Perhaps unsurprisingly given that we’re on this trip, Derek and I are fairly comfortable with risk. Ask us if we want to do an activity with a reasonably significant potential for disaster—something involving bungee jumping or white-water rafting or eating fried bugs from a street cart in a tropical city—and we’ll almost always respond in the affirmative. The thrill of the near-disaster is half the fun . . . when it’s just the two of us.
Now that half of our traveling team is under age five, though, near-disasters have lost their sheen. We’ve had to change things up a bit. Take, for instance, our next destination. It was supposed to be Istanbul. Derek has been there before, but I’ve had visions of the Blue Mosque (and, admittedly, local bazaars selling Turkish linens) dancing in my head since we first started daydreaming about this trip. So will I soon be happily photographing the tens of thousands of vibrantly colored ceramic tiles that stretch to the ceiling of that ancient mosque? Will I be cramming luxurious Turkish towels into every remaining inch of our luggage space? I will not.
We’re taking this trip in part to show our children that the world is a big, wonderful, welcoming place. We want to create little adventurers who are empowered to go where their hearts take them. But like all parents, our first priority is keeping them safe. This means paying attention to State Department travel warnings—like the one that was issued a few weeks ago advising against travel to Turkey. The chances that something could go wrong in Istanbul surely are nearly zero. But “nearly” is no longer good enough. No Blue Mosque or Turkish bazaars for me, at least not this time around.
That doesn’t mean all far-flung destinations are off our itinerary. For the most part, if a place is off the State Department’s list, it’s on our list of potentials. Bhutan is a must-see for us, as are parts of rural northern Thailand. These places, and others like them, will of course present safety challenges that, say, a trip to our beloved Sevier Park does not. Recognizing that every experience—trips to the park included—present some potential for danger, we’ll take every precaution to ensure that our kids stay safe and healthy. We’re traveling with our own car seats. We plan to switch to bottled water when we get to Asia next week. We’ve got global health insurance that covers airlifting. And our wonderful pediatrician has already taken a few calls from us that are probably pretty far afield from what she normally gets. (The most recent involved the safety of Bhutan’s high elevation levels.)
Some may question whether taking our children around the world is itself inherently unsafe. Is stepping outside of U.S. borders putting them unnecessarily at risk? Is the rest of the world a dangerous place? We don’t think so, and we’re buoyed by the fact that people we’ve met all over the world seem to think it’s unsafe to leave their own country—whatever that country may be. The unknown can be terrifying, wherever you are on the globe. For us, though, the idea of parenthood becoming a cage that keeps us from a world we love is even scarier. So, too, is the thought of raising children whose ideas about what is good, or right, or safe stop at the American line.
And so in a couple of days, we’ll once again pack our suitcases and seek out our next adventure. But not without first checking that State Department website.