Should You Let Terrorist Attacks Change Your Travel Plans?

Hello my wonder friends, how have you been?

Last week I was invited to visit Istanbul to participate in the World Tourism Forum (I even ended up appearing in a Turkish newspaper but that’s a story for another day) and I was really shocked to see how travelers’ perceptions of Istanbul have changed ever since the terrorist attack that took place here a few weeks ago.

When I visited Sultanahmet, the main square of the old city, an eerie vibe of both fear and anxiety could be felt in the eyes and hearts of the few locals and visitors that dared to explore the city after the terrorist attacks of January 2015.

To make matters worse, Turkey has seen a decline in tourism which has affected the income of the many locals involved in the industry. What happened to the wonderful city that until a few months ago was considered one of the safest ones of the region?

The answer is a complex one and that’s why this article will try its best to change your mind about whether or not you should visit places that have been hit by terrorist attacks but first, let’s take a look at some statistics, shall we?

The mosques of Istanbul, Turkey

The mosques of Istanbul, Turkey

How likely are you to die from terrorist attacks? 

According to this website, these are the statistics of dying from a terrorist attack compared to the odds of dying by other diverse factors of our everyday lives.

  • Being Struck by Lightning: 1 in 576,000
  • Dying from a Car Accident: 1 in 18,585
  • Dying from any kind of Fall: 1 in 20,666
  • Dying from Accidental Drowning: 1 in 79,065
  • Dying from Choking on Food: 1 in 370,035
  • Dying in a Fireworks Accident: 1 in 1,000,000
  • Dying from a Dog Bite: 1 in 700,000
  • Dying from Falling off a Ladder: 1 in 2,300,000
  • Dying from a Heart Disease: 1 in 5
  • Dying from a Cancer: 1 in 7
  • Dying from a terrorist attack: 1 in  25,000,000

Quite telling, isn’t it?

Sunset in Istanbul, Turkey

Sunset in Istanbul, Turkey

No way! Really? Then how come people are more scared of terrorist attacks than scared of ladders? 

The easy explanation is that there are basically two types of fears: rational fears and irrational fears.

A rational fear, for example, is worrying about whether or not you’ll survive a heart transplant. An irrational fear, on the other hand, is worrying about whether or not somebody will shoot you in cold blood the next time you go to a concert in Paris.

Rational fears are based on statistical evidence (after all, the risks of dying during a heart transplant are well documented) while irrational fears are based on anecdotical evidence (just because something happened once in an isolated event it doesn’t mean that the odds of it happening again are higher).

After all, isn’t it quite silly to think that just because you won the lottery once, there’s a high chance that you’re gonna win it again?

The Man of Wonders in Istanbul

The Man of Wonders in Istanbul

And yes, I know what you’re thinking: then how come the media focuses only on terrorists attacks instead of the other dangers that travelers face every day? 

Well, truth be told, the media is unintentionally helping the terrorist by doing extensive reporting of isolated terrorist attacks while giving little to zero attention to the many non-terrorism related tragedies that take place every single day in the world.

If you watched Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, you probably remember this quote from the Joker:

“Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”.

In a nutshell, this is basically what everyone has been doing thanks to terrorism ever since 9/11: they’re loosing their minds. People from all over the world are compromising their abilities for critical thinking and instead they are panicking and cancelling their plans to travel.

If you’re a rational person, you’re probably more scared of ladders than of terrorists. The question is, are you?

Istanbul, Turkey by night

Istanbul, Turkey by night

So what should I do, Raphael? Should I travel to Paris? Istanbul? Beirut? 

My friends, the moment that we let fear control our decisions is the moment that the terrorists win in destroying what little hope remains in this world.

The world is changing but a constant remains: the vast majority of people have a good heart and they are more than happy to welcome you into their country and ensure your personal safety.

The moment you give into fear is the moment in which terrorists win. Don’t let them change your lifestyle. Don’t let them change your travel plans. Don’t let them change who you are. Stand up to them and send them a message as clear as the light of day:

“We’re not afraid. You have failed. We will rise from the ashes. You will not.”

Have you ever changed your travel plans because of terrorist attacks? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think.

Until next time, my friends!

Inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Inside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

15 Responses

  1. Amna Ijaz Mahmud

    Keeping in mind the fact that I come from a country popular to be “so-full-of-terrorists” (*rolls eyes*), I loved this article. I can cite a few real life examples from my travels to explain how terrorism issues usually aren’t as scary as they seem, but I might get into trouble for that. :D

  2. Jazper

    I love this post. Ive been planning to go to Istanbul for a long time now. Ive been asking my friends to go with me but they are scared because of the terrorist threat.

    I always tell them. If there is going to be a war, this is the best time to travel. Who knows what will happen to the world? At least weve seen the beauty of these places that others can’t anymore.

    Im gonna make sure to travel this year to Istanbul. :)

    • Raphael Alexander, The Man of Wonders

      Hi Jazper, thanks for stopping by. I completely agree with your point of view!!! A friend of mine backpacked Syria in 2010 and I look at her photos with a mixture of happiness and sadness since some of the places she visited are long gone by now but at the same time I’m glad she managed to do something that most of us won’t be able to do for a long time.

  3. Robert

    Great article Raphael,
    I’m planning to visit Istanbul this September and really looking forward to it. Unfortunately many people will cancel the holiday plans and the terrorists prevail.
    Safe travels to all !!!

  4. Kristina

    Nice post! I agree with you Raphael! I usually listen to my heart! I was in Istanbul this February and didn`t have any problem being there for a week exploring the city! Live with no fears! Life is great! Dont let anyone to change your plans as you are the one who feels the best what to do! XO

  5. Isaac

    Great article. It’s the same mentality for any travel plans. I recall going to Tokyo about a month after the earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011. My flights weren’t cancelled, so I went anyways, despite the protests of some of my friends and family. Would’ve never experienced Akihabara in all it’s glory if I didn’t. If it’s generally safe to go, then go. Just… avoid any warzones.