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February 28, 2022

What is the right thing to do about Ukraine?

When it comes to discussing issues, there's a delicate balance to be had. Here, I expand on a conversation that started on instagram stories...

Egypt - Philae Temple - Merchant reads newspaper

Should I stop talking about travel while Russia invades Ukraine?

Like so many of us, watching the news has had a profound impact. Heart sinking. Stomach churning. All manner of cliches and terrible feelings of dread. 

So what should we do? 

What should someone in my position, someone with a platform for talking about the world, do?

The answer isn’t easy. And when I asked you, readers and viewers who care about other people and places in the world, I received a range of responses to reflect that. 

Not just responses but passion. So here’s an attempt to address those. Possibly clumsy, definitely imperfect and, regrettably, written through a jet lag fog. But nevertheless, let’s try.

Japan - Tokyo - Folded Paper Prayers

Do thoughts and prayers help?

Here’s an issue I struggle with. Does posting on social media that, for example, the Ukraine is in my thoughts actually help anyone? How about changing my profile photo to their flag?

Do such moves signal solidarity and support? Do they foster a feeling of connection in the midst of extreme stress and suffering for those on the ground? Do they let people know that someone out there is listening, that someone out there cares?

Or does it achieve nothing at all? Is it simply virtue signalling noise, a gesture to make people who are already safe feel better because they have “done something.”

Many of you feel that it does help, many that it doesn’t.

If it causes no harm, I suppose it doesn’t matter. For if one person is helped by social media changes then that is enough. 

USA - Alabama - Birmingham Kelly Ingram Park Memorial to the 4 girls

The harm

However. We, sadly, live in a world with a regular stream of conflict, violence, terror and despair. 

In every moment of every day, someone, somewhere is suffering. As we speak right now, conflicts rage on in Yemen, Myanmar and Syria. Domestic violence rips lives from within people’s homes and poverty, racism and disease trample people day after day after day. After day.

If I don’t highlight those situations but do draw attention to others, is that hypocrisy? Does that cause harm?

And if I do highlight every case of injustice, every conflict, every slice of pain… then there truly will be no time to highlight what I usually cover on Inside the Travel Lab: stories of hope and beauty and adventure and exploration. 

I will have let violence and oppression “win” by silencing news about the good in the world.

Even in the midst of the toughest times on earth, people need some relief. No good comes from feeling worried, stressed and anxious all the time about everything. 

Walking along the beach in the Maldives

Why we need relief

I know, because you tell me, that I have readers who work at life saving, incredibly worthwhile jobs. They come to Inside the Travel Lab for moments of escape, for slices of hope and a reminder that there is still a beautiful world out there with good people in it. 

And I can relate. When I worked as a hospital doctor, I used to look at photographs during breaks (if I managed to get them.) I needed to remember that the world extended beyond bleached walls, death and pain. That there was a point in striving and trying to stay alive.

USA - Louisiana - Great River Road-Memorial Wall

Memorial Walls at the Whitney - Remembering People Who Were Enslaved

In conclusion

So, what should someone in my position do?

Cultures and peoples across the world have created rituals to help process loss and devastation. Funerals, memorials, two minute silences, plaques, candles, prayers. 

We create a time and a place to remember, to show our respects and eventually, to heal. And then life carries on. Or else all hope is lost. 

Beauty and hope text on a blue sky

So. I paused my usual publication over the last few days. I read and I listened. And now, I will carry on sharing stories of beauty and hope. 

More importantly? I will continue to develop a life that takes action to make the world a better place. Cheesy? Impossible? Both, in all probability. 

But how else should I spend the time?

For now, I will continue to learn, listen, create and share. And most of all, I will continue to hope.

Inside Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama - News clippings of bombinat 16th Street

Newspaper clips of the KKK bombing in Birmingham, Alabama

Postscript

This isn’t to say that bad news should not be covered in the media. It absolutely should and I believe that we all have a duty to remain informed about events taking place around the world. 

But I also believe we should have places that we can retreat to from time to time. And that’s what Inside the Travel Lab is: a retreat and a place to learn about the world.

I don’t think that people should escape the world and look for distractions at the expense of living and standing up and taking action. 

But rather that if we take all these retreats away, then people doing valuable work will crumble. Perhaps the point of being alive will crumble. 

We need places filled with peace and joy. And which think about other people. 

What do you think?

People on Circular Quay The Rocks

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