Post Paris – Travel in the fight against Terror

Sickening attack

I had just booked into a chalet near Millau in the Aveyron region of the Midi-Pyrénées in the South of France and was feeling pretty good. Switching on the television the first sickening reports of the bomb blast and shooting in Norway were being broadcast. I sat on the bed and watched in horrified silence as the whole story began to unfold.

The initial reports were perhaps predictably suggesting an Islamic extremist group as the possible protagonists, especially considering the Norwegian forces involvement in Afghanistan. As evidence was gathered and eye witnesses recounted the shooting in particular however it became clear that this was not the case and it was actually a single person who was responsible. A Norwegian in fact with extreme right-wing views, it seemed almost inconceivable that this beautiful and peaceful nation could be the target of such a shocking, cowardly and very deliberate attack.

Over the next few days of course this was almost the sole topic of news, despite the passing of pop idol Amy Winehouse. The death toll continued to rise well above the initial estimates and it soon became apparent this was the worst tragedy the Norwegians had experienced since World War II.

Cafe Argana, Marrakech

In February I enjoyed a fantastic trip to Marrakech and spent quite a few hours chilling out and drinking copious amounts of coffee in Cafe Argana. Several weeks after my return a friend that I had met there posted on the social media site Twitter informing the World that the cafe had been bombed.

Terror in Djemaa el Fna explosion at Cafe Argana. Marrakech, Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography

Looking down on Djemaa el Fna from the balcony of Cafe Argana

Switching on a news channel in a few minutes the first bulletins began to trickle through and subsequent reports listed several dead and many injured.

During the time of my visit the first stirrings of unrest were being muted, Tunisia had already undergone some turmoil and Egypt was in the middle of its own revolution. On my return from the country the Foreign Office put out a warning regarding public protestations in Moroccan cities. These were refuted by people living there when I queried this, they declared it was an overstatement, and then of course the dreadful bomb attack occurred.

Accepted risk

Neither of these countries are not normally considered ‘high risk’ areas, anybody travelling to a known ‘hotspot’ such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo or currently Syria accepts there is a degree of risk involved.

Are there any truly ‘safe’ locations to travel to in the modern World, global terrorism seems to be on the rise? There does not seem to be a day go by that there is not some incident somewhere. Many are in areas that savvy, vigilant travellers anticipate possible problems and can make some necessary preparations for certain potential risks.

The challenge now of course is that there are these type of incidents cannot possibly be prepared for regardless of experience and now these risks are equally appropriate in any destination we may travel to.

What now?

The issue now is will it prevent any of us from travelling, or change the manner in which many of us travel? I hope it will not! This does not appear dissimilar to any incidence where bullying and those that employ terror tactics to impose their beliefs and opinions upon others. When we bow to their intimidation and allow them to prevent us from making our own choices and limit where we travel to they have won and terror will prevail.

It is merely another way of allowing others to limit what we do; ultimately however it is a matter of personal choice. Travelling to areas of high risk is obviously not suited to all but personally if the opportunity arises I will travel to even these. I certainly will not allow the modern ‘axis of evil’ which is terrorism prevent me from visiting places which interest me; it is not in my nature to bow to bullying of any kind, something my father instilled in me.

An awful realisation

The other frightening truth is that deciding not to travel cannot actually guarantee safety. The recent incident in Norway involved a bomb blast in Oslo and the shooting took place on a nearby holiday island. The vast majority of people that died there were Norwegian youngsters enjoying a holiday weekend; in effect a camping staycation.

We all need to make our own decisions what we feel is best for ourselves, our families and friends, that is what is worth fighting for, that is what is worth standing up for; our freedom to choose, our loved ones and our own beliefs.

Most of us are unable to be involved directly with the fight against terrorism, we are not members of the Armed or Security Forces and it would be unwise to think otherwise. Making a stand in our own manner and on our own terms is the only way we can genuinely play our part. Normal people continuing to live our lives in a normal manner and refusing to allow intimidation to dominate our lives is how terrorism will eventually be defeated.

I will continue to travel to the places that attract me, not because they are safe, and not specifically because they pose a potential risk, but because they are there and I want to visit them. I am sure many of you feel the same,  it would be great to continue to bump into one or two of you during my travels.

