Family Travel in a Big Bad World

The world is a scary place.

It’s trite to say but also, very literally, true.

And yet we make light of it all the time.

I’m as guilty as anyone. Sometimes when I’m telling people about our upcoming year long trip, I hear myself  glibly letting the words roll off my own tongue: “We’re going on a round the world trip,” I say.  The “a” in “around” left off almost a testament to how easy and light an adventure we think it will be.

And there is a part of me that believes that because I would never intentionally put my family in harms way, we won’t in any way be harmed.

But one doesn’t really know, do they?

When the citizens of Brisbane, Australia found water up to their roof line or the citizens of Haiti woke up  in rubble (or never woke again) there was no way of predicting that that was coming.

And the tsunami taught us lessons too.

Mother Nature has a dark side and human beings an even darker one.

Now that we’re only months away from setting off the very thing that I wanted – to feel more connected to the planet – is raising fears in me that are surprising.

The bomb at the Moscow airport is closer now that the city is on our shortlist.

The floods in Australia more real now that we could literally have been there when it happened.

Turmoil in Northern Africa jumps off the newspaper page as we chat about whether or not to stop in Morocco and Egypt.

The fear comes, but so does the increased compassion.

I feel closer to the people who are living through the difficult times, more impressed by their strength and grace and in the end, when I weigh it all,  it doesn’t make me not want to go, it makes me want to go even more.

And when the opening lines of a disaster story tell me that “luckily no Canadians were injured” I find myself increasingly annoyed. Does the death toll become less important because “We” are ok?

It’s not what I want my kids to grow up believing.

I am taking my children with me on a trip around the world. It will be fun and exciting and scary.  We will stop in at amusement parks and orphanages. We will lie on the beach and we will worry crossing borders.

If I do my job right we will all come back  better human beings than we left as.

And, even though stepping out the front door will be as scary as it will be exciting,  I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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{ 26 comments… add one }

Nadine January 26, 2011, 6:21 PM

Mama, I think that LIVING is dangerous no matter where you are. Bad events are random, be it car crashes or earthquakes. You can’t worry about lightening crashes, so you just go with your big bad self. Absorb the beauty every day and roll with the punches, around the world or right at home. :)


Heather Greenwood Davis January 26, 2011, 6:31 PM

You’re right, of course. And every time I hear the news and my heart begins to race I try to remember. Thanks.


Nadine January 26, 2011, 6:22 PM

That should have said, lightening strikes. D’oh!


Heather Greenwood Davis January 26, 2011, 6:31 PM

Knew exactly what you meant. :)


Tracie January 26, 2011, 6:25 PM

Wow – great article! Thanks for sharing.


Heather Greenwood Davis January 26, 2011, 6:32 PM

Thanks for reading! :)


LindsayDianne January 26, 2011, 6:28 PM

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.
Feeling the fear and doing it anyway will get you somewhere though.
Great post.


Heather Greenwood Davis January 26, 2011, 6:32 PM

Appreciate the support and love the analogy.


Amy January 26, 2011, 6:36 PM

We can’t let fear stop us from doing the things we feel passionate about!


Heather Greenwood Davis January 26, 2011, 6:40 PM

So true and knowing that there are other people (like you!) who believe in what we’re doing helps. Fear won’t stop us but when I’m planning travel like this with the kids the mama bear in me brings it out.


Alex RobertsonTextor January 26, 2011, 8:34 PM

It’s a shame that more travel writers don’t acknowledge fear more regularly. Fear doesn’t have to limit us—it can be a source of inspiration to push ahead. I admire the way you’ve grasped this fact here.


Heather Greenwood Davis January 27, 2011, 1:48 AM

Thanks Alex. I wonder why we don’t talk about it more? Perhaps we worry that presenting anything less than a utopian picture of a destination will dissuade people from going at all. Maybe we just don’t want to provide another excuse. I’m still grappling with all of my emotions for this trip but I appreciate your admiration. Thanks.


