Is it safe to travel? Use common sense, but don’t cower in fear

…And here’s another fine and inspiring piece from the much-respected John Lumpkin, freelance writer and Special Contributor to the Dallas News.  I admire his sentiment and totally concur: nothing will stop me from my trekking…!    – Ned

Photo: John Lumpkin

“See the pyramids along the Nile. Watch the sunrise from a tropic isle …” So opened a sweet song from the ’50s titled “You Belong to Me.” It continued, “See the market place in old Algier …”

Do those trips sound so dreamy today?

“Experienced travellers are pretty fatalistic about it,” Harvey Boysen, president of Gulliver’s Travel Service in Fort Worth, says. “It could happen in Dallas, Texas, San Bernardino, or Nice, France. You can’t go hide in a hole.”

But it’s understandable that political and religious violence outside the conventional theaters of war is a serious concern, not just in our time. Military historian Max Boot wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal that the current turmoil is actually a “third wave” of international terrorism since the late 1800s — including the bombings of a wagon on Wall Street in 1920 that took 38 lives, and another of an opera house in 1893 in Spain that killed 22.

Remember the scene in The Godfather: Part II? Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) attempted to engineer a mobster coup in fancy Havana hotels patronized by Americans and found himself in the midst of the Cuban Revolution on New Year’s Eve, 1958. In real life, that could have been a family in 2011 on a trip of a lifetime to Egypt’s pyramids in the midst of the Arab Spring.

On reflection, a more ordinary disruption to travel is Mother Nature. For that, it’s sometimes possible to make informed decisions. For example, would you travel to tropical venues if you are of childbearing age, because of the new threat of Zika?

Otherwise, there are situations you cannot anticipate. My wife’s cousin, Jim Biggerstaff of Denton, and his spouse, Lisa, tried twice on European river cruises. Flooding of Portugal’s Duro River left the ship in dock for the duration, but they already were en route and had to settle for the cruise company’s alternative, a winding bus trip along the same itinerary.

The Biggerstaffs’ Elba River cruise was canceled due to a drought, but that illustrates how such events have serendipitous benefits. Viking Cruises offered a full refund plus a $1,000 credit, so Jim and Lisa switched to the Danube and spent three extra days in Prague — “one of the most spectacular cities in Europe,” he says.

An earthquake prevented my wife, Eileen, and me from a much-anticipated trip to Chile, wrapped around an international conference that had to be moved elsewhere. We may not get back that way, although we have a Chilean landscape artist’s surreal work hanging in our home.

Years ago, when I worked in North Carolina and our two toddlers limited our travels, I was often told we had to see the “fall color” around Grandfather Mountain. We found a residential rental at peak season in mid-October, stocked the station wagon with groceries and started out from Raleigh, only to drive into flecks of unseasonal sleet and flurries west of Winston-Salem. By the time we slushed and slid into the mountain condo, there were 10 inches of wet snow, knocking virtually every golden and red leaf off the trees. We never saw the much-publicized foliage, but our family from Texas played in a white landscape not familiar to the little ones, and Eileen and I shared drinks in front of a blazing fireplace when the kids were down.

We are recently retired from full-time work of almost five decades and believe in the credo offered by a neighbour of Biggerstaff: Your fixed-income dollar is worth more now than it will be in 10 years and you are healthier than you likely will be by then.

The neighbour, retired General Electric executive Gary Bostick, also has other insight about travel problems: “If you want it to be like home, then you should stay at home.”


John Lumpkin is a freelance writer in Richardson. He served as a vice president of The Associated Press and director of the School of Journalism at Texas Christian University.

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Ned’s tip: If you’re travelling down the Nile like the old song, head to the Red Sea and stay at the gorgeous five star Le Royal – Sharm El Sheikh resort.


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