“When the world is storm-driven and the bad that happens and the worse that threatens are so urgent as to shut out everything else from view, then we need to know all the strong fortresses of the spirit which men have built through the ages.”—Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way
We are about to enter a period—dare I say orgy, as least as far as the media is concerned?—of reminiscense and mourning as we approach the first anniversary of that black day in September which affected each of us in so many ways. At the time, I was in Bermuda at a travel writer’s convention, and shortly after catching a glimpse of the chaos and carnage on a tv screen, I went snorkeling. The richness and variety of undersea life was oddly comforting. Images of New York burning and bright fish flashing before me in the warm Bermuda waters gave perspective on an event difficult to grasp in its implications: life in all its glory and complexity would go on. My own travels since then, to Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Idaho, Las Vegas, Greece, Amsterdam, have been extraordinarily rewarding.
One sad effect of the attack was that many Americans stopped traveling, something that was underscored for me on my recent trip to Greece, where many people in the tourism business lamented the disappearance of the American traveler. This is truly a shame because travel matters, now more than ever. The ordinary citizen is the best ambassador any country can have, and on a personal level, there is nothing like new places and new people to give one delight in life and the future of the human race. Go visit a “fortress of the spirit,” whether it’s Angkor Wat, Mont St.-Michel, or Jerusalem. Don’t let the bad guys, the cowards, the devolved, win. It’s a big lovely world out there—make it yours.
About James O’Reilly:
James O’Reilly is the publisher and series editor of Travelers’ Tales. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Palo Alto, CA, where they also publish children’s art games at Birdcage Books.