I’m preparing to board a long-haul flight from Melbourne to Berlin and every newspaper at the departure lounge screams news of the Nice atrocity. TV monitors at the gate report live from the military coup taking place in Turkey. Europe seems gripped with terror and political upheaval – and I’m about to jump on a plane there.
The breaking news weighs heavily as I queue up for baggage check and pass through security. Although no one is talking about it openly, I wonder how anyone here, especially those of us heading to Europe, couldn’t feel at least a hint of anxiety about the randomness and frequency of these incidents.
For me, returning to Berlin is always something of a homecoming. I will be reuniting with some of my oldest and dearest friends in one of the worlds most exciting and vibrant cities – a city where history and politics is writ large. This time I will take part in the annual Berlin Christopher Street Day, a celebration of Berlin’s gay community.
So far Germany has been spared major terror incidents, but my friend who I will rendezvous with in Berlin took the precaution of changing his flights to Istanbul so as to avoid it after the attack on Ataturk Airport last week. He later spoke of feeling torn by the decision, disappointed that he had succumbed to the fear of violence despite his love of Turkey.
I told him I thought it was a wise decision under the circumstances, and clearly many others feel the same: according to some estimates holiday bookings to Turkey are down about 40 per cent this European summer.
For many, it seems a spate of terrorism incidents amplified by mass viral media have changed the experience of travel by introducing a diabolical note of anxiety. It seems much of the world has the travel jitters right now – and many are electing to remain in the safety of their homes.
All statistics tell us the chances of getting caught up in a terrorist act are small, but that doesn’t stop the anxiety that now accompanies such journeys – especially to countries that have recently been struck by terror. No one in their right mind would deliberately put themselves or those they care about into harm’s way.
Yet aside from staying home, how should we respond to the fear of indiscriminate terror?
Our best defence is our shared belief in humanity and freedom. The words of Roosevelt seem to hold true today as they did when he uttered them in the 1930s: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Whether it’s the Orlando attacks in a gay club or a crazed loner mowing down a crowd in the French Riviera, while remaining mindful of the risks it’s crucial we continue to set forth into the world with the same sense of adventure and openness as ever.
Clearly the point of terrorism is to terrify people – so the best response is to get on with our lives and keep travelling, keep living. I plan to dance and celebrate as hard as ever in Berlin this weekend.
The article first appeared in The Age