began writing this article a few weeks after the Paris 
attacks in early December 2015. By the time you read 
this, who knows what will have happened in the 

world. Which is, actually, the point of this article: We 
cannot predict or control what is happening around 
the globe. And though we also cannot predict dangers 
in our backyard, unfamiliar locations naturally cause us 
to be on alert and sometimes fearful.  

Fear ferments independent of facts. Fear can too 

often be irrational. Statistics are rational. We know from 
statistics that we are much more likely to be injured 
or killed driving to the grocery store than while flying 
across an ocean. But people do not (most of us, at least) 
clench the steering wheel with the same angst as we 
clench an airplane armrest, or feel the need to self-
medicate every time we make a run to the gym or get 
the kids from school. And we don’t obsess about other 
dangerous activities, like riding a bike, which presents 
far greater statistical danger than a terrorist act. Compare 
726 cyclist deaths and more than 49,000 injuries in 2014 
alone to those killed or injured by a domestic terrorist 
act, which was 23 and 22 respectively (of which more 
were caused by white-supremacist and anti-government 
fanatics than by jihadists). 

So, how can we assess real danger? The current 

U.S. State Department travel system is practically so 
broad as to be useless: “U.S citizens should exercise 
vigilance when in public places or using transportation. 
… Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid 
large crowds and crowded places.” But it is hard to 
translate words like ”exercise vigilance” and “be aware 
of immediate surroundings” into behaviors that actually 
make a difference. The subtext is that, to be safe, you’re 
better off staying home and locking the doors. 

You shouldn’t feel guilty for worrying about 
international travel. But you can worry less 
if you take some precautionary steps and 
control what you can.    

– Susan Kraus