Readers, I must inform you early on that I’m taking a break from my normal snarky attitude and sass for a post. When tragedies such as Oslo, Norway occur, it is only necessary.
I found out about the attacks like everyone seemingly does these days: social media. From there I immediately I scanned the news sources I typically read online, and switched on the only English-speaking TV channel available to me: CNN International.
There I witnessed images, bloody and graphic, with grief-stricken and fearful faces scrambling to regain a sense of reality.
I sat back and tried to ingest the brutal reality before me. What has happened?
I don’t consider myself particularly well-read on the politics of European countries, but Norway has always seemed to me a stable country, one of neutrality and few enemies. Certainly more than my own homeland. So why would terrorism strike such a place?
After an hour of watching the news, I couldn’t bear to watch the images that reminded me of 9/11 New York City anymore. But I continued to follow the story online as it progressed.
I woke up the next morning to updates of death tolls and suspects. My heart wrenched as I read of eyewitness accounts and incoming details. Such a normal, everyday place troubled by the turbulent waves of senseless violence.
I felt it only appropriate to reflect upon this tragedy in regards to my travels this summer. Why am I traveling? Simply to fulfill a youthful urge to “see the world”? To “meet new people”? To “experience life”? Or am I traveling for something more? I would like to think so.
Sure, the practical skills and life knowledge I have gained from this trip will serve me well in this life. I can now navigate even the most complicated metro system with ease, order food without offending the waitress and even successfully use a map.
But beyond these assets, my travel experiences have enriched me in ways that I deem far superior in importance. By immersing myself in these places, meeting these people and learning about these foreign cultures, I begin to truly care about all of them in a personal way. And with care comes the desire to learn from and understand them.
I believe that those who wish to terrorize in this world do so out of fear more than any other emotion. Tragedies such as Oslo painfully remind us of our shortcomings in creating a world of tolerance and peace. We need environments where we pacify such fear with education, rather than reactionary suspicion and attack.
So as I begin to shift my gaze toward the Atlantic, back toward my home, I carry these aspirations of improvement with me. I’m not so naive to suggest that if more people traveled, the world would be a better place. Only to say that for myself, it has served as a great educator in helping me see the connections that bond us as humanity, rather than peoples. And that I wish that in the future, we recognize these ties more than the boundaries.
My thoughts are with those in Norway, and with those who have ever had to suffer acts of senseless terror. May we use these tragedies as reminders of the work left to be done.