After waking up on New Year’s Day — my own Champagne-washed celebrations fresh in mind — I stumbled upon the news: An unknown shooter had barged into a nightclub in Istanbul and murdered 39 people as they rang in 2017.
The first wave of emotions — horror and sadness — was predictable. But another emotion was perhaps more frightening: This felt familiar.
Istanbul is on my shortlist of travel hopes. I’ve often traveled around the holidays. Dancing and sipping bubbly in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve? Yeah, I could see myself there.
This attack came on the heels of a tragic year. There were the explosions at the Belgian airport and a subway station that killed 25 in June. Three suicide bombers killed 44 at the Istanbul airport a couple of days later. Then in July, a man plowed a truck through crowds celebrating France’s National Day in Nice, killing 84.
Put together, international travel feels as unpredictable as ever. Our safe places have been tested, our security punctured. It’s understandable if folks just want to stay home for a while.
But here are the problems with that thinking:
First, contrary to what your gut might be telling you, we’re not actually safer at home. Terrorist attacks — including the Orlando nightclub shooting in June — plagued the U.S. in 2016, as well. Meanwhile, car crashes routinely kill 30,000 people a year. Let’s put this in perspective.
Secondly, to allow these events to halt our plans and curb our exploration is to hand the terrorists a victory. Terrorism isn’t about killing the few — it’s about instilling terror in the rest. If there’s one way the average citizen can fight terrorism, it’s to not be filled with terror, not be shaken into settling for a halfhearted version of life. Our insatiable curiosity for other places, and our freedom to travel there, are important parts of what makes us American — and our vitality for life is something we should never let them take.
Amelia Rayno covers food and travel for the Star Tribune. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @AmeliaRayno