This article was originally featured in The Huffington Post on May 9, 2016.
When I told people that I was going to Belgium, they looked at me like I had gone completely insane. “Are you crazy?,” they asked. “It’s not safe,” they replied. “Aren’t you scared?,” they questioned. In the wake of a horrific terror attack on Belgium’s capital city, people were scared. Fear was palpable. You could feel it chilling you to your bones in the crisp spring air. Part of me wanted to lock my doors and curl up closely with my family under a blanket. Maybe there, they wouldn’t find us. If we were together in the safety of our home, nothing could ever happen to us. And then I realized, that’s what they want. This is just the tip of what terror is supposed to summon in us. Why should I hide in fear? Why should we let them win? So many lives have already been taken away. Do you want yours to be taken away by fear?
Terrorist events evokes a deep fear in all of us, but it is in these moments of atrocity that we must push through and join together. Travel fosters unity amongst all persons, regardless of age, gender, race, or religion. Travel furthers my belief that love will always win. That’s why I booked my flight to Brussels. I booked my trip to be with the people of Belgium, to learn about the customs and culture. I booked my trip to learn. I booked my trip to travel.
As I landed in Brussels, I received a text message from my family. They asked, “aren’t you going to address the elephant in the room? What is going on with security?” Well…nothing was going on. The sun was shining, lovers walked hand-in-hand, and friends drank Delirium on the cobblestone streets. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. All was well and good in Brussels. However, as I walked around this beautiful country, sadness washed over me. It was just months ago that this city was ravaged by terror. My heart goes out to all of those affected by the attacks. What also had an effect on me was the enduring fear this attack had on the world. While I strolled the historic streets of Brussels, I was experiencing Brussels beauty and culture firsthand, but many parts of the United States think of Brussels and only see terror. Instead of thinking of the guild houses of the gorgeous Grand Place in Brussels, people feel distress. And it’s not just Brussels. Instead of imagining the beautiful Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, people feel fear. Instead of visualizing the Eiffel Tour in Paris, people feel scared. In the wake of the attacks, so many of us are too afraid to travel to Europe. When Americans think of Europe, they can only think of the attacks. All we see on the news is terror. But what else comes to mind?