Posted: 2/27/2020 | February 27th, 2020
If you’re like me, you associate travel with positive emotions: the feeling of the sun on your shoulders halfway around the world, of breaking bread with people from cultures different than your own, and the inner joy of making your way across unknown lands safely.
Travel improves our lives, broadens our horizons, and helps us understand the world we inhabit.
Yet these are experiences few humans will ever have.
As widespread as it has become in recent years, travel is still a privilege afforded only to a few.
That is especially true of war zones, where residents are more concerned about living through the day than seeing the wonders of the world. Things we take for granted — the ability to turn on a tap and get drinkable water, to flick a switch and get light, to walk to the store and find food on the shelves — are rare or absent for those suffering through such conflicts.
While there many places in the world that are like that, today I want to talk about one in particular: Syria.
Lately, I’ve seen a number of folks visit Syria as tourists. When asked why, they usually talk about trying to highlight the good people in the country and how such places aren’t “just what you see in the media.”
And while both of those things are almost always true, I don’t think one should visit conflict zones as a tourist — whether you’re a writer, blogger, or everyday Joe or Jane. I think it’s reckless and shows a complete lack of empathy and respect for the people suffering through the horrors of war. It’s self-centered. It doesn’t actually help in any real way. It usually creates a distorted picture of the situation. It’s a misuse of Western privilege.
No one doubts there are wonderful people and places in Syria. In fact, one of my greatest travel regrets is not having visited Syria before the conflict, because friends waxed poetic about how the hospitality and openness of the locals were second to none.
And the media is always more “doom and gloom” than the reality on the ground.
But that doesn’t change the fact that there is a continuing war going on in Syria where millions continue to be displaced and dying. While bloggers or tourists are there taking pictures, hundreds of thousands are freezing.
The country has been in a civil war for close to nine years. Over 400,000 civilians have been killed (some estimates put that number as high as 585,000). That’s more than the entire population of places such as…