As each June rolls around, a time during my growing-up years that was the traditional vacation month, my thoughts often turn to travel. Now, having said that, except for a long weekend trip or two during the summer, I don’t travel much in June and July. Instead, I prefer the spring and fall to take my longer sojourns, when many of the kiddos are tucked away in their classrooms.
My first exposure to June vacations were those I took from my birth city of Chicago with Mom and Dad and sister Joannie back to my father’s New England to visit relatives I haven’t seen in decades. Geography and life’s responsibilities and frenetic pace have combined to create the sad reality that I have first cousins I could pass on the street and we would be strangers.
Fortunately, since my departure from grading those final stacks of student essays back in May 2005 in a former life, I’ve had more opportunity to travel, both domestically and, for the first time, internationally, with my fourth trip to Europe, this time the eastern and central portions, having taken place in the spring of last year.
While I enjoyed the likes of Munich; Prague; Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary; Vienna; and Salzburg, Austria, with all that history and their architectural icons, frankly, by trip’s end, I was ready to return to my home environs. There’s something about being in foreign places where you feel so many have an advantage over you linguistically. In other words, so many understand my language while I am clueless how to communicate in theirs.
However, when I did return, the memories of what I’d seen were strong enough that I vowed at the time that I had more foreign destinations on my travel bucket list — places like Madrid, Paris and Brussels — before the limitations of age shrink my world.
However, the events of the last few months in two of those three cities, events perpetrated by those whose religious ideologies mystifyingly include random massacres of others in the name of their higher powers, I’ll admit, give me considerable pause.
Now, I know there are two factions that would tell me that my concerns are marginal at best, in other words, what are the odds I would be in a place at that very precise moment something catastrophic happened? Additionally, they would tell me that there are certainly no guarantees of safety when it comes to domestic travel.
The second faction would tell me that, no matter the horrors of the Paris and Brussels attacks, to allow such events to affect my decision making as to where I can and can’t go is to let terrorists win. I get that thinking. I really do. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel somewhat apprehensive about travel abroad where security is more lax than I perceive ours to be. In both Paris and Brussels, there have been many sleeper cells of Muslim extremists identified, sadly too late, and, in particular, Belgium ministers have been called to task over their failure to track carefully enough the Islamic State militants that Turkey had deported twice for their suspected activities.
Now, I certainly know our domestic security efforts aren’t perfect. The events of 9/11 tell us that as well other events, like the San Bernardino, California, massacre last December. After all, it’s impossible to watch everyone who poses a threat to us all of the time.
Additionally, I know that pilots and flight attendants aren’t required to submit to full security checks at U.S. airports, so there was really no guarantee that the plane I took a few weeks ago into Phoenix to see our great Southwest couldn’t have fallen out of the sky as a result of the actions of someone who brought their own undetected destruction aboard.
Perhaps the difference in my anxiety level when it comes to traveling at home and abroad can be best summed up in its simplest form, which is that one tends to feel more comfortable in one’s own home.
Having said that, I’m pretty sure, in time, I’ll return to those faraway places overseas to see what I cannot see at home, but, at least for now, I think I’ll hit the pause button. Alaska and Hawaii and so many other places in the good old U.S. of A. beckon.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.