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Moral Support

Hello Travelers,
We are scheduled to leave for Rome on Tuesday, March 29th. This is a month+ long bucket list adventure I have been planning since last October. Because of the terror threats and our own state dept "alert" my husband is feeling uncomfortable about going. We are in the "discussing" phase of the dilemma which is not a dilemma at all for me. I refuse to allow a gang of deranged misfit souls dictate my activity. Of course I feel a little uneasy but intend to be watchful and aware. He on the other hand is having serious doubts about the sensibility of making this trip and questions his ability to relax and enjoy himself while there. This is something we are doing together and have been saving for. Our apartment in Trastevere has been paid for as have several excursions in the city. I want him to be able to enjoy himself. I have stated my case but would welcome any support, facts etc that would convince him that not going is foolish. Thanks in advance.
Penny

Posted by
31029 posts

Penny,

As I've mentioned in a couple of other threads, each us has to decide what level of risk we're willing to tolerate in the current situation, which is going to be the case for the foreseeable future. Therefore it probably comes down to travelling or staying at home (which may not be much safer, as they found out in San Bernadino recently).

While attacks can occur in any country in Europe, Italy seems to be quiet lately so I wouldn't expect there to be any problems there. If you're vigilant and practice "situational awareness", in all likelihood you'll have a wonderful holiday. The biggest threat you'll encounter will be pickpockets and scammers.

I'm subject to the same risks, and I haven't seen anything so far that would prompt me to cancel my planned trip to Europe this year. I check the government travel warnings website periodically, and it is still recommending Exercise normal security precautions. I plan to relax and enjoy myself just fine!

It would be a shame to cancel a trip that you've both been looking forward to for so long.

Posted by
6543 posts

I remember when I first went to Italy in 1970. I was shocked to see soldiers all over Venice in uniform carrying automatic weapons.
And they're still there--keeping a high profile.
Just go on your trip and enjoy the day. Worse come to worse, just avoid big crowds unless you are going through security screenings to get into places--like the Vatican.

Posted by
11613 posts

I will be leaving for Italy in May. I have not considered canceling, but I am bracing for my friends' and colleagues' worries.

One thought, after reading your post, is: do I think it will be safer later on?

Everyone's situation is unique; for me, Italy is not a travel destination, it is my blood, so I don't think much would deter me.

Posted by
40 posts

Zoe,
Short of a miracle it will probably not be any safer later on. However, I was told by my husband that officials have recommended waiting until sometime in June? Really? How do they suddenly know that? I feel for you dealing with the angst of friends and colleagues. I can see it coming myself. I just know how I feel and would be miserable if I backed out.

Posted by
11658 posts

Penny, I've just checked the U.S. State dept. travel pages for both Italy and Belgium, and there are NO recommendations not to travel to Europe right now. In fact, they state on the Belgium page that "We are not advising U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Europe or to any particular country" in the alert that's specifically (and probably temporarily) up for Belgium: see the tweet on the right side of this page:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/news/crisis-in-belgium.html

There are no alerts at all for Italy. The cautionary text under "Safety and Security" has pretty much been standard for years: remain vigilant.

https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/italy.html

We're asked to "remain vigilant" at home. Heck, the Canadian government warns their citizens on a similar site that "The possession of firearms and the frequency of violent crime are generally more prevalent (in the U.S.) than in Canada."

So wherever your husband heard that "officials have recommended waiting until sometime in June", it wasn't from our own government, and State Dept. pages are considered among frequent travelers abroad as leaning to the extreme.

Posted by
34 posts

I think travelers in any country should, of course, be vigilant at all times. I also would say that the Brussels attack was the most alarming to me, as it targeted a major international airport and public transit. But I don't understand how authorities can suggest waiting until mid-June; what would change then?

I guess my point is that I don't see the climate changing much with regards to terrorism, so if it's me, I go. If I could sit here and say that things would be markedly better in 2017, I'd hold off, but I can't see that happening. If you wait for everything to be perfect, you'll never go.

Posted by
2975 posts

Statistically, motor vehicle accidents remain the top risk for travelers in Europe. Would your husband not walk the streets or ride in a car.? Of course not. There is risk every time we leave the doorway of our home. I hope he will feel more confident and ready to go soon.

Posted by
7180 posts

I would not cancel or alter ANY plans based on State Department news. They never have anything proactive to say and only issue statements AFTER something has happened. The information they disseminate is pretty much common sense stuff.

I'm traveling all over Europe in June with 3 adults and 16 high school kids. We're gonna have a great time!

Posted by
22 posts

Penny,

We're leaving for Rome the very next day you are. I had a brush with worry yesterday, until my husband made me realize that terrorist attacks are so (seemingly) random and unpredictable by intent, that it just makes no sense to put off a trip when any other trip dates would be equally risky statistically.

