Literature (1911) winner Maurice Maeterlinck
Peace out x
Read more about why we travel with our kids here
My post on our wonderful trip to Brussels last year is here