Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Terrorism Should Not Stop You From Travelling

Don't let terrorists deprive you from the magic of travelling. This sunset is from Marshall Islands.

Bookings are down in cities damaged by terrorist attacks. Naturally so, at first thought. But let not terrorists stop us from roaming this world, seeking experiences and learning to know, understand and appreciate other cultures.    

Because travel generates a mutual understanding like no other method known to mankind. In between individuals, cultures, nations, religions and faiths. I truly believe that this world will be a better place if more people travel, interact with each other and are open to thoughts different to their own. That can only lead to more respect, more friendship and more mutual smiles.

Travelling in Somalia.
You are not alone in having been put off travelling by the countless terrorist attacks in way too many countries, in 2015 alone. But, think twice. That you stop to travel is precisely what these terrorist want. It will damage businesses and economies as well as reduce interactions between people. Terror groups don't want understanding or cooperation between countries, beliefs or cultures. They want you to develop a fear for the unknown, for the people that speak a different language, have a different skin colour, dress differently or that pray to a different god than you. Why? Because it is only fear, not understanding, that can undermine the efforts of making this world a better place. A place where everyone is welcome, regardless of background. How many times have you seen a smiling terrorist? I do not mean the evil smiles caused by years of brainwashing from people who took advantage of someone who felt left out. I do not mean the vicious smiles from someone that actually believe they are conforming to a religion, a religion which interpretation of is non-existant. And I certainly do not mean poisonous smiles triggered by the feeling of a few seconds of power over innocent people through the barrel of a gun or the trigger of a bomb.

I mean real smiles, welcoming ones. Smiles that invite to collaboration across every imaginable border. Disarming smiles that show that the recipent has nothing to fear, but the possible butterflies sometimes caused by new friendships. Real smiles mean real happiness, something terrorists will never be able to enjoy or feel. They are too busy trying to impose hatred on others through their closed minds. Let us not allow them such. Merely enabling them to close our minds by accepting their desire of fear make us terrorists of ourselves. But we won't let them. Our open minds will prevail. Curiosity that can only be triggered through travelling will help us do that.

Go, go, go. Travel with a smile, and let us together make the world a melting pot of all our different cultures. Terrorists want isolation, not cooperation and an exhange of ideas, viewpoints and laughs.  

Trying not to be ripped off in Iraq.
Laughs I have seen while travelling through countries and cities far too often prone to terror. Real laughs and real smiles welcoming this strange backpack carrying blue-eyed vagabond from the north. I have only experienced one act of terrorism. In Karachi, Pakistan where a bomb went off and killed 30 people and injured many more. It had gone off during a Shi’ite procession commemorating the Day of Ashura, the holiest of days for followers of Shi’a Islam. Thirty people had been killed and hundreds more had been injured by the bomb blast in Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road.

But I refused to run to the safety of my hotel or to get a ticket to the first plane out of there. I defied it the best way I could, like every person I encountered. I continued my walk around town, I found a restaurant, talked to other guests and discussed with them what had just happened. Before I continued walking. And more so the day thereafter. Until I was stopped by no less than fourteen police officers. Twelve of them were sitting on the back of a police lorry. One of the officers inside the truck was clearly the boss.
“What are you doing here?” The police boss screwed the formalities and
went straight on to demand an answer.
“I am just walking to town, sir.” I figured politeness wouldn’t hurt.
“No, you are not. Not anymore. You cannot walk here. It is dangerous for a white kid like you! Where are you going? You will take a taxi!”

Forced out of normality, by well-meaning police. But no terrorist were, directly or indirectly, to force me into changing my ways; I later escaped from the taxi. Most Pakistani taxis don't come with child locks. Before I continued on what I had started: Travelling and exploring Pakistan the way I had always intended. 
Drinking tea with the guard of
tomb in Afghanistan.

So should you.

And while you are at it, try out The Country Challenge. It is on. And stronger than ever before. 

Travelling keeps us mixing, it initiates communication between people who would otherwise never have met. Most of the people who died in Paris, Beirut, Mogadishu, N'Djamena, Ankara, over Sinai or in too many locations to mention in Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine and Israel were locals. Terrorism doesn't discriminate. It takes out those unfortunate enough to be too near twisted, forced, fooled or indoctrinated minds. You can never know where it will hit next. There is hence no logic in letting fear stop you from living your life, following your dreams and exploring the world.

Let's keep travelling, as a token against terrorism. 

Only a common platform of the world and the people around us can stop terrorism. Friendships enable such a platform. Friendships across borders. Not bombs and bullets.