My Nephew Just Arrived in Istanbul
My nephew is spending some time traveling after graduating from university before starting his first job in August. Our family is fortunate, Max arrived in Istanbul yesterday. He was back at his hotel when the explosions occurred at the airport and we all sighed in relief as we got the news.
A minor inconvenience compared to the tragedy that the victims have suffered. I’m sure his travel plans will be disrupted as the repercussions from this attack unfold but we wouldn’t expect him to return immediately to the States.
Traveling abroad widens our perspectives of the world. Experiencing, even tangentially, the difficulties faced by others should fuel empathy and a search for understanding. Engaging with others helps us to see how our actions impact those around us and those across the world. Max will be working for an international firm and will probably end up based in London or Singapore since he has traveled extensively in both Europe and Asia.
I’ve been in draft mode on a series of posts from our time in Belize, Costa Rica and Mexico last fall. I just haven’t found the right story to tell. The warmth and welcome we experienced as guests in these countries was wonderful. Unfortunately, it is not being returned.
Our local guide in Belize has no real hope of realizing his dream to bring his daughter to see the wonders of Yellowstone. It is $200 per person just to have an appointment for a tourist visa to the US – there is no guarantee that he would get approval and that is before the actual expense of travel. We could spend a month in Belize with no visa.
Another guide in Costa Rica traveled to Oklahoma as a technical advisor to purchase water purification systems for his local community. He was detained by US immigration because he couldn’t recite correctly the suburban city where the corporation was located. Donald was in the US to buy our goods, not take someone’s job. Conversely, we were sent through Costa Rica’s immigration with a chuckle after butchering the city names of Tortuguero and Tamarindo.
In Magdalena Bay, Mexico, the whale watching company was owned by a dual US-Mexican citizen. After spending time as a young adult with his family in Phoenix, he returned to his Mexican hometown fluent in English and ready to cater to Americans like me that can only speak very, very basic Spanish. Of course he would want to build a future for his kids in Mexico where he sees better opportunities for them where they won’t be harassed by the local police.
We moved back to the States from Manchester, England shortly before the City Center was bombed by the IRA back in the 90’s. The lessons we learned while being “the foreigners” trying to set up a household have been invaluable throughout our lives. We passed through London the day before the Tube bombing in 2005. Closer to home, I’ve also worked to improve traffic safety in Austin which averages more than one fatality each week. Keeping actual risk in perspective when making travel decisions every day would have us all driving much slower and putting down the phone versus writing off entire continents as unsafe.
Our Max is safe but what he is experiencing will inform his life going forward in the world. Americans are privileged in the world based on our passports. We have an obligation to engage as members of a global community that works for the safety and economic stability of all people. I hope that others will join us as we continue to travel abroad and work to change the narrative at home that encourages our country to close its doors to the outside world.