Life is unpredictable

Sultanahmet square

 

Sultanahmet square
Obelisk in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, where the suicide bomber attacked in Jan 2016. 10 people killed. 15 injured.

In the old city of Istanbul, adjacent to Blue Mosque, stands the Obelisk. This photo was taken only a couple of days after the January 2016 suicide bomber killed 10 people and injured 15 others.

I was not in that part of the city when it happened. I did not hear or feel the bomb go off. It was a strong blast, but was only felt in the immediate area. A week later, it looks like most of the world has already forgotten about it and moved on to other news.

I was in Istanbul, only a few kilometres away, when the bomb went off. My local friends immediately began messaging me to make sure I was safe and to tell me to stay home, or at least out of crowded areas. I was shocked and saddened, but not really scared.

After the bombing, I never once considered leaving the city because of the events. I actually didn’t want to leave at all. I felt like I had the opportunity to show people that expats are alive and well in Istanbul and it is not a scary place to be. Yes, there was a bomb, but you can’t just run away from what ‘might’ happen next. Unfortunately my visa was nearing it’s end and I had to leave the country or I’d be there illegally.

The truth is, our world is a scary place. There are terrorist attacks, bombings, traffic accidents, murders, thieves, plane crashes and incurable diseases. All of these things are unpredictable.

Life itself is unpredictable.

I know many people are scared to travel, but to what end? I cannot stress enough what a negative impact the media has on travel. So many people believe that the entirety of Turkey is a dangerous place to be. When, in fact, the only areas that have strict travel advisories are along the borders with Syria. The other communities and cities are every bit as safe as any other large city in any destination, such as Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Buenos Aires in Argentina or Barcelona in Spain.

I don’t mean to alarm you, but cities are not safe … ever. It is just that simple. There is petty crime, tourist crime, murders and traffic accidents in every single city. Then there are the mafia, drug crime and bombs … the list of ‘bad’ goes on. However, the stats show clearly, that the number of people killed by terrorist activities are far less than that from traffic accidents. Many more people are killed from hand guns than bombings. And let’s not forget traffic accidents. If you are operating a vehicle in Canada, you are more likely to be killed than by traveling to Istanbul or Paris or Jakarta.

Perspective …  There is no advance notice of either a traffic accident or a bomb and therefore you can’t purposely change your location to avoid it.

In the end, what I am saying is that you shouldn’t stop traveling to an entire country because a bomb has gone off in one small area of one city. Avoiding all of Istanbul because of the bomb in the Old City is like avoiding all of Prince Edward Island because a bomb went off in the centre of Charlottetown. Is that reasonable?

Isn’t it also amazing that the CITY of Istanbul is the same area as the entire province of PEI? Holy!

With that in mind, would you avoid all of Atlantic Canada because a bomb went off in Charlottetown? No, of course you wouldn’t. That would be ridiculous. But, if you are avoiding Turkey because of the bomb in Istanbul or because of the problems along the borders with Syria, it is the same thing. Media would have you believe that Turkey is a dangerous place and makes it seem so small, but it is not. There are hundreds of kilometres between Istanbul and the capital of Ankara. There are hundreds of kilometres between either of those cities and the borders with Syria and Iraq. Don’t let media scare you!

I ask you to remember the innocent lives lost in these tragedies around the world (Paris, Jakarta, Istanbul, 9-11, hurricane Katrina … the list goes on), but please do not stop living your life because of unpredictable circumstances. You might stay home for fear of a suicide bomb, just to find out that you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. You might avoid flying because of two recent severe turbulence incidents, just to end up in a car accident.

I don’t say these things lightly. They are spoken from experience and from the heart. I was in a plane crash in Fredericton, NB in 1997. I let that hold me back for over 10 years. For 10 years I missed out on incredible opportunities to see the world. I lived in fear of getting back on a plane.

I am here telling you that life is precious and unpredictable. Do not let your fear of the unknown keep you from living, tasting, touching, feeling all of the amazing things our great big beautiful world has to offer.

I am thankful to be alive. Thankful that my life has changed and that fear does not reign any longer. I am thankful to have been in the beautiful city of Istanbul to share my experiences with you first hand.

Travel. See the world. Enjoy the beauty that surrounds us on your own terms. Don’t let the unpredictable control your life.

With love, and passion for travel … from Istanbul,

Shari

 

Fear vs Bravery

A lot of people know that I am heading out on my next big journey. This time to South East Asia, where I have never been before. People, for the last couple of weeks, have been asking ‘Are you excited?’ I know they’ve all been expecting a resounding ‘YES!’, but they’ve all gotten a different answer.

‘No, I’m not excited. Right now I’m scared. I’ll be excited when I actually make it to Yangon, Myanmar.’

Yes, you heard it, straight from me. I’m scared.

For those of you who seem to think I’m an old pro at traveling the world, you’re only seeing the outside. Inside, my stomach has been churning for weeks. In fact, I nearly had a panic attack when I booked the flights in May, confirming that I would actually be going. Since then, the fear has grown. I try to keep it under control and not let it overtake my life, but I have to admit, it does overtake my excitement.

So, right now, no, unfortunately I’m not excited. I’m stressed.

For years, on and off, I’ve seen a counsellor for many reasons, not the least of which is to deal with issues from the plane crash that I was in, in 1997. I know not everyone knows that I was in a real live plane crash (well, now you do), and sometimes people just forget, but EVERY SINGLE TIME I go to board a plane I think about that crazy-scary night in December 1997. It’s been 16 years, but it just isn’t something that you forget. And, with each day as my departure gets closer I think about it more and more.

A couple of weeks ago I was in talking to my counsellor and she said something to me about my fear that made sense. (She often does make sense, that’s why I see her!)

