By Tom Blake
Each year, my partner Greta and I take a vacation together—a tradition we’ve kept since meeting in June 1998. We feel getting away is good for our relationship; it rekindles the flame and gives us time to focus only on each other while away from the day-to-day demands of life in south Orange County.
Now that we are retired, we want to travel as much as we can, while we can. We feel blessed to be able to do so.
This year, we leave for Europe on April 12. To go abroad takes advance planning. We have booked our accommodations and airplane flights, purchased Rail Europe passes and made train reservations, bought trip insurance and acquired euros. We are all set to go.
However, we can’t help but think back to the same time of year in 2004, when we were leaving for Spain.
Our itinerary back then was to fly to Madrid and hop a train from Madrid’s Atocha Train Station to go to the Costa del Sol for a week. While there, we planned to take the premier train to Barcelona and back. Then, we’d return by train to Atocha. By February, we had finalized all of the reservations and had paid for our Rail Europe train tickets and hotel accommodations. We were excited and couldn’t wait to leave.
But on March 4, 2004, our excitement turned to trepidation. Ten terrorists’ bombs ripped through three Spanish train stations, including Atocha, killing 191 people and injuring more than 1,800. The tracks we would have been on were the ones where the bombs hit.
Our first reaction: This could have happened to us. It’s too dangerous to go to Spain. We asked Rail Europe to refund our money and canceled our Madrid hotel accommodations.
But we didn’t cancel our airplane reservations. We agonized over our decision. We asked friends, family and acquaintances for their opinions—should we go to Spain as originally planned or simply stay home?
In a 2004 newspaper column, I asked my readers, “If you were in our shoes, would you be on a plane to Madrid a week from Friday?” More than 250 responded. “Go for it” was the overwhelming sentiment. We went, but traveled in Spain by rental car, which was probably more dangerous than traveling by rail.
On the night we arrived in Madrid, we watched in horror on Spanish TV as the terrorists blew themselves up in their apartment.
So, here we are in 2016. We fly to Germany and then take the train across Belgium to Paris, where we will spend 18 days. We have several day trips by train planned. In May, we travel by train to Italy. With the recent terrorists’ attacks in Paris and Brussels, we found we are in a similar situation as we were in 2004. Should we go?
We have looked at each other and said, “What do you think?” We have asked friends and family and they encourage us to go.
We have concluded that if we don’t go, we let the terrorists win. Yes, we understand there are risks involved. But there are risks involved every time we get on the Interstate 5 freeway. We will be as careful and as diligent as we can be.
We will let you know how it’s going from over there.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. His latest book can be found online at www.smashwords.com/books/view/574810. See his website at www.findingloveafter60.com (Yes, after 60, time rolls on.) To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The age 50+ singles Meet and Greet is scheduled for Thursday, April 26, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point. No admission charge. Live music. Call 949.248.9008 for information.