When I announced my plans to travel France, excited to be sharing my triumph, the reaction I got from the people I told sunk my heart.
“The terror attack just hit Paris. Is it still safe there?” “Europe is not safe anymore.” “Why don’t you just stay home? It’s safer here.”
With all these queries, I asked myself: is it really safe for me to go to Europe, for a whole month, all by myself? Would I face the threat of terrorism?
I contacted my best friend Sophie who is from Europe and asked about her opinion. Surprisingly, she didn’t think it was dangerous at all for me to travel alone. “The rate of people dying from car incident is much higher than dying from a terror attack. The media emphasizes the terror attacks because they don’t happen every day in life. Once a big story like that happens, they keep reporting about it, leaving people in fear.”
So I kept my bookings and took off and began my trip to France alone. On my flight to Paris, the man who was sitting next to me was a professor teaching French in China. I asked him about the opinion of terrorism in Europe.
“Europe is safe. People now think it’s dangerous because of terrorism, but France is large and you can avoid major cities and visit rural areas. The dropping number of tourists will only make your trip cheaper, which is good news.”
He also shared his insight of Chinese media’s reporting on terrorism in Europe. According to him, Chinese media tends to emphasize terror attacks in Europe and reporting less about the domestic problems yet to be solved. Terror attacks won’t happen every day around us. But the social problems will affect our daily life.
Feeling safer and more confident about my trip, I arrived in France and successfully reunited with my friend Sophie in Toulouse. Later I took the train alone to a small village of Salin-les-Bains to work at a volunteer work camp. All volunteers from my group were from different countries around the world, so of course I asked them about terrorism. All my new European friends said they didn’t feel much of an impact on their lives from the terrorism in the area.
For a weekend, I went solo backpacking to Chamonix Mount Blanc and ended up in Geneva, Switzerland. I definitely felt the least safe when I was walking the street alone to find my hostel in Geneva, but I made it and had a nice tour around the city. When I got back to France, I found out that my hostel was located in a neighborhood known for drugs and prostitution. Regardless, I remained safe traveling alone and experienced no threat of terrorism.
After that trip, I was convinced that danger is the risk a solo traveler has to take, but most of the time the world is safe as long as you stay aware of your surroundings. Terrorism shouldn’t stop you from exploring the world. In the end, let’s wish for a peaceful world and there will be no more terrorism in the future.
Photo by Maggie Aletha