Postscript: These were my thoughts several years ago, before the recent horrors of the probable aircraft explosion over Egypt and the recent atrocities in Paris. The shock, the revulsion have not diminished, but neither has the determination to not allow the tactics of terror to win.

In the light of the attacks in Paris in particular it seems certain somethings will change. The open borders of mainland Europe in line with the Schengen agreement may become a thing of the past. Security checks which restrict the freedom of movement of potential terrorists seems inevitable.

There will be those that will decry this as giving in to terrorism, and while I agree it is a small victory for the terrorist, restricting the liberties of law abiding citizens, it is a bigger loss to them. In the long term they will find it more difficult to move throughout mainland Europe.

“The day we change the way we live is the day terrorism wins”

I agree wholeheartedly with the quote above, we cannot allow those that use terror tactics to spoil our quality of life. However, there also needs to be common sense, and anything which although slightly inconvenient to us, but makes the task of the terrorist i.e. taking human lives more difficult has to at least be considered.

Ultimately it is the decisions we make ourselves, continuing to travel, refusing to give in to our fear, renouncing ignorance, bigotry and fanaticism, which are the small, individual victories that make the terrorist obsolete.

We must be unified in our stance against fanaticism, division will not succeed.

“A single voice shouting may not be heard, but thousands of voices whispering can be deafening”

One final thought:

“A ship is safe at harbour, but that is not what ships are for.” William Shedd

This is the philosophy which will see me returning to North African Morocco next week.

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Comments 10

  1. Annie

    It is so sad to hear stories of terrorism throughout the world, no matter if it’s in a place where the threats can be “expected” or not. I can imagine that it must be even more heart-wrenching to hear it has taken place in a city or location where you have recently traveled, like your great little cafe in Morocco.

    I think that, unfortunately, there is not a lot we can do to shield ourselves from the harms of the world but being aware is a good place to start!

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      Iain

      Seems Annie we are getting further away from a peaceful World, but we cannot let that get us down or scare us into not living. The chances of being involved in such a travesty are extremley small still and anyway we cannot let them win, not giving in to acts of terror is the only way we should go I believe.

  2. Katrina

    Running out the door, or would give a more articulate reply. Just wanted to point you to a video about real fear vs. imagined fear. I included it in one of my posts on a similar topic: http://www.tourabsurd.com/fear-danger-fun/ I forget the exact wording, but the conclusion is along the lines that, “playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do.”

    Keep traveling! 🙂

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      Iain

      Thanks for sharing Katrina and defintely love that phrase taking risks is a way of life for us as a species, it is how we have developed and keep developing.

  3. Toni

    Eloquently put! I was in Japan almost a year to the day before the tsunami and it struck me that if I had waited and not got on that plane when everyone told me to stay at home, I could have been there for the atrocity. Brings it all home to you.
    When I told everyone I was backpacking solo last year around Asia and that I was going to Africa this year they told me I was stupid and that I would die etc but I simply told them that I was just as likely to get knocked over by a bus or be glassed down town at a weekend. There comes a point in life where you just have to stop worrying and start living.

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      Iain

      That is also a great point of course Toni, not all risk is terrorism involved there are of course natural disasters. It is amazing how people think sometimes, telling you that you would die if you went travelling in Asia, mind boggling. We need to take a few risks to enjoy living properly and it is equally possible these things can indeed happen at home. Good luck reclaiming your future 🙂

  4. Rafael Rodrigues

    I loved this this post so much, as travelers we should continue to embrace the world as so many phenomenal cultures still exist. It’s unfortunate that Norway had to lose so many lives to an insane man who had lost his mind and killed so many people. Terrorism will unfortunately be around for the couple hundred years unless we learn to get along in a peaceful mannor

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      Iain

      I am glad it struck a chord with you Rafael and unfortunately fear you are right we will suffer the effects of terrorism for many many years to come, it is not in our nature to change quickly. We are destroying the Earth and destroying each other, but all we can do is live our own lives and stand up for what we believe in. We must first be true to ourselves before we can be true to others.

  5. kittenesque kitty

    I don’t think anywhere is ”safe” anymore and ”terrorism” exists in many forms and guises, not just at the hands of extremists – every time we leave our homes we could be the victim of a crime or even of one in the home

    However, I do find myself wondering if I would risk going to a place where many have been killed

    So far the safest option is actually the moon, as it’s the only place mankind ha been where there hasnt been a murder.yet!!

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