Travel + Leisure's editor in chief on why Tuesday's terrorist attacks shouldn't make you stay at home.
Another tragic terrorist attack. More confusion about why, more anxiety about what’s to come, more sympathy for victims from around the world. Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels—at the international airport and the Maelbeek train station—feel distressingly familiar. They are yet another reminder of the fragility of the world around us, and the desire of terrorists to continue in their mission to make us afraid.
At a brand like Travel + Leisure, we feel these attacks acutely, and not only because of the senseless loss of life. We are fundamentally internationalists; we care about places and people beyond our backyards and our borders, and many of us have friends and family and colleagues in places like Brussels, and Paris, and Istanbul. We also have a duty to our audience, which is likewise engaged with these subjects; when events like this happen, we need to keep them informed about, among other things, how this can affect your travel plans and what you should do if you are directly affected.
We also know that part of the aim of terror attacks is to strike at the heart of our business: the fear inspired will cause people to curtail their plans, to cancel their trips, to stay at home. Terrorists may not be directly attacking the travel industry, but they do want to close societies, and travel works against their purposes. Travel fosters human understanding, and empathy for people whose lives are unlike your own; it opens your eyes to otherness, including other cultures and religions. Serious travelers are among the most open and tolerant people I know; their frequent encounters with difference make them expansive in their thinking. Travelers are, ultimately, the enemies of terrorists, and what they believe works against terrorists’ aims, person by person and little by little. I am proud to count myself among these travelers and to work every day to inspire them—and to create more of them.
It is no coincidence to me that one of Tuesday’s targets was an airport. Although easy travel between countries has likely facilitated some of the very terrorist activity we are now seeing—it is thought that many of the Daesh operatives currently in Europe have been moving by air between their bases there and the Middle East—it is also antithetical to those who wish to harden hearts and create enmity between people. And of course, it is no coincidence that this has happened in Europe. Europe symbolizes many things but, to many of us, it stands for an advanced civil society, one in which freedoms are respected and protected, differing views are tolerated, and life can be lived with both honor and joy.
We work on Travel + Leisure’s print magazine many months in advance, and just two weeks ago we shipped to the printers our annual May issue devoted to Europe. I wrote in that issue about this enduring symbolic appeal of Europe, and I hope with all my heart that Tuesday’s events do not damage that. We also wrote about Europe's complex and often inspiring response to the refugee crisis, a situation that is making it challenging for many of its leaders to hold fast to their values of acceptance and liberalism, and I hope with all my heart that Tuesday’s events do not tip the balance in the favor of closing both minds and borders.
I myself will never stop traveling. I will not change my plans. I will go to Europe this summer, maybe even to Brussels. That may not be the right choice for everyone, but it is the right choice for me. In moments like these, traveling can seem like an act of defiance, and for affected parts of the world, of support. I hope at least some of you will join me by not letting these horrific events affect your resolve to keep traveling, keep exploring, keep engaging with the world at large. Travel is one of the great forces of good. Let’s keep at it.