Last week, a Germanwings flight crashed into the French Alps, killing 144 passengers and 6 crew members (read more here). An airplane crash is bad enough. But an airplane crash where the incident was facilitated deliberately by the co-pilot and where the victims included exchange students and babies? Well, that resonates pretty loudly and makes me question when it’s time to travel, and when it’s time to just stay put.
How safe is travel?
As a traveler, you put your lives in the hands of airplane pilots, train conductors, bus drivers, taxi drivers and boat helmsmen every time you set out for another adventure. An adventure filled with excitement and moments that define for you what it means to live – not to die. While the odds of being killed on an airplane are significantly less than your odds of being struck by oncoming traffic as you cross the street for ice cream, it still seems like a big deal. You are boarding a machine that will fly you into the sky, during which time you have absolutely no control over whether you land or… not.
Prior to this disastrous event (any loss of human life can be classified as such), while I trembled at turbulence and shuddered during take-off and landing, it never occurred to me that my worst fears could be made a reality due to the complete lack of respect someone had for human life. Sure, terrorism is a real threat. But there are measures put in place to filter out the crazies and keep everyone who does board, safe for the duration of the flight (needless to say, as history will show, even the most scrupulous screenings can breed exceptions). But to have the person in charge of your safety deliberately crash the plane in total disrespect for human life, is, or was, completely unimaginable. If you can’t trust the person behind the controls, where are you to turn for comfort when you get a case of the cold-wings?
Living Life to the Fullest (in Between the Adventure)
While the incident rocked my trust in those who facilitate my travel, it shook me to the absolute bone when I read the details naming the victims on board. Babies. There were babies. As a mom, I wanted to be sick. As a human being, I started bawling in front of my computer as I scrolled further down the screen. I started panicking about traveling with my infant and for the first time in my life started weighing the pros and cons of travel, period. I was overwhelmed by an instinctive desire to nest and keep my family safe. Even when I was pregnant, nesting wasn’t part of my active vocabulary.
Suddenly it was all I could think about. My usual reaction to something so tragic is to jump on board the “live every moment to the fullest” band wagon. A motto I normally equate with travel, adventure, laissez-faire frivolities and a whack-load of FOMO (fear of missing out), I found my interpretation suddenly… shifted. As an avid traveler and lover of everything beyond my comfort zone, my gut instinct is to plot out my next adventure week by week and live life playing a sort of connect-the-dots. I schedule exciting weekends away, extended holidays, running races and social events, only to swim around in the anticipation of what’s to come. I am constantly living life one step ahead of the present and, as a result, often miss what is right in front of my face.
Life in the Now
After reading and re-reading the details of the Germanwings crash, the idea of living every moment to the fullest has taken on a whole new meaning. Suddenly I’m less focused on planning ahead and increasingly focused on the here and now, a habit I’ve been toying with for ages but have never been able to master.
Every day, we drive on the highway hoping the drivers beside us aren’t texting. We hope not to clash with someone who might pull a weapon or be attacked by someone motivated by power, greed, or intolerance. We hope our bodies don’t suddenly fail us and pray that we are lucky enough to see our reflections grow old and grey. While planning ahead is something I’ll never stop doing (it’s the only way to keep my husband on his toes), there is something so satisfying knowing that, at any moment, if your life stops moving forwards, you can look back with absolutely no regrets because in-between the adventures, the day to day awesomeness of just being alive – was adventure enough.
Moving forward, while it goes against every grain in my body, I’m going to not panic if I can’t remember the last time I went to the gym. I’m going to let my baby make an insane mess on the living room floor, and shut down the desire to have my work phone with me during the precious hours before pick-up from daycare and bedtime. I am going to focus instead of the art of fort building, the counting of cuddles and the importance of dinners with my husband over an incredibly generous glass of red wine at the end of each day – the dishes can wait.
Living in the moment seems like the obvious way to live a full, satisfying life, but when you’re head over heels for adventure, travel and non-stop discovery, the idea of routine is as scary as the notion of setting roots down that can’t be… well, uprooted. The problem is, once you’re not the only one in the picture, you can’t always fly by the seat of your pants. So get over it – and wear a skirt once in a while. Because when push comes to shove, despite the warm and fuzzy way it makes you feel – travel won’t love you back.