AN OPEN LETTER TO EUROPE: THREE YEARS LATER, WHY I STILL CHOOSE TO TRAVEL

Dear Europe,

We need to talk. Like thousands of Australian’s out there, the allure of getting on a plane and travelling as far as possible from home to dreamier locations is always at the forefront of my mind. So three years ago, in 2012, amidst juggling a dead-end job, going to University, and (attempting) a social life, I booked a two-month ‘solo’ Euro-trip.

If you’ve ever been bitten by the travel bug, I can tell you now, Europe may one day cross your mind. And when it does, I want you to know something. I’ve been there and it was unforgettable. But looking back now, there’s another part of me that’s struggling to come to terms with how quickly our world is shifting.  So much has changed, there’s no denying it. We love to travel, but we’re facing uncertain times.

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When I reflect back to my trip, I think of the unspoilt beaches in Greece, the gelaterias across Italy and the decadent cheese tasting in Holland. I remember falling in love with the craziness of London and thinking “I’ll be back one day.” I explored the streets of Paris with great eagerness and curiosity, without a worry in the world. I chased sunsets, partied till the sunrise in Ibiza and walked away with some of the greatest memories. Europe gave me a sense of confidence that has allowed me to get to where I am today.

But fast forward to the present day and I’ve realised that my perception has shifted. Call it caution, call it the impact of the media, call it what you will. The world has changed. The currency continues to fluctuate as the sun continues to rise and set. Terrorism, the refugee crisis and the tragic loss of lives continue to be seen and felt by those around the world. And then to add fire to the fuel, Brexit happened.

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What does Brexit mean for Australian travellers? 

For starters, London and the rest of Britain is a place that is home to many people regardless of age, colour, race, creed or taste in food. London is an international travel destination. London alone is currently home to 8 million people or more. London needs Europe. I need Europe. We need Europe.

Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union will no doubt affect tourism. It may also take several years to go into effect. Australians may be required to apply for extra visas and for businesses it could become more difficult to trade with Britain.

But what does this really mean for me? 

With change comes negative and positive repercussions. If anything, I think Brexit could be a part of accelerated globalisation. Time magazine describes globalisation as ‘the intertwining of trade, investment, travel, communication, and transportation that has made the world smaller and more interconnected – expanding at warp speed.’ Perhaps it is the matter of globalisation that’s been too fast for us all to handle?

From my perspective, if I had to see any positive ramifications out of this, the drop in currency is a tremendous plus. Inbound flights have never been cheaper. Sure, this doesn’t outweigh the fact that Brexit still happened but it is a wake-up call to the rest of the world. If any good came out of this for the rest of us, maybe it will push us all to build better foundations. Maybe it will push us to make better choices and decisions.

Because isn’t it time we all stopped having such an insular view of the world, stopped fighting amongst ourselves and began working together? Imagine how much more we could accomplish? Imagine what would happen if the world just got on.

The harsh reality we face in this day and age is that we now live in a constant state of fear and surprises. We’re told the world is scary. We jump from everyday life to shock, to numbness, and back to everyday life. And the truth is, it won’t go away soon. We need to fight for our right to continue living. As Waleed Aly from The Project puts it, we need to #SendForgivenessViral. It’s up to us. We’re all responsible for how our stories will play out. We’re all afraid, but it’s how we deal with that fear that defines us.

These are testing times. Don’t let this all scare you. Don’t give in to the fear. Don’t let it define how you treat people. Now more than ever, the world needs unity. And how do we find unity? By believing the best in people, showing generosity, patience, and kindness to one another. We need to continue our love affair with the world, see the good, even when it’s bad. I’m not saying it’s as easy these days to just ‘go travel,’ but we can take calculated risks. We can encompass common sense and situational awareness. We can make sensible choices about where and who we travel with. We can strive to understand, rather than manifest hostility. We don’t have to let fear dictate how we live our lives.

Mark Twain once wrote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Today I may be another Australian facing great uncertainty in an unsettling world but it’s okay for us to choose the latter and explore the world as we see fit. Am I uncertain of the future? Yes. Am I concerned about the true impact of Brexit? Yes. But will I give in to fear and not go back to Europe? Absolutely not. Because the world needs less fear and more strength. The world needs global citizens like you and I to raise awareness and educate others on the issues that matter.

Three years feels so long ago. So much has changed. And yet still, I have hope. And so should you. Those beaches in Greece are still as divine as ever. The party continues in Ibiza. Paris continues to capture the hearts and minds of everyone who visits. And London still retains that infectious spirit you can’t help but fall in love with. Europe is still there, as defiant, resilient and romantic as ever.

Sincerely,

A traveller who will be back

Originally published for Contiki. Check out more of my work if you like what you’re reading on six-two.

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