Belgique

As I’ve traipsed from city to city, through hotels, hostels, and homes, I can feel the pulse of this continent – the interconnectedness. I’m currently in a country that shares 4 borders, has 3 national languages, and headquarters NATO and the EU. As much as the US is supposed to be a melting post, this place is definitely making a run for its money. I’m so excited to see what particular adventures I will have here.

EU

In other news, I wanted to take a moment to discuss freedom of travel as it pertains to terrorism. I had two responses from people when I told them I’d be traveling through Belgium after the recent attacks in Brussels: “Aren’t you afraid?” and “Good for you!” Obviously, I am classified in the “good for you” category, and I’ll tell you why.

I remember 9/11. I was a young teen at the time, and – as most others in America and particularly those who grew up outside New York City – I could tell you where I was sitting and what I was doing when the first plane hit. I remember how no one knew what to do with us at first, and they let some of the other kids whose parents worked in the city go into the teachers lounge to watch TV, just to feel like they were doing something. I remember that cell service was overloaded (which was still a younger tech), and no one could get through to anyone else. I remember how my father had been to the towers for business meetings just days before, and was supposed to go to a meeting in the building across the street from the towers that day, and he played hooky to stay home and garden with my mother, instead. I remember attending the candlelight vigils in the town square in the weeks that followed, as we came together for those who had lost people to those horrific acts.

candlelight-vigil.png

It is not in spite of those memories but rather because of them that I travel as I do. It’s not just because I realize that these horrible acts can happen anywhere at any time, but it is about enjoying every day we have because life is precious. It’s about meeting the world’s people. I feel so compelled to live my life and explore the lives of others as much as possible to determine the things that bring us together and recognize what draws us apart. And thus far in my travels I have learned that if you strip away the cultural norms and layers of ideology that have been thrust upon us by our communities, we are all so fundamentally the same. As much as I had an aversion to being forced to read about philosophers in college, some of that resonates with me now: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. First, the most basic needs of man: satiating thirst and hunger. This is followed next by safety and then connecting to others, connecting to oneself (self-esteem), and the ultimate goal: self-actualization.

“What a man can be, he must be.” – Abraham Maslow

I don’t say any of this to be preachy or to tell you how to live your lives, but only to express some insight into how I feel that I must live mine. My desire to travel will never be sated. Although we may share the fundamentals, there are innumerable combinations of how the facets of a person come together on top of that base. As often as I take photos of the architecture, tour the sights, and absorb the historical commentary relevant to the areas I visit, there is one thing that drives me to leave the comfort of my home, time and  time again: people. This is why some of my fondest moments not only include peacefully drifting down a canal in a gondola in Venice, but also shivering while crammed inside a tent at 12,000ft with a storm barreling down the mountain on top of us. It is the shared experience. It is the love of an old friend and the forging of a new friendship. It is connectedness.

This is why I travel.

– Elsie

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