Sri Lanka makes me wonder if going abroad is really worth the risk
PUBLISHED: 09:19 22 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:53 22 April 2019
Our hearts go out to those affected by the terrible events in Sri Lanka. But is it time to wonder whether we might be better staying at home?
Who would go to Sri Lanka now?
Just as people stopped worrying about tsunamis (because of course climate change is no longer a problem – right?), now the tragic bombings are likely to hit tourism for another decade.
And with Brexit making everything even more uncertain, I wonder if it is time to ask the question. Are we not, really, better off staying at home?
I've just spent a peaceful Easter weekend with my family and looking around the gathering, everyone talking at once, my father trekking round the garden searching for Easter eggs with his grandsons – a tragically empty basket in his hand while theirs overflowed - I couldn't imagine a happier scene.
The world is available to us as never before.
We can go anywhere, a change that has come about in my lifetime, since I recall that my own grandmother never left these shores.
Her sister emigrated to New Zealand after the War but although light blue air mail envelopes used to go back and forth regularly, four decades would pass and they would never see each other again.
Although she missed her sister greatly, I don't believe my grandmother felt she suffered for her distinctly un-cosmopolitan approach to life.
We were reminiscing about her on Easter Sunday, my parents recalling with amusement that she never used to say very much, but when she did, the weight of her words tended to drown out every other sound.
'Aren't you a bit old for my daughter?' she asked my father when he asked for permission to marry my mother (ten years his junior).
'In that moment, the air froze,' my mother said.
And of course, in the midst of the romance and excitement, it was the key question. My grandmother was uncluttered by distractions and always spoke the truth. Her focus was narrow. Family was everything. She lived a quiet, calm, happy life, although for holidays, a bit of Wales, the West Country and the North Norfolk coast represented the extent of her explorations.
While my grandfather was away in North Africa with the RAF, she received two telegrams; one said Missing, the other Missing Presumed Dead.
How she coped with this, no one ever knew because, ludicrously, none of us ever thought to ask her.
The furthest I got was an enquiry once as to how she had felt when the telegrams came.
After a long pause, she answered, 'Well, it wasn't very nice.'
But the residue of what must have been a fear few of us can imagine was that she was always afraid when any of us went anywhere outside the Suffolk border.
With memories of the Blitz still fresh one assumes, London represented a great terror. When I went to stay in Belfast, during the Troubles, she would not rest until the phone call came through to reassure her that I was still alive.
Blessedly, she did not live to see me move to New York in the weeks after 9/11.
'You can't let fear hold you back,' I would have told her.
Now, as I get closer and closer to her age, I find myself remembering the peace of her.
Though she never really went anywhere, she was happy.
I doubt she felt held back. And I suspect the fear I saw in her, she would have called common sense.
Was my father too old for my mother?
Well, he can still do a pretty mean Easter egg hunt at the age of 81 and my mother still basks in the ten years she has on him so my grandmother may not have been right about that.
But she was right to ask the question, and would have been reassured by my father's answer which told her what she really wanted to know – whether my mother's voice would be drowned out by her marriage.
'I think that is for your daughter to decide,' my father said.
So when it comes to foreign travel right now, amid all the romance and excitement that travel brings I think, were she still here, my grandmother would be freezing the air with the question, 'Is it really worth it?'
And, however things turn out in the end, she would still be right to ask.
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