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Traveling, or Not

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 28/03/2016 Stanley Ely
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I ran into George on the street, a friend who lives in my building. The terrorist attacks in Brussels were raw, and he told me that he had collapsed into tears when he heard the news that evening. "I was in that city for a conference just last year," he said, shaking his head as the memory came back to him. "We had a great time. Belgium is such a fine country, so welcoming to new arrivals." A sad smile crossed his face. "Having dozens of their people killed and wounded are the thanks they got."
For me, I always planned to stop in Brussels, and have ended up only rushing through it more than once on a high-speed train between Paris and Amsterdam. How I regret what I've missed. Reports say that Brussels will recover, maybe less well than larger cities. It will likely be hard to shed scars of the tragedy that happened there on a March morning in 2016, all the more so since it was caused by citizens who lived in the town.
The neighbor in my building is younger than me, a hardy traveler who loves adventure. "I want to travel more," he said as we stopped on the sidewalk, but he will think of it more cautiously after late events in Paris and Brussels and even San Bernadino. He proposed a bit of irony. "You're lucky in a way," he said to me. "You've done most of the traveling you wanted to do."
Two or three short getaways are still on my schedule, but I recoiled to hear George's statement hurled at me so plainly. Still, he is right--I've made no big trips, no overseas trips, for a couple of years, and have more or less accepted the fact that those likely have ended.
What happens in that case? I've found myself mentally drifting back to a dozen and more times in Paris--sometimes staying for a while to study French--or Prague or Buenos Aires or St. Petersburg twice, acting as a surrogate for my mother who left Russia as a young girl a hundred years ago when Jews were subjected to pogroms--and never wanted to go back. Those were experiences I haven't wanted to forget.
Each time I went on a distant trip I recorded it in a journal, all of them now stored neatly in yellow envelopes high on a closet shelf. Some niece or nephew would one day like to read what Uncle Stanley did, I figured. I planned to re-read the journals myself, though as it has happened, I never have.
In those journals were wrapped up details of trips that have now ebbed away, of course. The feelings, the larger picture, remain in my mind, and I'm glad they do.
I'm not dwelling on my own travels now, but of trips that others need to rethink in view of recent trouble in Europe, with the possibility of more.
So much to be reconsidered: business conferences, trips for school groups made up of kids who had saved for the experience, study abroad programs for university students, and plain tourists anticipating a long hoped-for trip overseas. Questions on a lot of minds now to determine how those will play out.
Though I've missed going to Brussels, I've felt no less anguish than my neighbor. One of my best friends is a native of Belgium, with family living still in Brussels. He wrote me this week: "My sister goes to work using that same subway line (that was hit), and she passed through that station one hour before."
He added: "My heart sinks when I see the victims on the news, all extraordinary in their banality."
Just what the terrorists aimed for.
Stanley Ely writes about travel in his book, "Life Up Close, a Memoir" in paperback and ebook.

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