The Meaning of "Safe"

The Meaning of  “Safe” 

Turkey. That was the original plan. The wonderful people, culture and history reminded us of nearby Greece, where we honeymooned four years ago. But when we looked at a map and saw that Turkey also shares borders with Iran, Iraq, and Syria, it seemed a more prudent course to steer clear of that troubled part of the world, especially with a two-year old in tow. 

So with safety a top priority, for this two-week July family vacation we instead chose the quietest, least controversial, most politically stable place on the planet. We went to Oslo, Norway. 

Norway’s capital would offer easy travel with our young daughter, we reasoned, and the chance to visit relatives in the small village of Vestmarka. We also included jaunts to Iceland, Denmark and Sweden. Besides, we thought, in Scandinavia everyone speaks English.

Little did we suspect that this quiet Nordic oasis would become another Ground Zero for terrorism, adding Norway to the growing list of nations whose citizens have been innocent victims of senseless violence.

“I Never Thought…”

We were in Stockholm – ten days into our trip, and just forty-eight hours  after leaving Norway – when we heard the news. Friends who knew where we were emailed, asking if we were ok. Everywhere TVs replayed the horrific footage of the bombed out office buildings and the floating bodies. Newspapers blared the headlines “Norge in Chock.” People throughout Scandinavia were stunned. 

Enjoying Oslo, Pre-Crisis

“I can’t believe it. What does this mean?”  asked Jenny, a waitress at Stockholm’s Zinc Grill. Over breakfast, a woman traveling from the Netherlands to vacation with her mother in Stockholm said: “I never thought this could happen here.”

“What Does This Mean?”

Bottom line: no place is immune from terrorist acts.  Places we once thought were safe are not any longer. Any building, group, or country is vulnerable. While early reports suggested Norway’s participation in the military exercises in Libya and Afghanistan made it a target, the truth is that all it takes is one lunatic’s warped vision to create an excuse. You simply can’t predict or fully prepare for insanity.

The tourists who were caught in the Oslo street had no warning and no idea of the risk. So what’s the lesson? Is it that you are not safe anywhere so you should stay home? Ninety-three people were killed in Norway last week. While that number seems astonishing to us, it is a coincidental fact that the exact same number of Americans are killed in traffic accidents every day. So does that mean since you’re not even safe at home you may as well travel? If so, are you better off staying away from urban areas or is it safer in crowds? 

Will you send your child off to camp? Interestingly, many teens killed were attending a summer youth camp. And it makes us wonder: will safety -- not just costs -- be a concern going forward? While we’ve run in-person leadership programs ourselves at SuperFutures, we’ve discovered that youth can have a great educational experience online and in real-time, as well, even planning their careers or starting businesses. 

Now that security measures have been stepped-up in Norway and surrounding areas, perhaps they will be among the safest destinations for a while. And my guess is that while the “staycation” has great appeal amid these safety concerns, international travelers will take this all in stride, and continue to globetrot – and keep their fingers crossed

Jennifer Openshaw

CEO & Founder, SuperFutures.org

Author, The Millionaire Zone

Find me on Facebook and Twitter @winningadvice

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