Don’t Let Tourism’s ‘F’ Word Stop You From Traveling
PHOTO: The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels Belgium (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie
I love motivational quotes. In fact, I collect them. I have dozens of pages of them on file in my computer, including several about overcoming what I call tourism’s “F” word — fear — like the one above. But a couple of months ago, I forgot all of them…for awhile.
On March 21, I signed up for a trip to Europe that started with a flight to Brussels, and included visits to London and Paris via Rail Europe, in April. The next morning I woke up to news of terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport and at a metro station there that killed 32 people and injured dozens of others.
I admit I was spooked. Memories of the news of past tragedies in Europe, including last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, flashed through my head. The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for all of Europe through June 20, and Brussels Airport was completely shut down. I pondered whether to cancel my trip.
Then, some memories of first-hand experiences in Southern California, where I live, came to mind: rioting in 1992, a devastating earthquake in 1994, and a terrorist attack last December that left 14 dead. Despite all of those events, I don’t live in fear.
I also reminded myself that I’m much more likely to die in an automobile accident than in a terrorist attack while traveling abroad to a western country, including Belgium, the U.K. and France.
So I stopped thinking about the fear of traveling there and got busy preparing for the trip.
By the time I departed the United States, about three weeks after the attacks, Brussels Airport was partially open. My connecting flight from New York/JFK was only about a quarter full. That isn’t surprising, given that international arrivals in Europe declined by 7.4 percent from March 22 through April 3, according to Forwardkeys.com, a travel intelligence website. I wondered how many people canceled their flights after March 22 due to the “F” word.
I disembarked in Brussels to the sight of armed military personnel patrolling the terminal. After going through passport control and baggage claim, I stepped out of the building to find a long taxi queue and only a couple of taxis pulling up at a time. They were lined up just outside of the airport, waiting to be called in by airport personnel. Security was tight, and I couldn’t have felt safer.
On the way to my hotel, my driver was more annoyed than fearful. He complained about the security around the airport being too tight, with what he felt were more than enough military troops. And, notwithstanding the tragic loss of life that took place there just a few weeks before, he was more concerned about making a living than losing his own life to terrorism.
I met my traveling companions, who had flown in from other North American cities, at Hotel Amigo, a Rocco Forte property in the historic city center. We spent about 24 hours in Brussels, visiting places like the Bozar fine arts center and the Magritte Museum, and sampling Belgium’s famous chocolate at Laurent Gerband Chocolatier. Everywhere we went, people were busy getting on with their lives, undeterred by the recent attacks.
The time to leave Brussels came too soon. But I was looking forward to London and Paris. No fears. And more importantly, I don’t have to live with the “R” word: regret.
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