Thursday, October 2, 2014

Understanding Current Events in Context....Through Travel


Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
My Thursdays seem to have a very soap opera feel to them lately. Every Thursday we highlight local artisans whom we have met during our travels. Part of those highlights are short stories about where these fine folks are located, showcasing our attitude that one of the best ways to learn about local cultures is through the drinks that are created in towns around the world. Getting to these towns, for most of us anyways, requires some travel….which in this day and age seems to be increasingly more scary, or is it?
We are a 2 pronged website, travel and drinks. Sometimes a post may be heavier on one or the other, but the root of this site is travel. We could sit in our local bar or homes and review drinks (which so many people do well and we respect the hell out of their work) but Katherine and I are both travelholics who like to find new drinks while on the road.
Last December before anyone "knew" Malaysian Airlines
So why am I bringing this up?
It seems like in the past few months ,when I go to publish an article, a travel tragedy or scare pops up making the fun travel words I’m writing seem insensitive or even misplaced. First, as I was promoting an article about my top destination in the world for beer travel, the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 popped up as an alert on my phone and then a few days later in that same posting cycle Ben Gurion International Airport was being targeted and airlines were refusing to fly into Israel. A few weeks later as I was posting about beer in Virginia, the rest of the country was remembering one of the darkest days in American history, 9/11. As I planned my jovial post this week about either the best airlines for beer or a post on award winning mead, a terrifying disease made it’s way to American soil by, you guessed it, an airliner. Like a bad soap opera, Thursday has had me scrambling to make you forget real life and follow my narrative of twisting up these tragic travel plots.
Whoa was me right. That initial reaction quickly subsided though. What I started to think about were all of the times my wife and I have traveled together during the last 10+ years together. A list of different world issues started popping into my head as scary as the ones we see today.
As we sat in London Heathrow waiting for a connecting flight in 2005, we watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina brought New Orleans to it’s knees…
Paris was gripped by devastating riots the same fall we were there…..
1 week after a plot to bring down Trans-Atlantic airliners in 2006 was thwarted in London, we were ushered through 3 extra sets of security to board flights to the US in Brussels….
A couple months after Stephanie passed through Atocha Station in Madrid, it was bombed….
24 hours after I passed over the 35W bridge on my way home from a northwoods vacation, it collapsed into the Mississippi River….
ETA's response to a Spanish flag
ETA had failed once and successfully set off bombs through Spain while we traveled through the Basque region of Spain (home of ETA) in 2007....
In September 2007 as we traveled through Europe, banks started to collapse around us as customers started to make runs on them….
In June 2008 as we traveled through Central Europe and Italy, the American economy was in such dire straights that restaurants were actually offering US passport holders reduced prices…..
While flying through some of the busiest airports in Europe in January 2004, a major outbreak of bird flu was gripping South East Asia and beyond…..
Wildfires raged through Colorado in the summer of 2013 as we packed up for our annual pilgrimage to the Rocky Mountains…..
We forged on in the face of these threats. We’ve been to New Orleans a couple of times since it was written off by people, traveled to Colorado in the face of wildfire/flood/mountain lion threats, rode double decker busses and the tube since 7/7, traveled over bridges in the US, and used Atocha Station as a hub for Spanish Exploration- all in the face of dire news and commentary.

Don't hold back, even if real life isn't always fun
All of the events above (and many more) were real global issues that needed to be taken seriously, as do the events of today. We live and travel in a truly global society and have to be aware of our surroundings. But we also have the ability to understand global issues with more information at our fingertips. We have the ability to weed through commentary and get to the actual ramifications of an event on the ground and how it could truly affect us. None of these events stopped us from traveling because we cared enough to be conscious citizens (as we care about supporting local economies through breweries, wineries, and distilleries).
I believe that any and all travel (down the street or around the world) for the purpose of trying something new is an act of conscious citizenry. I also believe that travel is real life, not just the tragic things that come across our TVs, but all narratives including the fun ones. Travel stories, guides, and conversations should not be looked at as a break from reality or a distraction, but as ways to understand- the world around us, the events taking place, and maybe even help us find a new favorite beer.
Travel and smile, you'll be glad you did
Many times after we have arrived home from a trip, I am asked the question if I was scared of this, that, or the other by people. Normally this, that, or the other was on a different continent, but if you aren’t a conscious citizen of the world it won't matter if an article comes from the Onion or Der Spiegel. That also leads to comments on articles from our freshest scare in the US such as “Shut down all flights from Africa”, ”Testing every flight in the US for a fever, that should be easy”,  “Don’t travel overseas until this is done”....and on, and on, and on. If more people were conscious citizens of the world, open to cultural travel outside their front door, and just plain curious we would have much less of the “misdirected rage” that we have now and more stories of fun on the road.
Bring on Thursday travel fun, I’ll let the networks handle the plot twists!

Steven Grams is a seeker of new knowledge. He lives for travel, for adventure, for a new story. He absorbs everything and never forgets where he has been, who he has met, what he has seen, and how he got there.