“Why are you going to France? It’s so dangerous- it’s asking for trouble going there. I know I’ll never go. You’re foolish.”
Such was the response that followed as I mentioned to a friend that I planned to spend a few days in my beloved France next month. Initially I was shocked, but could vaguely justify it. It’s undeniable that France has unfortunately fallen victim to horrendous terror attacks. I can still remember where I was every time that I opened my phone to discover, with horror, of yet another terrorist attack in the cities that I love and towns that I had yet to visit- Paris, Nice and Rouen. I can clearly remember frantically texting my friends living in those cities to ensure that they were safe. Certainly, as I learn of yet another terrorist attack on a innocent priest in Rouen I feel physically ill.
France is one of the loves of my life. I credit my Erasmus year in France (and much of my personal happiness) to incredible friendships that I established with others there, our mutual interest being all things French. I often long to return to lazy afternoons spent getting lost in the winding streets of Lyon, my only worry being an 8am French grammar class the following day. I must mention that not all of my experiences in France have been overly positive. I fled an au pair job in the Loire Valley after ten days and had an admittedly mediocre time working in Disneyland. However, I refuse to allow two uninspiring jobs cloud my experiences of France- particularly given that the jobs allowed me to experience the wonderful Paris.
Recent events in France cannot be underestimated nor justified. The seemingly constant stream of unprovoked terrorist attacks are terrifying. And understandably, people are fearing- tourism has fallen in France by 8%. I personally know International Language students who have deliberately chosen to skip their Erasmus year in France as a result of their fear of living in the country. It’s also difficult to ignore the collective yawn of “I told you so” when yet another terrorist attack occurs in France.
And should we avoid France? I believe not. I regularly visit France- at least three times per year. The terrorist attacks have certainly informed each of my subsequent visits- I ensured that I visited the Bataclan and the homage at the Place de la République on a recent trip to Paris to pay my respects to the deceased. As a French teacher, it’s in my professional interest to visit to maintain my language skills- although my visits are admittedly more pleasure (and croissant) based. We cannot allow France- and everything positive that it has to offer- to become overshadowed by the behaviour of extremists.
“But what if you get caught up in a terrorist attack?”, my concerned friend questioned. Indeed, that would be entirely unfortunate. But again, what if I were involved in a freak car accident driving home after that very conversation? What if I were to get knocked down out while out for my daily run? I would have no control over these situations- terrorism included. And why would, or could, I allow something that I have no control over to control me?
If you are considering going to France, I urge you to go. Whether on a short term or long term visit, I urge you to go. Watch the sunset from the Eiffel Tower. Relax on the beach in Nice. May the most of your travel related worries be regarding the questionable attitudes of some waiting staff. You might even meet me wandering around the tiny streets of Vieux Lyon, the only difference from a few years ago being that I no longer have an 8am grammar class to worry about….
In the words of the tremendous French author, Albert Camus-
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”