So, I understand your husband's unease, but I think looking at cold facts might convince him that fears about your specific dates are probably unfounded. That said, only he can control his own mind, so I hope that if you go, he'll give in to the experience.

Attacks happen when we're not ready for them, by design. Some might say there's no safer time to travel to Europe -- or anywhere -- than when citizens are braced for security.

The purpose of terrorism really isn't to kill -- it's not the end game, I mean -- but to instill deep fear. I completely agree that to cancel my plans, sans true threats to my destinations, would play right into their goal.

Janie

Posted by
98 posts

So wherever your husband heard that "officials have recommended waiting until sometime in June", it wasn't from our own government, and State Dept. pages are considered among frequent travelers abroad as leaning to the extreme.

I think June is being mentioned because the State Department's "Europe Travel Alert" expires on June 20, 2016.

Posted by
11658 posts

Ah, Ok, Lane. However, they are definitely NOT saying "don't go."

Posted by
1726 posts

Penny--

We traveled in October 2010 to Sicily, Florence & Rome, only a couple weeks after the disclosure of the al-Qaida European terror plot in late September of that year. There definitely was heightened security all over Italy, but nothing happened, and by the time we reached Taormina, it had been pushed out of our minds for the rest of the trip.

Last March, only weeks after Charlie Hebdo, we visited Paris before venturing on to Switzerland & Italy. Besides the 'Je suis Charlie' stencils on many buildings as a reminder, there were plenty of armed guards at public attractions. It wasn't talked about but the wariness certainly was omnipresent--I remember thinking 'this is maybe what it must have felt like during World War II'. We still traveled about the city via the Metro as we ordinarily would have, and as it turns out that during our days there we dined at a bistro mere doors away from the Cambodian restaurant that was strafed in last November's attacks. Almost made me feel like the anvil had dropped right behind me.

Don't know what to say except it's the luck of the draw. For Italy, Rome in particular, I guess I'd feel more comfortable there than the northern EU metro areas, but who knows? You've paid for your apartment in Trastevere. If it's for a month, I'd make it a point to chat up some of the storekeepers & restaurateurs in the neighborhood during your stay, because it's nice to have friends/acquaintances just in case and to get a better lay of the land. I've found--especially in southern Italy-- people are especially warm in that regard.

If I were planning a trip to Italy within the next few months & hadn't started booking yet, I'd love to be able to say that I wouldn't let terrorism affect me one iota. In truth, though, I'd probably pick this trip to visit smaller towns, rural areas, agriturismos. I wouldn't even think of not going, however. My two trips to Europe have been among the highlights of my life and I would travel there every year if I had the funds to do so, terrorism be damned.

Posted by
3340 posts

We're still going on our France trip this summer, despite the State Dept. cautions, and I'd encourage you and your husband to go and enjoy the trip you've been looking forward to all this time. We had an apartment in Trastevere, too, and it was the perfect base from which to explore Rome.

Locations throughout Europe will be taking steps to ensure the safety of their citizens and income-generating tourists, so follow all the security measures in place, comply with the nice customs and immigration officials and the police, and have a great trip!

Posted by
2317 posts

I understand the fear, I really do. But I'm going to Spain this summer and Italy in the fall. The way I look at it is that the probability is vanishingly small, it just feels scary. Every day, I go the mall or the movies or the grocery or to my own office (all the types of places where mass shootings in the US have happened) and am not unduly afraid. So, realistically, I shouldn't be afraid of travel either. I do ignore all the stats about the US murder rate in general, since so many of those are things I feel I can avoid (not go to certain areas, avoid being involved with drug dealers...). But the mass shootings in public places - those happen anywhere and unless I want to stay in my house 100% of the time, nowhere is safe from that. I send my kids to school - which, given all the school shootings, is less safe than a trip to Europe. Yet, people always ask if I feel safe taking them traveling. No one asks if I feel safe sending them to school.

There is no US travel warning. Those are the ones where they tell you not to travel. There is an alert, which basically says that yes, more attacks could happen. Which we kind of know, and I don't think that will change by June!

I've told this story before, so ignore me if you've read it, but I think it's helpful. When I was just out of college I worked in NYC. This started in summer 2001. So...it's 2001 and 9/11 happens. I'm just out of school, on my own for the first time, and scared out of my mind. I basically don't go anywhere besides work and friends apartments for a very long time. I missed out on all the amazing things NY has to offer because I was so scared. And nothing happened. This is a big regret for me, and I refuse to do it again. I think people will regret the things they skip doing more than the things they do.

That said, there is a line. There are places I'm not going to out of fear. Europe, right now, is not one of them. I want to see what I can now, while I can. Who knows what tomorrow brings, for me or for the rest of the world?

