We all know the acronym, FEAR, False Expectation (or Evidence) Appearing Real. In order to achieve anything in life we have to be brave. I encounter a lot of fear among the people I take travelling which therefore makes their decision to come on trips braver still. In reality the world is safer now than it has ever been before. However, whilst crime has been declining, our perception of crime has been increasing courtesy of the internet, 24-hour streaming news and social media. As I often point out to the people I take on tour however, the reason something is in the news is because it is something different to the norm and therefore unlikely to happen to them.
The current American election and potential UK exit, the so-called ‘Brexit’, from the European Union have something in common, other than being largely about two men whose egos and ambition are matched only in size with their improbably sized mops of hair; fear. The reason many are dashing for the exit in the UK is fear: fear of being overrun with migrants; fear of being told what to do by the Germans, or god forbid, the French. On the campaign to stay side, the politics of fear are being employed to suggest all kinds of doomsday scenarios should Britain leave. Over the pond Americans are voting for Trump because he plays upon their fears over immigration and worries about future hypothetical terrorist attacks. Never mind that Americans are more likely to die from being shot by each other than in a terrorist attack perpetrated by ‘outsiders’. Never mind that in the UK, migrants constitute a small percentage of the population and largely contribute rather than take out of the system. The false reality is the one we virtually inhabit and given that we spend more and more of our time online it is the one which appears the most real.
Similarly when it comes to travelling, people are often scared. Scared of being lost. Scared of not being able to communicate. Scared of the unknown. And yet that is precisely why you should travel: to get lost; to find new ways of communicating and to discover the unknown. The terrorist attacks in Paris last year meant many people decided against travel preferring to stay at home. Interestingly, by staying at home, Americans were at greater risk than travelling to Europe, but again, it is all about perception and the feeling of being in control. Control is about fear and lack of trust in a positive outcome and yet travel can be a life-affirming lesson here too. The kindness of strangers is often remarked upon by those who visit other countries and yet I would argue you find kindness in your own countries too, it is just that you rarely experience your own country as a foreigner does and therefore do not experience it as such.
I speak both as a tour guide and someone who therefore embraces travel, but also as someone who has been a victim of crime on a few occasions in my life. Not many know this, but I was viciously attacked by someone I knew whilst I was at university. I have also been mugged (which ended up with my arm in a sling) and robbed on more than one occasion. In fact, and the irony is not lost on me, I was once pickpocketed in Paris whilst delivering a talk on pickpocketing. This didn’t change my desire to travel nor to carry on doing what I do. In my 39 years on this planet I have spent the majority of my life not being attacked, mugged or pickpocketed. Perhaps if I had never left my house and remained at home I would never have been robbed or mugged, but equally neither would I have seen or experienced all the wonderful things I have.
I have often walked back home alone, late at night, in cities all over Europe. I have lived (among other places) in Paris, Milan, Siena, London, Rome, Barcelona and Manchester. I work all over Europe and in India, and have travelled all over the world. I once ended up in South Central in LA at midnight one night due to an unfortunate mix up with the GPS, and lived to tell the tale.
My point is that if we allow fear to govern our decision-making process we will make the wrong decisions. Fear is something to overcome, not something to encourage nor guide us. If we embrace our fears we tend to make poor, life-limiting decisions. I would therefore suggest that not only when deciding whether or not to make that trip, but also when considering which way you are going to vote, that the decision is based upon actual personal experiences rather than the false reality presented by the media and those in the public eye, who play upon that fear to further their own self-serving political ambitions.