As I looked down at the amazing Cappadocia countryside, it hit me how much fear can inhibit one from experiencing new things in life. You see, I am scared to death of heights, not even being able to approach the railing of a balcony if more than a few stories above ground. So, when I was invited on an educational trip to Turkey this spring and realized that one of the components of it was a hot air balloon ride, I accepted with the caveat that I wouldn’t have to participate in that gravity challenging experience.
Of course, as the evening before the ride arrived and everyone in my small group was feeling excitement about the next morning, I started wavering in my determination to not participate. Not because I received any flak from any of the group but instead because I just had this feeling deep in my gut that if I didn’t go up in the balloon I would always regret it (of course, in my gut that feeling was very much in argument with my belief that if I did go up the balloon was likely to crash!!!). So, at the ungodly hour of 4:30am the next morning, there I was in the office of the balloon company waiting with my group for the decision as to whether or not the iffy weather conditions would allow the balloons to take off. Apprehensively watching the TV screen that would provide that answer, I knew while everyone else was hoping for a green light indicating all was fine with going up, I was silently praying for the red light which would mean no flights that morning and no decision for me to make.
But, such as my luck is, the light eventually turned green. And you know what? Instantly, within that split second, I said yes to myself…I would take the plunge (rather, the rise!). And at that moment, all the fear of gliding up in the air in a modern day version of the Hindenburg drained out of my system. Instead, I only felt excitement, which stayed with me out to the field where the balloon we would be taking was lying on its side on the ground. And, that excitement only continued to get stronger as I stood there watching the balloon being filled with helium and rising beautifully into the air. Even the fire shooting into the balloon as we rose off the ground was nothing short of magical.
So there I was, gliding in the air over the unique and amazing countryside of Cappadocia, enjoying every moment. And, me, so disappointed fifty minutes later when we landed and I knew the adventure was over. And knowing, I so easily could have missed out on something that I will always remember as a high point in the travels of my life.
In a way, this experience felt a bit like the entire idea of traveling to Turkey in the first place. I am often asked by clients whether I think Turkey is a safe country to visit. As with any destination, I try to answer that the most honest way I can by replying that there is always some risk with any trip; something bad can happen when traveling just like it can stepping out into the street at home and getting hit by a bus. That in truth, it really comes down to the comfort level one feels about visiting a certain destination and that, since one of the best parts of travel is the excitement and joy of the experience, if fear or concern is going to dominate the trip it isn’t worth taking. Particularly not when there are so many wonderful places around the world to select from and so why not visit somewhere that doesn’t create a sense of concern and/or fear?
While I wasn’t worried about visiting Turkey, particularly given that we weren’t visiting the higher risk locations of Istanbul or even Ephesus, I certainly heard that concern from many people I told about the pending trip. They wondered why I would want to take the chance of traveling to such a destination when ‘things had happened there’. While I understood this concern, I was determined I wasn’t going to let fear keep me from going. I think that decision was based upon a number of reasons but one of the greatest ones was a realization I came to earlier when I was in Paris on the day of the Brussels bombings. While I was certainly a distance from the events in Brussels at the time, I knew how intertwined Paris and Brussels were in many respects, something that had started months earlier with the Paris terrorist attacks that were partly carried out by terrorists who came in from Belgium.
That day, as I left to cross town for a scheduled meeting, I considered whether or not to take the chance traveling underground on the metro. After all, a horrible event had just happened in Brussels and who knew if anything was about to happen in Paris? I considered walking or even taking a taxi, but then I got outside and a strange realization hit me. A horrific event had just occurred and who could understand it better than Parisians, who had been through their own terrorist attacks just months before? And yet they were continuing about their business, walking the streets to work and filling the underground as they always did. True, I had no idea what they were thinking or feeling (my French is worse than pathetic!) but they were still continuing on with their everyday lives. Of course, what choice did they have? I am no expert in this area, but I understood that life went on and that, no matter what they may be thinking or feeling, there was a job to get to, a child to drop off at school, a friend to meet for coffee. Whatever the reason, they were proceeding with everyday life because, well, what was the alternative? So, I made the decision that day to go down those stairs at the metro stop and cross the city just like everyone else was doing. And, nothing bad happened.
So, remembering that well, I wasn’t about to let fear get in my way as far as traveling to Turkey. And I am so happy I didn’t, because I met the nicest people, saw the most beautiful places and experienced many things that are unique about a great country that happens to be going through difficult times right now. Never did I feel fear or discomfort as far as my surroundings or from the people; they were genuinely warm and friendly and truly appreciative that I was even visiting their country, given how much tourism is down.
Do I believe that this is the right choice for everyone? No, I would never presume that. Each person’s situation is unique and everyone has a different level of comfort. Is that good or bad? No, neither, just something that each person needs to decide individually. But, as I sailed above the Cappadocia countryside, I knew that I had made the right decision for me, both with taking the trip to Turkey and also deciding to go up in that balloon. I only hope that anyone considering travel will also make a similar decision based upon their own comfort levels, because there are so many unbelievable things to experience in this world and there is no better way to do it than through travel itself!
[Provided by Earl Davis]