The terror attacks of Paris and Beirut last week sent shock waves around the world. In Facebook many people changed their profile pictures to show solidarity with those who suffered during these brutal attacks to our public security. The days after I got messages, whether it is still safe to travel, for IPMA, for an international project or even as a tourist. People are scared now, that something could happen to them. This is the worst effect of the attacks: people are scared and try to hide or stay at home. But is this a solution? Certainly not. Let´s have a quick look into research, performed after the 9/11 attacks in the USA. Prof. Gigerenzer and colleagues of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin analysed what happened in the USA after 9/11 and concluded: “Terrorist attacks also cause indirect damage. This comes about through people’s thoughts and fears in reaction to such attacks. In the case of 9/11, it was primarily severe losses in the aviation and tourism industries. Earlier studies showed that, following the terrorist attacks, more people chose to drive rather than fly, feeling it was safer. The result was not just a greater risk of traffic congestion: in the twelve months following September 11, 2001, there were an estimated 1,600 more accident-related deaths on American roads than would have been expected statistically.”
What to do? Prepare for your travels and your stay in other countries. This includes but is not limited to acquiring information from government agencies regarding your travel options, the destination, the local cultures, beliefs, and accepted behaviours. Talk to people in the country about the current situation and what they feel is a go or no-go at the moment. Stay calm when travelling and observe carefully what is going on around you. Sometimes it is wise to stay out of a certain area or crowd, when your observations and your gut is telling you to do so. Avoid standing out of the crowd and better adapt to the behaviours of the local people. Stay calm, do not take unnecessary valuables with you, make copies of documents such as your passport and avoid areas, where there is no one else or where you better should stay out. You should also be familiar with the procedures of an emergency or incident. Again, stay calm and do not try to be a hero – better leave the car when someone stops you on a road and asks you to leave (this happened once during a trip to Brazil during day light in midst of a major city). What is important: the incidents are caused by a very small number of criminals, terrorists or thieves. The majority of people is supportive and helps you to get out of the situation if something happens (I experienced once very friendly people giving me money to continue my journey after my wallet was stolen and no money was left).
In essence, we should not leave the world to the terrorists and criminals of this world. Demonstrate through your behavior, that we love freedom and peace, that we all share the same beliefs and collaborate on a global level. Enjoy your travels and stay safe (just preparing for my next journey to South Africa).