Today, I’m so excited to be introducing you to Lisa Call from The Table Trail. She and her husband, Sean, are also on a yearlong world tour at the moment, hopping around Europe doing workaways (where you work in exchange for room and board). Lisa is contributing to the blog today to share her story of traveling under the threat of terror. She and her husband were in Paris during the November attacks, and I was so touched by her brave and honest account of her experience.
Paris, oh Paris. The city that has always been close to the top of our travel lists. The lights, the food, the French culture, the markets, the midnight walks, and the Parisian lifestyle all lured us in with their (delicious) charm. We could not wait to experience PARIS.
When we first began planning our yearlong adventure, we took a look at a few websites, blogs, and newspapers that alerted us of dangerous cities, towns, and countries, so we did our best to plan our route accordingly by cautiously avoiding places that might not be the safest. We made ourselves very aware of where ISIS was residing and the places where we might be at risk for danger, but never did we ever think that Paris, of all places, would be a dangerous place to be.
Unfortunately, the word “terrorism” has been all too familiar in our lifetime – from terrorist attacks, to acts of terror, to people that are terrorists, to terrorist threats…it seems like it never ends. So, to say that we didn’t think of the danger that was out there while planning our trip would be a lie. A BIG lie. But, like anyone and everyone, we also had the feeling of “that won’t happen to me” and “well, we will only go to the ‘safe’ places.” That’s how we calmed our nerves, as well as our friends and family’s nerves back home.
While planning our 10 day stay in Paris, we envisioned ourselves sipping on French wine, eating baguettes with cheese, slowly meandering the café lined streets, and taking long walks with the Eiffel Tower glowing in the background. We couldn’t wait to peruse markets, pick up fresh ingredients to make ratatouille, eat 5 croissants a day and just enjoy life in Paris. And let me just be clear from the beginning…we did all of those things. We enjoyed this beautiful city and all the amazing things that make Paris…well, amazing. But, after the night of November 13th 2015, we did all of those things with caution. We did all of those things while being completely aware of our surroundings, while looking for places to hide on the street if another person decided to open fire, and while feeling a huge sense of relief when we saw a police officer guarding a grocery store.
After November 13th 2015, our days looked a bit different.
As we walked the streets of Paris on a Friday night, we felt inspired by the life that surrounded us. As we made our way to dinner, we didn’t pay much attention to the direction we were going, we stopped to view menus of restaurants that looked enchanting, and we walked down streets that were bursting with conversation, laughter and those little cafes that are so iconic in Paris. We passed by restaurants that were full of locals and sprinkled with tourists, but it was a Friday night so everywhere was a hot spot for a fun evening out on the town. Our dinner was lovely and the subway ride home felt normal. Everything was normal, until we received a phone call from my dad and the relief in his voice once we picked up said it all. Something had happened. We turned on the news to see the horror unfold right in front of us. Then, the sirens passed by our little apartment. And then more sirens. And as much as I wanted them to stop, they did not stop for hours. About ½ a mile from us is where they…those cold blooded murderers…decided to open fire and take innocent lives…in the restaurants that we had just walked by and admired hours before. We sat there with tears in our eyes, aches in our hearts, and a million thoughts racing through our heads. What do we do?
The next day is a bit of a blur. After alerting our friends and family back home that we were safe, we took the day slow. We were advised to stay indoors, so that we did. We went out for about 30 minutes for some groceries, but the fear that filled my body of even being outside was enough for me to realize that I was terrified. My sweet husband calmed me down each time it became a little bit too much to handle and he was my constant reminder that we are living out God’s plan and to trust him with my fears and anxieties. We thought about our options – to leave, or to stay? Where is safe? What form of travel is safe? What does “safe” even mean anymore? Home…home sounded nice. But if we went home, they would win. They would have succeeded in making us feel like we are not welcome in this world and that they accomplished a state of fear that makes us feel crippled by daily life. So with that being said, we stayed.
The next day, we experienced a side of Paris that was beautiful beyond words. The kind of Paris that no one should ever have to experience, but it was the kind that brought us to tears. The love that was spread over the city like a blanket of hope and compassion for the 130 innocent people that lost their lives that tragic night was an amazing sight to see. We visited the memorials and paid our respects as we watched people embrace one another in a loving hug, share a moment of silence, light candles in remembrance, and leave love notes and flowers for the fallen. The mood was somber and overwhelming. The bustling city was quiet and mournful. But the people of Paris made sure that they remained unafraid, and that Paris is still as beautiful and as wonderful as ever before.
Despite the strength that came from the people of Paris and in the thousands of military and police personnel that surrounded the city, fear still sat on the forefront of everyone’s mind, including us. Like I mentioned earlier, as we walked down the street, I was constantly scanning the street for suspicious behavior and looking for a place to hide. While we were on the subway, I found myself keeping my eye on anyone and everything and I was very aware of people’s personal belongings. Every time I heard a siren, I prayed to God that it wasn’t because of another attack. To a point, it was crippling. I was scared of large crowds, famous monuments, and sitting next to a window at a café. But life went on…the people of Paris made sure that bistros would be full again, bands would play at the Bataclan theater once more, and the terrorists would not win over their spirit.
We enjoyed our next few days in Paris by taking in the beauty that was around us. All of those things that we wanted to visit Paris for, we did. Along with the Parisians, we too did not want to be haunted daily by that night so we ate the baguettes, took the midnight walks, visited the Eifel Tower, got lost in little bookstores, and ate the croissants every morning. We fell in love with Paris during our 10 day stay. We fell in love with the people, their loving hearts, their compassion, and their devotion to their city. The twinkling lights, delicious food, and beautiful sites were all just cherries on top of the ultimate magic of Paris because the people were the true star and seeing their strength shine through their compassion was completely inspiring.
As we left Paris, we left with heavy hearts but excited for a new adventure in London. I wish I could say that our fear diminished quickly, but it definitely did not. The anxiety that flooded me when I realized that police were not checking the bags on our bus from Paris to London brought me to hysterical tears and once again, forced my husband to remind me that we are in God’s protecting hands. Once in London, another wave of fear came over me as I thought I spotted a suspicious person on our very crowded train. I whispered to my husband “we need to get off this train” while tears flooded my eyes. It was then that I realized that I was letting those heartless people win over my spirit, and keeping me from seeing the good in others. And it was in that moment that I made the decision to fully trust in God’s plan for me…instead of using that as a crutch when I got scared. I have always admired that about my husband, and even during this frightening time, he still had that peace. That spirit that I have always loved so much about him.
We are only 4 months into our year of travel, and for a moment I thought we might cut it short to remain safe. But now I know that the world is an absolutely beautiful place and unfortunately, we cannot shield ourselves from a life of danger by doing our best to remain “safe.” If we lived each day safely, we would miss beautiful people, beautiful places, and beautiful opportunities to see the good in the world. As we move forward with our plans, we are excited to see the green rolling hills of Ireland, listen to music in a Scottish pub, eat another croissant in France, lay by the beach in Bali, visit a floating market in Thailand, and see a temple in Cambodia. We might be living in a fearful world right now, but I truly believe it is up to us to remain good and continue to see the places that God so graciously built for us. Waking up to my husband in new places around the world is the kind of security and the kind of happiness that terrorists cannot take away, and I refuse to let them. As we pray daily for the peace of our world and for those that have been affected by attacks, we also hope to be a beacon of light by encouraging others to continue with their dreams instead of living in the shadow of fear.