Traveling Against Advice

bluebird cafeWe live in a country of freedoms. One of those freedoms allows us to travel outside our country almost without restriction. To protect us from potential danger, our government compiles a list of countries where travel is not advised. Some people regularly travel to these countries.  As a self-confessed coward, it is something I could not comprehend if I wasn’t doing it myself. 

Recently we were in Lahore, Pakistan visiting my husband’s family. It was early in the morning of our third day there. Jet lagged, I had finally fallen asleep lulled by the tweet, tweet of the neighborhood guard’s whistle. At 5:00 a.m. the muezzin’s call to prayer echoed across the city waking me.  I lay there listening to the familiar sound before drifting back to sleep again. At willie nelson9:30 a.m. I was suddenly wide awake not sure what had jolted me out of a sound sleep. The last of three bombs that hit the city had detonated a few miles away. 

Why do we travel against advice? Like my friend who regularly goes to Beirut, it is because we have no choice if we wish to see family members. Our families would much rather visit us in the States where the pollution doesn’t leave you coughing and the electricity is not off for a portion of every day. They would love to leave behind the fears of terrorist attacks that are much more of a reality for them than they are in post 9/11 United States.  Unfortunately, our government does not apply the concept of innocent until proven guilty to the populations of Muslim countries. That coupled with ineffective immigration policies has made obtaining a visitor’s visa for people living in Pakistan almost impossible. First bluebird cafeyou have to have the time and money to travel to Islamabad, not once, but twice, with every member of the family that plans on going (including young children), then you have to have the stamina to wait in line for up to 8 hours to be interviewed and then wait 2 months or more for a security check to be done. If you have a common name, good luck. Even if you pass the security check, you must be able to prove that you intend to return to Pakistan. How do you do that?! People who have successful businesses in Pakistan and are traveling without their children or other family members have been turned down for visas. 

So, we travel against the advice of our government to Pakistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan and other areas where danger most certainly awaits us. Why do we do it? The answer is simple and universal. We do it for love of family.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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