She had said that it’s very brave of me to be going on this big journey alone. I wasn’t feeling very brave, I was overcome with fear. What she told me is that the difference between the two is that someone who is brave isn’t any less scared, they just choose to face their fear and move forward, rather than letting their fear consume them.

Well, how could I argue with that?

Hearing this from someone else made it so clear to me that having fear is actually alright. I can’t push it away because it is natural, but I have accepted it and stopped beating myself up over it. And, most importantly, I’m not giving in to it.

I’ve struggled with this for 16 years. It is a big part of me as it was a life changing event. For nearly 11 of those years, I let the fear consume me and I refused to fly. I wouldn’t even consider it.

For the last six years, I’ve faced that fear. The fear doesn’t ever go away though.

I am about to embark on the longest journey (in distance) that I have been on. The farthest away from home, the longest flights and the most plane / airport changes to get to my final destination.

When I get back home to Canada in September, you should give me a hug … I’ll need one after all of this travel.

It is not going to be easy, but I am going to do it.

Maybe the biggest lesson I learned from the plane crash (and have been reminded of through regular travel), is to be thankful. Thankful that I survived that plane crash so that I have the opportunity to see the world. The crash wasn’t meant to hold me back, it was meant to catapult me forward to bigger and better things, new adventures, new opportunities, new challenges and most importantly, living life.

911 calls from Asiana Flight 214

Having survived a plane crash myself in 1997 at the Fredericton, NB airport, I feel for these passengers deeply and know the struggles that they are about to have going forward. The shock doesn’t wear off for a couple of weeks and then it really hits.

Although I am now able to fly (after 10 years), I struggle with it time and time again. And, every plane crash that hits the news stabs a steak in my heart as I feel the pain and fear all over again.

My heart goes out to the survivors of this horrible crash. And my own heart constricts with anxiety at the thought of flying to Asia in just four short weeks.

Until you’ve been through something like this, you can never understand the impact it has on your life and how even 16 years later it can make you emotional, fearful and thankful to be alive.

~Shari

My Travel & Adventure Wish List – Subject to Change

In order to fully understand the depth and importance of my travel and adventure wish list. You need to understand a little about my past. Let me catch you up …

Up until 2008 I thought I was never going to explore anywhere outside of the US and Canada. I had been in a plane crash in 1997 and was afraid to fly. In July 2008, I took my first flight since the plane crash. I still regularly find myself anxious over flying and scared during take off and landing, but I have vowed to travel far and wide and see as many places as I can see in my lifetime. In the past six years, through these challenges, obstacles and achievements, I have become a new person.

From July 2008 until today, I have visited the following places (by plane).
July 2008 – Bermuda – my first flight after the plane crash
October 2008 – New York City – 30th birthday celebration
January 2009 – Costa Rica & Nicaragua
August 2009 – Newfoundland
October 2009 – Bermuda
April 2010 – Cuba
June 2010 – Ottawa
August 2010 – St. Pierre & Miquelon, France (although it is off the Coast of Newfoundland)
November 2010 – New Orleans
March 2011 – Mexico, Germany & Poland
February 2012 – Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands, Peru
April 2012 – Dominican Republic
July – August 2012 – Dominican Republic
January 2013 – Toronto

As much as my perception of life changed because of the plane crash in 1997, my perception and perspective on life changed again as I sat admiring Machu Picchu in Peru in February of 2012. I was slowly embarking on a change of thought process, a better way to live my life and a self-discovery journey.

A year ago, my travel and adventure wish list consisted of Central and South America. I love Spanish. I love Latin culture and I wanted to explore this region in depth. I didn’t even really know which countries were located where, just that I loved the culture. It was a pretty broad wish list, honestly, with very little depth.

I went to the Dominican Republic for the summer (2012) to learn Spanish so that I could communicate better while traveling in Central / South America. I loved it!

While I was away, my life continued to change and my perceptions and perspectives were regularly challenged.

When I came home in September (2012), life changed, as it often does and I embarked on a journey to change careers. The journey had really started in February 2012 at Machu Picchu, but the first seven months were me figuring it out. Then from September to November, it was about me taking action to make a big change.

Since I started working at The Adventure Travel Company in November 2012, my broad and shallow wish list has exploded with energy and curiosity about places I never even knew existed!

Below, I am sharing with you my travel and adventure wish list as of March 2013. I have limited the list to 15 items that are top priority for me at this time. I look forward to writing another wish list in March 2014 to see what has changed, what I have checked off my list and where my dreams have wandered!

Shari’s Travel and Adventure Wish List
Very important to me are: sustainable travel, supporting (not harming) communities during my travels, living with locals, volunteering when possible, practicing my Spanish language skills, getting off the beaten path and not spending a lot of time in large cities.
*In their current order of importance to me.

1. Me to We Volunteer Trip (Kenya or India) – It is at the top of my list as it is extremely important to me, yet I don’t expect to go on this adventure until 2014.
2. Vietnam – including Sapa, Mui Ne, Halong Bay, taking part in the Full Moon Festival, cycling in the countryside.
3. Burma / Myanmar – I really want to go before it becomes an in demand destination. Cycling is on my to do list here as well as lodge at a monastery (not a hotel).
4. Croatia – including Split & Dubrovnik
5. Spanish school (Guatemala / Belize / Honduras / Nicaragua)
6. Gorilla Trek (likely in Rwanda)
7. African Safari (South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania or Botswana)
8. Cape Town, South Africa – because of Nelson Mandela
9. Hot Air Balloon ride – over Cappadocia, Turkey or the Maasai Mara, Kenya
10. Bhutan – Because of the happiness factor
11. Celebrating New Year’s in another country
12. Italy – Tuscany / Venice
13. Greece – Cinque Terre
14. Colombia
15. Morocco

Care to share what’s on your travel & adventure list?