Posted by
2762 posts

Penny, ISIS aimed specific threats against Rome ( as the head of Christianity as they see it) in February 2015, more than a year ago, saying something like "we are just a little south of you."

The threats were renewed in July:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-video-threatens-attacks-in-washington-rome-1447702405

Yet nothing has happened. Rome has been on high alert and there is security everywhere, especially in December when Pope Francis opened the Holy Door to begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

My point is not to scare your husband but to point out that the whole time you have been planning this trip, Rome has been considered a target. The attacks in Brussels have not changed a thing. So this should nor change your plans. Tourists are still flocking to Rome. From the photos I have seen, you may find armed guards in important places like the Vatican and Coloseum.

We are not completely safe anywhere these days. My nephew lives in San Bernardino and none of us ever dreamed there would be an attack there. But there was.

Posted by
1 posts

Penny,

We are scheduled to leave for Rome on Weds March 30th. We are renting an apartment near Trastevere for 4 days, then we'll be spending a week in the little towns of Tuscany and 2 nights in Florence.

I too am concerned about the latest developments. My gut instinct, like yours, is to spit in the faces of these "deranged misfit souls". Why should they have a say in MY or ANYONE'S life?? But, we'll be traveling with our children (ages 8 and 12). I am torn between protecting my children and taking this opportunity to teach them that life must, must, MUST go on. That said, I would never forgive myself if something happened to them. For now, I am keeping an eye on the situation, and reminding myself DAILY that I can only protect my children so much -- control is but an illusion. What's not to say, we cancel our trip, and they get hit by a car here at home?? Statistically that is more likely, right? And I think we aren't any safer from terrorists here in the US than they are in Europe. I get it though. It's hard.

Finally, I am thinking it may actually (sadly) be somewhat safer right now. Everyone is practicing a heightened level of vigilance and security in the immediate aftermath of Brussels. I DON'T think it will get better in the foreseeable future, and June (when there are more tourists in Rome) seems like a more ideal time for an attack from the terrorists point of view. And really finally, who's to say these beautiful Roman monuments from such a stunning time in human history won't be destroyed by these jerks someday?? I hope I'm wrong, but we have to go see it while it's still there to see.

Best of luck deciding!

Adriana

Posted by
11977 posts

Although we tend to overreact to these tragic events, however statistically we are very unlikely to be victims of those rare events. Besides those terrorist attacks can happen in America too, as New Yorkers learned on 9/11/2001 or Bostonians learned on 8/15/2013 or more recently in San Bernardino. No matter what we are more likely to perish doing other activities, such as slipping inside our shower.

There is no evidence that now would be more dangerous than 2 months or 2 years from now. These things happen randomly and are unpredictable. Actually since the state of alert is very high now, the terrorists are less likely to act in the next few days. All major cities in Europe have beefed up security at unprecedented levels now. Just use normal precautions. Avoid crowded place as much as you can. Statistically terrorists like to hit in very large cities and in crowded places where they can cause the most carnage. In Italy itself, the most likely target would be Rome or maybe Milan. So don't hang around the Rome airport or station too long. Don't use the subway, use the taxi or walk. Those are areas where terrorists like to hit, as they can easily hide explosives in suitcases and pretend to be travelers. In smaller towns and cities these events generally don't happen.

Posted by
31029 posts

Penny,

It may clarify the situation to look at some historical perspective, as these types of incidents have been going on for a long time, and in spite of them people have been travelling world wide and most often they have a wonderful holiday.

Going back to the '70s, there were incidents such as the Munich Olympics, groups such as the Red Army Faction (Baader-Meinhof), the Israeli aircraft that was hijacked to Entebbe, incidents perpetrated by Carlos the Jackal, the Dawson's Field hijackings of Sept. 11, 1970 and the hijacking of a Southern Airways plane in Birmingham, Alabama (there were more). We also had incidents in Canada such as the October crisis.

Moving on to the '80s, there were incidents such as the Pan Am / Lockerbie tragedy, the Iranian Embassy hostage taking (actually started in 1979 but ended in the '80s), the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, the Beirut Marine Barracks and the kidnapping of foreigners in Lebanon and other places. The most horrific event that affected Canada was Air India flight 182.

Major incidents in the '90s included the Oklahoma City Federal building, attacks by the IRA in the U.K. and many others too numerous to list. From 2000 onward these incidents continued, and include 9/11, the London bombings in 2005 and the Madrid train bombings, Boston Marathon, Paris and now Brussels. This doesn't include the numerous mass shootings that have taken place in the U.S.

The "bottom line" is that terrorism in one form or another has been a scourge for a long time so there will probably never be a "perfect time" to travel in Europe or anywhere else. One other thing to consider is that I believe the current warnings from the U.S. State Department are an "alert" rather than a "warning recommending against travel". More attacks are certainly likely, but no one knows when or where these will take place. I plan to carry on with my holiday plans as usual, unless something in the picture changes.

