The Bitter Sweet Feeling Of Travelling To Europe When You Are A Bit Scared

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In three days I will be jet setting (economy class) off to Europe with my family; Dad is calling it the “Griswold’s on Tour.” As my three siblings and I grow older and find ourselves at the end of our dependence on our parents, this holiday is not just a glamorous escape from a gloomy Melbourne winter but a significant chapter in our family’s life. We know opportunities like this will become rarer as we settle into adulthood and when Mum and Dad decide they don’t need to support us anymore. Sad reacts only*

Having travelled overseas a few times before, I have well passed the fear of flying, I do not think my life will be the next Final Destination movie and am 99.98% confident Snakes on a Plane is factually incorrect. What has me concerned are the safety risks whilst sightseeing at some of the top tourist destinations in the world. As much as I try to block out the thought of terrorism, it seems to have found a nice little home inside my brain, settling in well with no plans on moving and making good friends with its new neighbours, Mr Overthinker and Miss Paranoid. I’ve tried hard to not talk about it out loud as I’m convinced it would jinx me but with three days to go I cannot go another day pretending I’m not scared because I damn well am. Have I jinxed myself by writing this? I’m still not sure if writing counts. 

Since December 2016 there have been nine significant terrorist attacks in popular European tourist attractions, five of which I will be visiting in the next three weeks. Can you see where my concerns are coming from? I regrettably admit that from the list below, I was only able to remember two without a Google search, causing me to question whether I had forgotten because it did not affect me or was I trying to block these horrific scenes as the days come closer to when I too say “Au revoir Melbourne” and “Bonjour Paris”.

It doesn’t matter how much these cruel attacks may affect us here in Melbourne, I’ve come to realise that it is much easier to show empathy, sadness and create discussion about Europe’s terrorism threats when you live 16,893 kilometres away.

I spoke with a student recently on her experience of travelling to Europe during a time where terrorism seemed to be everywhere. After listening to it a number of times, this podcast unknowingly is a real example of how easy it was to talk about our thoughts on terrorism in Europe when we weren’t actually there. She had returned safely and I was still at home – a good month away from boarding the plane myself – so we were both really open about what we thought. Replaying it now with only a few days to go however I am no longer as comfortable as I once was.

If you listen to our voices you can tell how easy it was to talk about our fears of terrorism, whilst comfortably drinking almond milk lattes in a secluded café of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. If I tried doing this exact podcast in a London café I highly doubt my tone of voice and conversation would path the same way. 

A chat with Jasmine Ziirsen on what it was like to travel to Europe in the midst of terrorist attacks

The last week has been a combination of packing, telling myself to finish my final assignments and catching up with friends who want to bid me farewell. Packing has been surprisingly easy, assignments, yeah well I will get to those, but saying goodbye to my friends have been the most uncomfortable.

Conversations about terrorism have come up a lot more than expected, I’m being told to think about my emergency escape route wherever I go, and the “goodbye, see you in three weeks”, ends up being a longer, tighter hug, a hug that feels like they are scared they won’t see me again. 

Am I overreacting? Yes quite possibly. But I know I am not the only one with slight concerns about travelling and it is coming to the time of the year where many students pack their bags to go off on exciting adventures.  If you haven’t even thought about these types of fears I apologise for putting it in your head, but if you have been nodding your head while reading this then know you are not the only one. We are in this together. 

Without sounding like a chick on a TEDtalk I shall finish with this quote that has calmed me, by Doe Zantamata, an author of inspirational books – who will almost certainly feature on a TEDtalk soon.

Don’t let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen

And with that in mind, I bid you farewell.