I had every intention of starting this year with a grand kick-off to 2017. The post was going to be a (true) introduction to this site and what I feel you can get out of it; I was also going to list many of the areas we plan to visit, the one I was/am most excited about is Istanbul, Turkey. We booked this trip months ago after finding a one day deal (quite possibly a glitch) that gave us a ridiculously low flight and hotel stay (the price went up significantly the next day). The trip was booked before 38 people were murdered and 150+ were injured in a bomb attack near a soccer stadium and months before the cowardly attacks on New Year’s Eve resulted in the deaths of 39 people and 70+ injuries. When I tell people we are still planning on going, most think I am crazy and they ask: Is it safe to travel to Istanbul?
People ask me why I would put my life (and my wifes) at risk by visiting what many consider a “war zone” (their words, not mine). Why not just go Paris or London instead? The main reason we chose this destination is we wanted something different, having gone to five different European countries, all of which were beautiful, but we have the desire to have a more unique experience. In our research, Istanbul has everything we are looking for: amazing food, great museums and attractions, it is also one of the most historic places in the world; it is a must visit for any world travel. But is the trip worth the risks?
First, I want to dispel any notion that I have something to prove, this is not some ploy to show everyone how brave I am/we are. I would never put my wife in any danger if I felt the chances were even remotely high of being involved in an attack. I understand the danger exists, I am not blind to this, so why would I continue to go to an area that was had so many publicized events in the last month? There are a number of reasons……
Weighing the Real Danger: I understand that this area has seen and most likely will continue to see attacks (as will many areas), but I am also aware that there are many things the media loves to hype, terrorism being their favorite. It is true 39 people needlessly lost their lives on New Year’s Eve due to an attack, what was less publicized is the fact that 64 people in the United States were killed by guns on New Year’s Eve. Let’s add to that the countless people killed by drunk drivers and other alcohol related accidents. Some people ignore certain dangers (driving on New Year’s), but panic over the thought of more publicized events. My statement is not meant to diminish the risks that are associated with the region, rather to point out that if all the risks were weighted equally… most people wouldn’t leave their house.
There is Life Outside of Fanny Packs: We can go back to the traditional spots in Europe and I am sure we would have a great time. I have yet to visit both London and Paris, but as much as waiting on line for the Eiffel Tower with the many faceless tourists could be appealing; I want something new. To be honest I want to feel like a foreigner, and most European countries no longer feel foreign to me. I want to visit a place where I truly don’t know what to expect, where something new is around every corner. Places like Rome and Munich are wonderful, but are so full of Americans that I sometimes forget that I am in another country.
It has everything: If my research is correct, this city has just about everything I could want. It contains the oldest history in the world, due in part to the fact it was once the one of the capitals of Rome, under the name Constantinople, as well as the Ottoman Empire. The city also spans two continents, both Asia and Europe, which further adds to its culture and history. The food, especially the street food, looks amazing and is also ranked as some of the best in the world. By doing some basic research, I get the feeling I can spend a month there and not see everything..
I don’t like being told what to do: Anyone who would attack innocent people, who are just trying to enjoy life is just a bully, I do not let bullies dictate my life. If I were to run any time I experienced even the slightest threat, I might as well move under my bed. I cannot be ruled by fear, and I will not have my life dictated by extremists whose only method of communication is fear. If don’t go to Istanbul due to fear, then I can take it further and not go to Paris, Germany, New York and Florida to name a few places.
There are a number of reasons why I/we are still going, having said this I have to weigh the pros and cons. I am about 90% sure we will still be visiting, but there are some valid reasons for changing my mind.
A Rapid Decline in the region: Despite what is being plastered all over the news, the risk of something terrible happening is extremely small. Things do change quickly, a series of future attacks or another attempted coup would definitely sway my feelings. Even though the chances are small, I don’t want my entire trip to be spent worrying and looking over my shoulder.
Family Guilt: Most people are buying into the sensationalism of the evening news and my family is no different. I continue to hear the chorus (think Greek tragedy) of how I am going and taking my wife to a “war zone,” which I have thus far ignored. Admittedly, if I sensed that by going it would cause real issues or tension within my family, I would look into changing locations. I don’t normally give in to guilt, but I also don’t want anyone to put themselves in the hospital over worrying about us. This does circle back to being told what to do and it would take a lot for them to change my mind, but it is something I have to consider.
Since it is predominantly more likely than not that we will be travelling to Istanbul, Turkey what precautions will we will take? The below list is just a couple of things I will do to keep me and my family safe.
Avoid Demonstrations: This seems obvious, any marching, chanting, or demonstrating and we are going the other way. There is no reason to invite trouble into our lives and large group of people can, at times, attract trouble.
Head on a swivel: This is true with any foreign area, you should always be present and aware of who and what is around you. Even in the best of cities you can end up in the wrong neighborhood or around the wrong people if you aren’t careful. Obviously one cannot see every danger, but knowing and staying aware of your surroundings can go a long way to keeping you safe. I will try to avoid places that are both too crowded and too empty. I really don’t know what to expect from the atmosphere when we travel to Istanbul, but being aware of what is around us, can help avoid a bad situation.
Have my paperwork in order: I have purchased travel insurance that helps protect against many unfortunate incidents. In addition, having copies of your passport and license, registering your trip with local consulate, giving people back home your hotel information could help ease any emergency situation. Moreover, it is also a good idea to know where your embassy is in case it is needed. These are universal things you should be doing when visiting any foreign country.
So there are my pros and cons as to why I (most likely) will still be visiting Istanbul in April. I am sure I won’t convince everyone to change their minds given the constant barrage of media hype, but this is my two cents: Bad things can happen anywhere..