This semester, my sister is studying abroad in Europe, so I was excited when my parents made plans for us to visit her over my spring break. Since we would be going to two big cities, Paris and Geneva, I also looked forward to getting some new material about European city life and travel for this blog.
For starters, both places were beautiful. My mom asked me how I felt like they compare with New York, but truly none of them are really comparable, they have very individual vibes from the food to the architecture, which I really love. When you see a NYC-style building in Paris, it looks out of place and not that great. To me, that’s what’s fun about travel, it’s not distance, it’s getting to experience something different.
I had been to Paris before, but Geneva was new and exciting for me. We stayed in an Airbnb in the old city which was amazing, full of pretty buildings, places to eat, and cobblestone streets. The cobblestone streets led the old city to be up on a hill and they were pretty steep, but after the walk, you could see the entire city, including the vast and beautiful Lac Leman, or Lake Geneva, that I ran alongside. Throughout the main town, there are streets lined with watch-sellers, like Rolex and Tissot, and the whole city is advertised as a ‘City of Time.’ This seems like a fair description, but instead of being too rushed, everyone just seemed to have things to do. The city is busy, but clean and full of hard-working people.
While in Switzerland, we also went to Nyon and Lausanne-two more insanely pretty cities-and from Nyon we took a ferry across the lake to Yvoir, France for lunch which was a touristy town, so it wasn’t in it’s prime season, but the buildings felt like they were pulled out of a fairytale. Other than the ferry ride, we traveled by train. The trains were fast and efficient, and the views outside were basically either Alps, Lac Leman, farms with rolling green hills, or mansions. We also went to some countryside areas-Pizy, where I couldn’t stop singing ‘The Hills are Alive,’ and Grindelwald, which had incredible mountain views that made me wonder how Mt. Everest can be double the mountains there.
As you probably gather, I spent a lot of time just looking at my surroundings and sighing, and I would love to just describe everything I saw and then describe everything I ate, but there is something else I feel has to be discussed.
When we arrived in Paris, we met up with some friends for dinner and discussed their feelings about everything that had happened recently in France. The idea of it all made me feel sort of nervous as a traveler-there’s just something about being far from home that makes the idea of anything going wrong into a heightened fear. Then, the attacks in Brussels happened.
One of my friends texted me that her Nana had thought of me when she heard about the attacks because she knew I was traveling through Europe. Of course, my friends and I all thought it was sweet, but I had been in Switzerland, no need to worry, but it made me start to think about the degrees of separation.
We had friends who had just left Brussels, I knew someone who was in the city, though not at the airport. My sister’s program asked students-many of whom were traveling for their spring breaks-to please rearrange any plans that would go through Brussels, and I felt nervous, because the truth is, I could have been there. Anyone could have been there. There are people who were at the airport the day before, people who were there before, there is probably someone who was running late and missed it and now they’re thankful, but the point is that people don’t know, maybe the only people who were sure they could avoid it, were people who are now too scared to travel, and we could easily be those people too.
My mom and I were flying out of Paris on Easter Sunday and we were a bit nervous. Things were bothering us a little bit more. Some random guy put little notebooks out at the tables of the airport cafe we ate at, then he picked them back up because no one had touched them.
“Why would he be leaving things on strangers tables anyway? Why would you do that here and now?” We asked ourselves. Maybe he was just silently putting down cute notebooks for people to write in, which, to be honest that’s still a weird thing to do, hello??? but either way there was tension in the air, because people feel nervous, and then they look around and they see armed officers, and it reminds them again that we are nervous, but we still went.
The night before our flight, we talked to my mom’s friend. We expressed some concern about travel.
“I mean, look, you could choke on a cherry and die during dessert. When the attacks happened here I kept going to cafes, I kept using public transit to go to work.” She said.
We thought about it, realizing that we still would go to Boston after the marathon bombing. I live in New York City, one of the biggest cities and ports of travel in the world. There are things that we have to do, we can’t just stop and I realized that I don’t want to be scared by travel.
I could be fearful everyday because there are a million things that could go wrong, but I can’t let fear rule my life. When I think about it, I am not afraid of Daesh, I want the destruction to end, but these people are not representing Islam, they have no cause, they are cowards who can only gain from fear and destruction.
I felt like I had to address it, because it did pervade my thoughts, and I continue to pray for the victims, none of whom should have died that day, but I don’t want to give Daesh my fear. I want people to keep traveling, because they love it and can learn from it. This past week I saw a lot of beauty, history, and kindness that I am thankful for-and I’m not going to let it all go.