In 2014, my college-age daughter asked about going to France to study with an engineering group from Oklahoma University.
She was young but she is very self-reliant. And she was very set on making this summer internship trip which would last for several weeks.
My kids have traveled, mostly in this region and to Florida. They are mostly grown and they know how to navigate through airports. And they are very trustworthy.
I saw this trip as a chance for her to grow, to travel internationally and to learn new things.
As a father, I also had two concerns. First, I wanted to know who would be her traveling companions and where they would stay. They would stay at a university in Clermont and they would be chaperoned by OU staff and faculty.
My biggest concern was for her safety.
Have you ever seen the movie Taken? In that film, two young girls (the same age as my daughter) travel to Paris and are abducted by slave traders. One dies and the other is rescued by her father (a retired CIA agent).
We live in a dangerous world.
My daughter didn’t share my level of concern about the dangers of traveling in Europe. I didn’t think my concern was strong enough to forbid her from going but I wanted her to know that I had concerns so that would raise her awareness that there could be danger in international travel.
She went and there were no problems. (That just proves that God answers prayer).
A few years earlier, my oldest son joined the Oklahoma National Guard and was sent to Kuwait for nine months.
My concern for him was off the charts.
There were people in that region who wanted to kill American soldiers. Fortunately, he saw no combat. But I knew that he knew that we live in a very dangerous world, one in which people (mostly Islamic terrorists) would like to kidnap young men and women and then cut their heads off.
The violent Islamic attack on Paris in November is clear evidence that the suicidal mania that infects these Muslims can pop up anywhere (one beheaded a woman in Oklahoma City earlier this year).
Does this mean it’s not safe to leave your house?
No, of course not. The issue is to take proper precautions.
In January of this year, my three children (plus our daughter-in-law), my wife and I got on a cruise ship in Port Tampa in Florida and sailed to Mexico.
Security on the ship was good, but I would be a bit more nervous getting on a cruise ship these days. They would seem like a big target for terrorists.
When we docked in Cozumel, our situation seemed very safe yet I was not completely at ease. It is a tourist city and you would expect that the local economy is so dependent on cruise passengers that no one would let any harm befall them.
But we still live in a dangerous world.
Every time you board an airplane, there is a bit of doubt about the safety. The passengers are screened pretty thoroughly but what about the minimum wage workers that work in the airports? I am certain they go through background checks but no system designed by man is foolproof.
I would be willing to travel internationally, but Paris and Mali (and anywhere in the Middle East) would not be my destination of choice. Why court danger?
I have wanted to travel to Israel, which has perhaps the best security in the world, but a trip there right now just does not seem prudent.
I went to the Russian Far East in 1997. Three couples who were adopting Russian babies and I spent a week in Blagoveshchensk, Russia, and then a second week in Moscow.
I never felt completely safe in Blago or Moscow. My fears might have been unwarranted but they were there nonetheless.
In America, you can travel to any state and have a relatively safe feeling. That may not be true in places like Chicago, Detroit or some other big cities.
I was walking down the street in Blago when a drunken Russia walked up and started yelling at me in Russia, which I don’t speak. I asked our interpreter what he was shouting and she answered, “You don’t want to know.”
I could tell by the tone that it wasn’t pleasant.
In Moscow, the wonderful subway system is populated with Gypsies who prey on foreigners. We were told to keep together as a group because the Gypsies like to surround Americans and lift their wallets. (I didn’t have a wallet with me – I carried a money belt inside my pants for safety).
I am sure there are plenty of safe places to visit but I suspect that the recent rash of Islamic terror attacks will affect American travel abroad this summer. Schools may postpone trips and churches might delay summer mission trips (especially for youth groups) because of the terror threat.
It’s a dangerous world we live in.