Good luck with your decision.

Posted by
773 posts

Concern over terrorist attacks, whether in the U.S. or Europe, is a matter of perceived risk vs. real risks.

More than 30,000 people die every year in the U.S. due to gun violence, and about the same number die of motor vehicle fatalities. Encourage your husband to compare international travel to riding or driving in a car.

Posted by
1507 posts

Ditto all the comments above - you're at much greater risk of literally being hit by a car here in the US than you are being a victim of terrorism. If your hubby is data oriented, this is an interesting read. There's really little reason to cancel a bucket list vacation. Rick Steves just posted a blog about this topic, and this is his best advice: "Also, at frightening moments like this one, keep in mind that there’s an important difference between fear and risk. As the State Department recommends, while you’re traveling, be vigilant. Be aware. Exercise caution. But at the same time, don’t be terrorized. That’s exactly the response the terrorists are hoping for."

For small piece of mind, I'd advise registering with the State Department's STEP program - you'll get fairly timely information if something does go wrong. I traveled in SE Asia during major social unrest and their updates were quite helpful (and honestly, overstated the situation, but I appreciated their caution). As others have pointed out, the current warnings are just advising caution, not advising against travel. Europe takes security much more seriously (and visibly) than we do. The recent events will do nothing but improve their efforts and focus. I am heading to Europe in May and got plenty of recent worried inquiries from my mom and friends. I have zero worry about my travel safety - I am observant, cautious, and keep my wits about me. But I also know that life is so very short and precious. If it is my time to go, then it is my time, and I'd rather go checking off my travel bucket list than any other way.

Good luck to you.

Posted by
4059 posts

Penny, ask your husband to read all the replies here, then discuss them thoughtfully after a night's sleep. Our first time in London, we arrived two days after the 2005 Underground bombings. It frankly never occurred to us to be scared. We were living in Poland when martial law was declared in 1981. Again, our only concern was that since all communications were shut down, we couldn't get word to our families that we were okay. We never even considered leaving, although a couple of our friends did.

It sounds almost meaningless, but truly, the most dangerous part of your trip to Europe will be the drive to the airport, here in the States. Please don't let fear ruin your wonderful vacation. Happy travels - from all of us Rickniks.

Posted by
40 posts

Wow...I asked for moral support and I sure got it! I cannot thank you all enough for the cold facts and statistics...to me it was preaching to the choir ( in all honesty I needed to hear it too) but I took the advice of the last poster, (Jane I think) and read all the comments to my tortured husband. I think it may have helped. Discussing these posts in the morning and detaching him from the constancy of CNN (fear,fear,fear) would probably be beneficial as well. I am so hoping to clear his head on this matter. Tuesday is fast approaching. Thanks again.
Penny

Posted by
18 posts

I think you should stick to your plans and enjoy your trip. I am a solo female traveler flying to Italy next Friday for two and a half weeks. Not worried in the least bit. What happened in Brussels is a tragedy, but it is not an every day occurrence.

If your husband doesn't want to go, tell him you'll send him a postcard. ;)

Posted by
31029 posts

Penny,

One more point to reiterate is that there are never any guarantees when travelling, whether it's to Europe or just a local holiday in your own area. As you mentioned CNN, I also wanted to repeat an old adage in the news industry - "if it bleeds, it leads." You may find THIS article on the subject of interest.

In watching the coverage from Brussels this morning, one thing that was readily apparent was that people on the streets near the news reporters seem to be going about the their daily lives, carrying bags from the market, etc.

When I embark on my trip later this year I'll also be a bit nervous, but unless the situation worsens I'm not going to let it stop me from travelling.

Posted by
4059 posts

Today's the day Penny was supposed to leave. Does anybody know if they went? I sure hope so. Buon viaggio, Penny and spouse!

Posted by
22 posts

I was wondering that too, Jane! We leave tomorrow so I was watching this thread with interest. But we never had a dilemma about going. I hope Penny was able to get her husband on board.

Posted by
11 posts

Hi Penny,

We just got back from Italy yesterday and I would advise you not to cancel your plans. We did see military presence in various towns, but at no point did we feel uncomfortable or that our lives were at risk.

Posted by
1054 posts

If you cancel and stay then they have won. Go out and travel. Anything can happen in any city at anytime, even your hometown. Don't let that stop you, get out and travel.

Posted by
250 posts

In our state we have had a mass shooting at a local mall, a community college, high school...and the list goes on. Yesterday a little boy was hit by a car. My point? You can't control when it is your time. It is no safer in the US than Europe. Try to let it go and enjoy your time together!