April 01, 2005

Food for thought for an April Fool

I've been had.

This morning, I and fellow members of the online BootsnAll Travel Community received an email announcing Boots’ “new direction.” The email told us that endless reports and news flashes about “death, danger, fear and destruction overseas” had finally led Boots’ founders, who for years had “resisted these warnings and encouraged travelers to set out and explore the world on their own terms and judge for themselves," to stop promoting travel and start carrying out their “moral obligation to educate people about the serious risks involved in stepping out your front door.” BootsnAll felt it could not, “in good conscience,” continue encouraging people to explore their world. “The world is a dangerous place,” wrote the editors, “and traveling is only going to expose you to it." The email ended with a link to “Don’t Go,” a new website focusing on "all the reasons not to travel.”

The email was, of course, an April Fool’s joke, but my initial, visceral response to it bothered me, and I posted this reply on the “new direction” thread that appeared immediately on the Boots’ Members Forum:

"After I read Boots' email, I sat and thought, "Okay, folks. We've really done it. We've gone and messed up this world so badly that even diehards like the BootsnAllers are throwing in the travel towel. This is it. The beginning of the end. I know it's not the same world it was when I started traveling 30 years ago, but how did we humans let things spin so far out of control? We're doomed. We'll all sit home, insulated and isolated, until the whole darn thing just blows up."

I took that sick feeling with me to the hairdresser and made plans to write a rebuttal-plea-sayitain'tso-theseguysarewrongandtotallynutsdon'tlistentothem post on my world travel blog. I
made plans to pull the Boots link from my blogroll. I made plans to email a new Cajun friend a link to a zydeco and gators book excerpt I'd let Boots publish, before the Boots site disappeared, taking the link with it.

I'm thrilled that this joke turned out to be on me, but I find it sad that I, an inveterate vagabond who's visited some 60 countries and whose kids have been globetrotting since they were in the womb, could have considered, even for an instant, that Boots' "new direction" might be for real.

There's a lot that needs healing in the world today, and traveling in, around and through it does carry more risks and entail more "work" than it did even a few short years ago. But rather than scale back or slow down or stick close to home, today's April Fool's joke increases my resolve to get out there every chance I get, as an ambassador, thoughtful observer and citizen of the world. We're all in this together. "