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VOL. 131 | NO. 70 | Thursday, April 7, 2016


Lance Wiedower

Travel in a World of Warnings

LANCE WIEDOWER | Special to The Daily News

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In the pre-dawn hours of March 22 I found myself awake and decided to check Facebook on my phone before attempting to go back to sleep.

The first update was from a friend who lives in Paris. Just four months prior, that friend declared herself safe on Facebook following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks there.

The March 22 update on her Leah Travels page started, “With suitcase in hand, I left this morning for Gare du Nord to catch my Thalys train to Brussels for the opening of a new art museum. Just as I was about to go through passport control, a friend living in Brussels called and suggested that I stay in Paris. He went on to tell me that two bombs exploded in the city’s airport. I had no clue.”

Leah Walker is a travel writer from Texas living in Paris. The person I know is brave. She has that Texas quality that won’t back down from a challenge. But in that moment she said she decided to stay home.

That same day, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for all of Europe that expires June 20. It says “terrorist groups continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation. … U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation.”

The alert doesn’t say avoid Europe, but I’m sure some Americans are considering not following through with travel plans there.

Later this spring I’ll join friends on an annual baseball trip. We’ll catch games in Baltimore and Washington.

I’ve attended about a fourth of the Grizzlies home games this year. It’s become protocol to go through what is termed the NBA’s heightened security, which basically means airport-worthy metal detectors. It’s become a fact of life.

I’m not concerned about two random baseball games, just like I’m never concerned when I go to a Grizzlies game. That’s not to say I haven’t had my version of personal understanding of how unsafe this world can be sometimes.

I was in London and frequently used the Underground a month before 52 people were killed during bombings on separate trains on July 7, 2005. I was in Centennial Olympic Park hours before the bombing there during the 1996 Olympics.

I visited the World Trade Center when it was still a clean-up effort. Those experiences don’t make me stay home, though, no matter what the State Department advises.

The U.S. State Department alert warns to exercise caution during holidays, festivals and events. In June I’ll watch some of the UEFA European Championship soccer tournament played in France. I can’t imagine the threat of terrorism will keep soccer-mad fans away.

There isn’t a State Department alert for travel to Brazil later this summer during the Olympic Games. But will fear keep attendance down? Should it?

I’d like to say I won’t let safety fears keep me from traveling internationally. In some ways I think avoiding international travel out of fear is like avoiding California because an earthquake could happen.

Contact Lance Wiedower at tripsbylance.com.

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