What’s the biggest reason I waited until I was 28 to travel abroad? If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have presented a convincing argument with excuses like: money, grad school, work, and not having someone to go with me.
What’s the real reason I waited so long? Fear.
Embarrassingly enough, fear of the unknown and fear of danger, ridiculously exaggerated by the U.S. media, infiltrated my mind before both of my Europe trips. And fear stopped me from starting my solo adventures years earlier. For no rational reason. Because the U.S. has become an increasingly ignorant, fear-mongering cesspool. (I am an American, and I do plan to move back to my country, and I can say this because I am laughed at by citizens of other countries when I explain that fear is the main emotion I receive from those who don’t travel.)
Why is it still so common for Americans to naively (and arrogantly?) assume that the safest option anyone has is to stay in America, and that to leave the country must involve fear? I don’t want to waste any more time venting about this when I have beautiful Nice to talk about, but this is related. Because despite many opinions I hear, there is no statistic that claims the U.S. to be anywhere near the safest country, and to suggest that there is a serious, calculated threat of danger for foreigners to visit Europe is not only foolish, but offensive.
I woke up in Florence, Italy on July 15, 2016 to learn that Nice, France, where we had been the day before, had been the target of a horrific attack. The same promenade we joyfully walked through, admiring the lights shining off the tiled panels on the ground, after gazing at the sea under the moonlight, was where travelers no different than us lost their lives because of a hateful, senseless act of terror.
I’d never been so close to tragedy before, and the news really shook me up. In times like that, sometimes the natural response is to reevaluate what matters in your life. In those immediate afterthoughts, I reminded myself how lucky I felt to be traveling, and that it was especially important to defend my ideals and my lifestyle and to promote adventuring and community building worldwide. Even as my thoughts raced, obsessing over loose ends with people from my past, reaching out to those most important to me, many of whom weren’t sure where I was, I knew that the answer was not to change course and run home to hide. Not then, and not in future travels, either.
I appreciate the privilege I have to travel, and I want to support foreign communities going forward and not let fear and hate and absolute evil win out. With that, here’s a summary of my wonderful two nights in Nice.
First impressions: I loved feeling the tropical humidity as soon as we stepped off the bus and entered our hotel (yes, you read that right–Nice was one of the few cities where we enjoyed a luxurious upgrade from hostels). Nice is a popular holiday spot for Europeans, and we intermingled with other tourists during our time there. As with most beach towns, it was the type of place (my favorite kind) where walking around in swimsuits or coverups is common; as if to say, let’s be real, we’re all here to go to the beach.
And that we did. But first, I went for a jog with Fi to climb up to a viewing spot to see over the beach as the sun rose. After a nap on my clean, comfy bed, Cassie and I ventured to the beach as the temperature rose above 30 Celsius. The ginormous rocks that took the place of where sand should have been hurt my wussy feet so badly, but we lay out (after arranging the rocks), and gazed out at the perfect teal water. Seriously, the color was unreal. We took a dip, though the waves were gnarly, whipping us around quite a bit, so it was back to the beach.
Because step 2 (after step 1: beach) of a beach vacation is eat, Cassie and I ate a delicious Italian meal–filling enough to carry us straight into our evening visiting Monaco, where we could cross another country off. Not convinced that we should spend our hard-earned trip money on the MonteCarlo, we instead chilled in a pod at a ritzy rooftop bar, watched an awkward photo shoot of a couple that had at least 3 photographers, drooled over the skyline, and drank wine in front of the shimmery rooftop pool. Not a bad life, we thought. Not a bad life, and a life that wouldn’t exist if fear were allowed to interfere.