Travel Unites. Boundaries Divide.

Here's a terrific article written by our Social Media Assistant, Brooke Drinkard.


Brownell Social Media Assistant shares her recent travel experience and why you should still travel. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 – My alarm went off at 6:30 AM, and I burst out of bed. Just like a wide-eyed child on Christmas morning, I was giddy with excitement because today I was flying to one of my favorite cities in the world: Paris! After months of planning, the day had finally arrived. I looked at my phone and found several texts from friends and family. “Probably wishing me safe travels,” I thought with a smile. But these texts carried an entirely different message.

Brooke, have you watched the news? Are you traveling today?

Did you see what happened in Belgium? Are you still going to France?

Someone bombed the Brussels airport. Have you read the article?

Suicide bombers in Brussels – at the airport and train station! When do you leave? 

Are you still going to Paris? 


Oh, what a day to be traveling.

As I headed to work, the question “are you still going?” occupied my thoughts. I played the devil’s advocate for hours but knew deep down that I still wanted to go.

I could look at the numbers of how likely you are to be killed by (a car accident, lightning, you know the drill) versus a terrorist attack.

I could remind myself of the popular sentiment that “if you cancel the terrorists have won.”

I could list the scary situations that happen in Birmingham, in Alabama, in the South, in the US and assure myself that no city or destination is safe from danger.

But what rang the loudest in my head and in my heart is this:

Travel unites. Boundaries divide.


Virtuoso developed this statement following the Paris attacks, and it has stayed in the forefront of my mind since then. There are countless benefits to travel. One of my personal favorites is how travel unites you with new people, new cultures, new cuisine, new traditions, new ways of life, and, most importantly, a new part of yourself.  Travel opens your eyes and changes your soul in a way that simply cannot be done staying at home. When you travel, you see similarities as well as differences in everything, and you appreciate your life that much more.

When fear drives you to stay put, you miss the opportunity to have the best meal of your life at a tiny restaurant in Tuscany with handwritten menus. To hear the enchanting sounds of the Samburu people in Kenya singing their animals to the wells. To stand in the middle of the Atacama Desert surrounded by a deafening silence and flamingos. To watch the sun come up over the temples in Myanmar.

You miss the opportunity to let travel and all that comes with it change you for the better.

So did I cancel my trip? No. I flew to Paris thrilled to see what I would explore during this trip (food…this trip it was all about food). Though heartbroken for the people of Belgium and Paris and Istanbul and any other city that falls prey to such malicious events, I did not let fear keep me from enjoying my trip and embracing travel. Security was visibly tighter, but the city that I fell in love with years ago charmed me once again. I have more fabulous memories of my Paris adventure, and I won’t look back on what could have been if only I’d traveled.

And I did get the opportunity to have the best French toast of my life.


But of course I was cautious took these steps to travel safer:

Register with STEP

The US State Department offers the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You share your trip details with the nearest US Embassy, so they know you are there if anything happens. And you’ll get notifications of any travel alerts or warnings.

Know the Facts

Turn off the news. I repeat: turn off the news. The fearmongering reports will do nothing but scare you (and keep you tuned in – hello ratings!). Get factual information and not speculation. Brownell has countless trusted partners on the ground that provide up-to-date and unbiased information. We’ve met most of these people not only in their city but also in ours, whether Birmingham, Atlanta, etc. They know us personally and want to give us all the intel so we can make well-educated decisions.

Walk with a Purpose

Don’t wander through the streets looking lost or stop in the middle of the sidewalk to pull out a map (that’s just annoying for everyone). Ask the concierge to give you clear directions so you know where to go to avoid looking out of place.

Head on a Swivel

One of my friends kept reminding me “Head on a swivel, Brooke! Head on a swivel!” Whether you’re walking through a crowded area or standing in a store, be aware of your surroundings, especially in a crowded area. Pickpockets and other ill-intentioned people are more likely to target the person looking walleyed and oblivious.

Listen to Your Gut

Whether it’s using public transportation or standing in a huge crowd, listen to your gut instinct if it tells you to avoid an area or get away. And if you know you won’t enjoy a destination because your gut instinct still feels that way after doing your due diligence, adjust – don’t cancel – your trip. Go somewhere else where you feel comfortable. Your travel advisor can help you come up with a Plan B about which you’ll feel excited and comfortable.



Kristen MeckemComment