Paris, France suffered an attack on June 6th 2017, where police officers were targeted by a man with a hammer screaming, “This is for Syria!” Bystanders were funneled into the Cathedral while officers quickly controlled the situation.
This is one of many attacks France has endured in just 2017 alone, whether it was claimed responsible by ISIS or not (Champs-Élysées shooting, Louvre Museum machete attack, etc).
Through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, the U.S. Embassy in France notified me Tuesday evening of the Notre Dame attack. I was able to register with the government, beforehand, that I will be traveling to France among other destinations in July. Many loved ones have stressed their concern for my well-being and have urged that I postpone my trip. I look at them and ask, “If not now, when?”
The world is meant to be discovered and life is meant to be lived. I don’t want my whole existence to pass me by before I finally decide it is safe enough to venture out beyond the streets of my town or the borders of my familiarity. Quite frankly, my safety is not guaranteed anywhere I go, so should I lock myself inside the walls of my home forever? I think not.
I don’t disagree that it is a dangerous time to be a tourist, however, my chances of getting caught up in a terrorist attack are far less than if I were involved in, let’s say, a car accident. With precautions and prayer, I think I’ll be just fine. Here is my list of the 5 measures to take while traveling:
Be aware of your surroundings and use common sense. This is pretty self-explanatory, but for those who lack the ability, here is your refresher. Keep your head up and your ears and eyes open. There are scams and pickpockets. Huffington Post gives some good examples and what locations they are common in.
Leave a copy of your travel itinerary with someone at home in case of emergency and keep in contact throughout the trip. To make my mother feel at ease, I told her I would give her every bit of information I had. What flight I was taking, what hostel I was staying at, what attraction I was going to, anything and everything. I agreed to check in with her multiple times a day and download a tracking app so she can see my location at all times. In case of an emergency, this would come in handy.
Bring your smart phone. Sometimes people leave their phones at home because of roaming fees, but hello! It is 2017 and there is such thing as the WhatsApp Messenger. This free iPhone app allows you to contact anyone who has the app (calling or texting) and you can also share your location. There are no international charges! Wahoo! Bringing your smart phone is also helpful for language translating, maps, camera, and currency calculators.
Get Travel Insurance. You must do this before you leave for your trip. Travel insurance can cover lost luggage, trip interruptions, medical expenses, and even terrorist attacks. However, most travel insurance programs will not cover terrorist attacks if the location has issued a travel warning within the last 3 months or so. In my case, France has issued a travel warning, so I am pretty much out of luck in this department. Let me reiterate that this does not mean you should disregard this tip. Please, still get travel insurance for the other benefits. Better safe, than sorry.
Learn basic phrases in your destination’s language. Some people in different countries may not speak a lick of English. It is common courtesy to approach someone in their respective language rather than bark at them in yours since you are entering their country. Think of this in the same way that we’d prefer people to speak English in America. Also, scammers will target travelers who seem lost or confused and will most likely pick pocket or overcharge you.
I know that these tips won’t prevent terrorist attacks, but there is a 100% chance it will keep you safer and better off than if you didn’t follow them altogether.
Don’t let your fear for danger get in the way of your dreams to travel! Stay safe!
À votre santé!