Anonymous January 26, 2011, 8:44 PM

Everytime I take the girls anywhere I worry. The fear is obviously that you are so far from home and it’s dealing with the unfamiliar and the unknown in a foreign country. The “What if’s” get to you. I always push those fears deep, deep down. The odds of something happening are so remote, the benefits outweigh any risk. The odds of being hurt in a terrorist attack are 1 in hundreds of thousands, the odds of winning the Dream of a Lifetime home are 1 in 8. I’ve never won the home,and those are REALLY good odds. I figure I’m good for avoiding a terrorist attack too. ;) You are giving your children the best gift you’ll ever give them. Can’t wait to live vicariously through you for a year.


Heather Greenwood Davis January 27, 2011, 1:49 AM

You’re so right about the lottery ticket vs. terrorist threat. Never thought of it that way!


Anonymous January 27, 2011, 1:18 AM

So many people worry about what will happen in other countries, when really they aren’t much safer in the US or Canada. I’ve actually felt safer in most places I’ve visited. Yes, there are unique situations, and since we’re planning on Egypt as well, the recent riots have me slightly concerned. However, a similar thing was happening in Paris when I went there. They had student protests, and if you believed what you saw on TV and online, it looked like Paris was on fire. When I was there I rarely even heard a siren. When I spoke with the hotel owner, he rolled his eyes and said “The Media always blows things out of proportion.” I smiled and reassured him it wasn’t any different in the US.

And it’s even scarier when you’re taking your children with you. But the experience far outweighs the potential risks, in my opinion.


Heather Greenwood Davis January 27, 2011, 1:50 AM

Thanks so much. It’s such a support to me to know that I’m not the only one out there doing this. Glad to know you and look forward to chatting about these issues as we both take on the planet…kids in tow. :)


Alison January 29, 2011, 12:31 PM

I like the way you think! I took my 2 kids, although they are a teen and a young adult, for a 2-week European vacation this past October. It was at the exact time of the bombings and the heavy no-travel warnings. My parents and many others were against it but off we went anyway. Naturally we were cautious but I wanted them to learn first, to continue on (albeit carefully) in the face of adversary and secondly how the rest of the world lives with constant threats.

Our trip was amazing and the memories, bonding and camaraderie will forever be cherished by me..and hopefully by them as well!

Safe travels to you and yours! I’ll be “following” you!


Heather Greenwood Davis January 29, 2011, 12:51 PM

Thanks Alison. I love this: ” I wanted them to learn first, to continue on (albeit carefully) in the face of adversary and secondly how the rest of the world lives with constant threats.” I think a lot of people (including me) want that for their kids too. And it’s such a tough thing to teach without seeing it up close.


Dina VagabondQuest January 29, 2011, 6:52 PM

I love the way you say this:
“And when the opening lines of a disaster story tell me that “luckily no Canadians were injured” I find myself increasingly annoyed. Does the death toll become less important because “We” are ok?”

I’m with you in that. That’s when I think nationalism and patriotism got in the way.
Hey, I admire you for traveling “a”round the world with your kids!!


Heather Greenwood Davis January 30, 2011, 8:35 PM

Thanks Dina. Appreciate you stopping by and the comment. Just peeked at your site: Permanent RTW travelers? Love it!


Mara Gorman February 1, 2011, 1:43 AM

It’s funny, I think as parent we’re conditioned to see danger everywhere. My kids have been learning to downhill ski and my older son in particular has no fear. I’ve been trying to teach him to respect his own limits and nature without scaring him. I imagine you’ll be doing a lot of the same on this trip.


Heather Greenwood Davis February 1, 2011, 12:32 PM

So true Mara. I feel like I was fearless before they arrived. I’m hoping that even just the fact that I’ll be ever present on this trip will mean I’m around to help walk/talk them through the situations you describe. Expect posts where I’m seeking advice though. :) Appreciate the comment.


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