I bought a collage from a local Portuguese artist while exploring the beautiful streets of Lisbon the other day. Three little blond girls stand with their backs to the viewer, looking at Earth. I couldn’t say why I bought it at first – “I just really like it,” I said to Rachel, who knows at this point it’s easier to not question my random impulses – but I started to see what drew me to it.
Living a lifestyle of sleeping in different beds, different cities, different countries, I feel like I’m the one floating in space. I am so eager to hear everything that’s going on back in Philadelphia, and at the same time, am loving having fresh experiences of my own in new territory. I feel like those girls, gazing at a place I know and love, but being so far away from all things familiar.
This feeling of disconnect has intensified recently because we didn’t have any internet in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, our stop before we came to Lisbon. We stayed with Rachel’s friend at his family’s gorgeous beach house. It was refreshing to be detached from social media for a few days. But no social media or internet also equates to no news.
Lisbon brought us back to reality. We kept seeing “Estados Unidos” written onscreen on a television in the corner of the restaurant we were eating dinner in, along with chaotic shots of sirens and crowds. An anchor was talking in rapid Spanish, commenting on the footage. As soon as we got back to our apartment, we looked up the news and learned of the latest shooting in the U.S., at a nightclub in Fort Myers, Florida. I read up on other headlines we’d missed: more coverage on Nice, France, recent brutal incidents in Germany, and then later that night, news of an attack in Tokyo, Japan.
Lately, it feels like nowhere is safe. I want to keep everyone I know in a bubble, always protected, away from all of this terrible violence. But I refuse to let these appalling, tragic events define both what I think about the world, and about traveling in general. I won’t give in to fear.
In her book Big Magic, author Elizabeth Gilbert discusses fear, and how it will forever be a part of life. Making space for fear along the way, rather than ignoring it, is the key.
When she is about to start a new project or adventure, she compares the process to going on a road trip. Before the journey starts, she delivers this “welcoming speech” to fear:
You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.
I’ll let fear in my car as Gilbert does, because fear keeps us alert, and keeps us smart. But fear will have to settle with being in the way, way back seat, nowhere near the steering wheel. I think now more than ever is a time to live boldly and unapologetically, to go where we wish and do what exactly what it is that makes us the happiest.
It is very hard to realize that we do not have control over what happens, and over these few cruel individuals committing evil acts. What we do have control over is ourselves.
We can be nice. We can stay positive. We can be brave. We can travel on. We can continue to believe in, and strive for, peace.
I think back to my impulse-buy collage; a piece I’d loved at first for its aloofness and mystery is now becoming a piece that reminds me to look at the big picture. Rather than being anxious about when, where, what the next attack will be, I want to be like those three girls. I want to take a step back and look at our planet, taking in its beauty rather than any ugliness. I want to travel into the next European city on Rachel’s and my itinerary feeling nothing but excitement, and awe of all the good that still exists in the world. Because good will always win.
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Thinking of and sending love to all those affected by the latest attacks.
26 year-old Anna Idler lives in Montgomery County, PA and is a freelance writer for Montco Happening. To learn more about her travels, check out her website Outlaw Summer.
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