I will never forget the time I was on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, enjoying the sunshine in January, when I was interrupted by a sudden wave of text messages. My friends and family were concerned; was I ok? News of thieves attacking a tour bus in Rio had reached the U.S. The story was lacking details and it was unclear yet as to how many people were killed. I looked around the beach, I spoke to a few people. I soon realized that news of a deadly attack on a tour bus in Rio had not reached Rio. And with good reason: it wasn’t really accurate.
For starters, there is Rio de Janeiro the city, and Rio de Janeiro the state, a deceitful detail to withdraw when reporting a story to the American population unlikely to realize the distinction. Rio de Janeiro, the city, saw nothing remotely resembling the story. After much investigation, I discovered the true events from which the story derived. A regular bus was indeed hijacked in Rio de Janeiro, the state, and people were robbed. But it wasn’t a tourist bus and no fatalities were mentioned.
Running a gay travel company, this is a phenomenon I have seen before. A tourist bus with Mexican nationals is attacked on the road in Egypt, and suddenly I’m getting calls from dozens of people asking me why we have a trip to Egypt when it is so unsafe. Regardless of the what really happened, it is stories like this that deter many Americans from visiting Brazil…or Egypt…or any other country home to a similar “precautionary tale” for that matter. It is stories like this that dissuade many people from leaving the safety of home, of America. However, with America’s safety increasingly being called into question, I wonder if our news stories become precautionary tales for would-be adventurers in other parts of the world.
Every morning since the attack on Pulse Nightclub, I have woken up thinking about Orlando. It is the first thing I see when I open my eyes, the first thought in the day’s thread of consciousness. Usually my thoughts surround the sadness of the families and friends who have lost those close to them and I am overcome with sorrow. But often my thoughts turn to anger too, and are exacerbated by the obscenity hurled around on the internet and on the TV surrounding the story. This anger swells, as I see people react to the attack with tremendous fear, discrimination, and racism. Simply put, it sucks.
And when we talk about the media’s ability to exaggerate, twist, and completely reconstruct the truth, I wonder what the rest of the world is hearing and thinking now? After the terrorist attacks in Paris, I had a huge travel convention that I was going to in the French Riviera. Many of my friends were scared of my going and people kept asking me if I was scared, and if I really needed to go. How many people today around the world are panicking as their friends depart for a business trip to America? How many families are canceling their Disney vacations after Orlando’s tragic week? Of course this sounds ridiculous to us. Orlando is a wonderful place and America, for the most part, is a safe country full of kind-hearted and peaceful people. And the truth is, so is Brazil. Would it surprise you to learn that our partners in Egypt were the only ones to reach out and offer their condolences following the attack in Orlando?
I’m not denying there is no risk in traveling. Horrible things can happen. But horrible things can happen anywhere. That is the world we live in. And this actually is not anything new. Humans have inflicted brutalities against each other for as long as we have been here. The expression, “what’s the world coming to” is a strange one, because if there is one thing we have learned, it is that history repeats itself. This does not mean that terror and discrimination should guide our decisions or dictate our lives. Instead of igniting a fear in us which prevents new experiences, these acts of terrorism should start a different fire. A burning desire to embrace love and celebrate life, to bridge differences and connect with each other. How do you do that without traveling?
Terrorism scares people from traveling, but it is traveling that is one of the greatest weapons we have against the fears and discriminations that partially create terrorism. Traveling helps us see through the manic news stories, the terrifying Facebook racists, and fear of our concocted enemy.
Victims in Orlando were shot while celebrating life and love together in an environment designed for fun, pleasure, and laughter. We all want to win against terrorism, but we don’t do that by avoiding venues due to fear…avoiding countries due to fear, avoiding planes due to fear, etc.
Fear is the enemy. Terrorism is rooted in fear and creating more of it is the main goal of terrorism, creating an intentional vicious cycle.
So if you want to stand up to terrorism, stand up to fear. If you want to pay great tribute to people who lost their lives or were injured due to fear, then live the fullest life possible. Travel. Dance. Express. Love. Create. Live for yourself, and live for those whom fear has taken from us. And never, never let fear replace love.