The flight is available. The hotel can confirm your suite upgrade. All the stars are aligned so you book. It’s only after making this arrangement that it dawns on you that perhaps you should’ve checked the weather for when you are traveling. You Google “Weather in . . . February”. Your heart sinks when you see that the worst time to travel to [INSERT BEACH SPOT] are the exact dates that you have selected. Obstinate, you research the historical trends for the last ten years for the exact GPS coordinates of your hotel. Sadly, there has been a constant drizzle in that very spot the majority of the time but a couple of years ago it was partly cloudy.
Do you go? If you’re a lover of rain then absolutely. If you’re a bad gambler who believes that it will be sunny this time around, then you proceed. Finally, if you are lazy and you can’t be bothered to change your perfect reservation, you rationalize that weather isn’t that important and stick to the plan. When you do arrive and it is indeed raining, don’t complain about being stuck in your room.
That exaggerated example is another attempt to explain to my friend that there are certain places in the world that are not worth visiting when there is a credible risk of a terrorist attack. A couple of months ago, I wrote a post calling for the Arab World to take on ISIS in Istanbul. The backlash of the misinterpreted post was that TPOL is ‘letting the terrorists win’ by suggesting that tourists shouldn’t visit Turkey. While the post has little to do with tourism, I was called a coward by many who probably never leave the United States in the first place.
This time the debate is centered on the prudence of going to Tunisia, a beautiful country in North Africa with stunning beaches. Unknown to most, the failed Arab Spring began in Tunisia when a banana vendor set himself on fire in protest to the government’s interference with his business. In January 2015, 38 people were killed Riu Imperial Marhaba and Soviva, Port El Kantaoui, Sousse when Islamic militants opened fire.
I’m going to be as deliberate as possible in analyzing if I would go to a place like Tunisia. First, it has to be stated that innocent people lost their lives while on holiday because of the action of cowards. I need to make this point clear because regardless if your plans aren’t changed by terrorist or terrorist threats, innocent people were actually killed by these extremists.
With no great transition, I’m going to shift the discussion as to why I would not go to Tunisia tomorrow. (Tunisia in this case represents a number of countries which were popular tourist destinations that have become increasingly unstable.)It is not because I am scared of a terrorist attack. It is not because I am letting the terrorists win. It is for the selfish, simple, and superficial reason that I do not think it would be fun. Security hassles, a city on lock down, and a populous on edge is not my idea of a good time. I experienced something similar when I went to Sharm el-Sheikh only days after the Russian jetliner was downed by ISIS. I ended up in a ghost town with the few remaining tourists noticeably nervous. Nobody was talking about going to Space or Pacha for a night of debauchery. The conversation was centered around the safety of the hotel, if terrorists would, like they did in Mumbai, attack from the unsecured beach, and how countries like Britain were having a mandatory evacuation for its citizens. That situation along with the worst food poisoning of my life made the trip to Sharm terrible.
In sharp contrast to visiting a party destination, the explorer in me would like to go back to my parent’s home country of Iraq. I would love to see where my parents grew up, eat at local restaurants, and experience what life is really like there at present. I recognize that it isn’t the safest place in the world and I would be as vigilant as possible, even if this would do little to prevent something catastrophic from happening. That heightened awareness is something that is necessary when going into a war zone. It is not something that I would want to deal with when going on vacation. For example, when I went to Cancun, I appreciated that I could have three yard glasses at Senor Frogs, stumble home, and the chances of something bad happening to me may not have been 0% but were relatively low.
Today in Tunisia, that carefree attitude would not be possible. And until it is, I’m going to take my liver somewhere else where it can be more inefficiently utilized.