You were going to get a brunch post today. A detailed, colourful, happy-go-lucky update on the delicious and lovely brunch places we enjoyed in Melbourne, and why I reckon brunch in Melbourne is insane.
And then Brussels happened, and all of that seems small and pointless and silly and insensitive. But also maybe like it’s those small joyous things like brunch with loved ones that matter most and should be shared?
The brunch post will come (check back on Friday) and so, too I fear will more instances like yesterday in Brussels. Paris, Ankara, Istanbul, Brussels (and that’s just in the last 6-12 months) the build up and frequency makes tragedy seem almost…normal. And it absolutely shouldn’t be. It’s horrific and shattering and incomprehensible. It makes your toes curl and your stomach drop. It makes you feel helpless and hopeless.
Living in Australia, when tragedies of this scale happened, it was easy to separate a little, see it as something on the news and disconnect. Because we knew, somehow, that even though Australia itself is bloody huge, on the world stage we counted for relative nobodies. I was 16 years old, standing in the breezily cold sunshine of the city streets in Melbourne the day the twin towers collapsed. I remember looking up at our tallest buildings, into the bright blue skylines and thinking ‘not here, we’re safe, we’re only small’. Surely, tucked away in the small bottom corner of a continent that is hidden in the corner of the planet, we could take cover and reassurance in the fact that we were ‘nobodies’.
Moving to Europe five years ago, it never even occurred to me to worry about my safety. Europe survived centuries of wars, it was the birthplace of Democracy, the Renaissance and perfectly flaky French pastries, not to mention all of my literary heroes, so how could it be so dangerous? It never even crossed my mind to think about my personal safety in the decision to live here. Not beyond the normal considerations of ‘Don’t get robbed, don’t go to the dodgy parts of town’.
And yet. Now. Living here, everything scary is a little more imaginable than on those sunny Melbourne streets. Last month I was in London, sat on the tube, trying not to inhale the stale air too deeply, and my idle mind wandered. What would you do? What if today? Maybe I should re-think where I’m going?
I’m travelling to Paris next month, a city I love and miss and passed through regularly for 3 years running, with nary a concern about safety beyond ‘don’t get bloody pickpocketed or scammed’. And yet – now the questions niggle. Should I book an AirBnB in that area? Will a train or flight be safer to get there?
Next week, Stefan flies to Düsseldorf for work. Now more than ever the silly fear-monger in my head imagines hideous scenarios. ‘What if there’s another flight crash? What if Köln & Düsseldorf are next? What if I don’t bloody answer my phone for the thousandth time and it happens to be when he actually needs to get through?
I really need to shut that guy in my head up. He helps nobody and achieves nothing.
Yesterday, at my regular job working in travel, I spoke to concerned people who want to know if they should postpone their trips to Europe in June. ‘Is it safe? What will it cost me? How can we be sure?’
I understand the questions – but deciding ‘let’s maybe not go’ can’t be our collective response to this.
I’ve been afraid, but didn’t let that big ‘Maybe we shouldn’t‘ win. Not because I’m fearless, but because once you start answering those ‘What about if’ questions, they won’t stop coming – and you won’t get anywhere. Ever. They are paralysing. The only way forward, our own tiny way to fight back, is to continue. With fear perhaps, but not defeated by it.
So in London – I got on the overcrowded Northern line and made it to an amazing talk by Emma Gannon at Shoreditch House. Despite the fear and niggling thoughts that skittered around my head. I skipped out of there with bubbles of inspiration fizzing through my brain, over-excited at being young and creative and lucky enough to visit a city like London.
In Paris – I’ve booked exactly where I need to stay and am counting down to a giddy reunion with one of my favourite cities on the planet. I’ll get that flight, and trust the pilot, and maybe my palms will sweat momentarily on take off, but I’ll go.
For Stefan – I’ll take my phone off silent. And answer it. Promise. No, really this time, I will! And he’ll go, like he does every other week to Düsseldorf, and it will be fine because I have to trust that he will return.
Moving abroad gave me these incredible chances to experience cities and the closeness of life in Europe. Close to the action – but that means closeness to all of it. I can’t just cherry pick the good bits and not the bad. The stakes may be higher, the risks slightly greater, but the payoffs are too.
So my choice is to take the trip. Defeat fear with life, and energy and love for one another.
Before this gets into too much of a Hallmark card, here’s some recent excellent bits and bobs from the interwebs that are particularly worth a read today, and might help you get through too.
On life that goes on in Istanbul by Katie Nadwordy
Old mate Rick Steves (he was a GOD to tour leaders in training!) on why you should Keep Travelling
Runaway Kiwi’s reaction living in London at the time of the Paris attacks
Stay safe folks. I plan to continue travelling and living in Europe, celebrating all that is joyful about this incredible continent- will you, too?
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