Two Days Ago, I Was at the Boston Marathon…and Why That Won’t Stop Me From Traveling

Posted By Trav

3 travelers on a bridge

At 1:00 pm, I had finally pushed my way towards the front, anxious to catch a glimpse of my friend as he crossed the finish line. The sun was shining, the crowd was boisterous despite being packed nine deep on to the sidewalk, and the runners passing us in droves were all smiles as they finished off an incredible accomplishment.

This is what the Boston Marathon was all about.

At 2:50 pm, two explosions went off, and the scene of joy and triumph that had existed seconds earlier was gone.  Mayhem took it’s place.

Luckily, my friend had run a personal best time of 3 hours, and I had left the finish line about an hour prior.  Instead of potentially being a victim, I was sitting in Quincy Market, enjoying a post race lunch, unaware to what was happening.

At least for the first minute or two.

And then, the text messages started pouring in.  “Are you alright?” and “Is everything ok?” messages were coming in droves, and all of us at the table sat there for a second, wondering what was going on.

And then, we heard the news.  Two bombs had gone off at the finish line, mere yards away from where we had stood just an hour earlier.

Confusion, shock, relief, and guilt all hit me at once.

What was going on?

Is this really true?

Thank the Lord I left earlier.

Why was I spared, when others weren’t?

The setting, and surrounding, made it even more surreal.  Along with other diners, we continued eating our lunch.  Life continued like normal in Quincy Market, with street performers continuing their acts and people shopping and talking.

Some of them probably had no idea what had happened just moments before.

Some of them did, and didn’t know how to act.  I was in that latter group.

Should we leave downtown Boston immediately?  

Were we safe there?

Were there more bombs?

No one knew the answers to these questions.  Not the cops, not the government officials, and certainly not us.

We puttered around in a daze for another half hour or so, not saying much.  We walked down the waterfront, where a giant tv was showing the news.  Everyone sat silent, watching it and hoping for answers that never came.

Eventually, Heather and I decided to hop on the subway and head out towards the more residential area of the city where we were staying.  While we were somewhat hesitant to board the subway, it felt like the best option.

We didn’t want to stay in a downtown area that we weren’t sure was safe, and if the subways did stop running, we’d be stuck there indefinitely.

And while we did eventually get back to Jamaica Plain safely, and then out of Boston and back to Philly a day earlier than planned, I have yet to shake the feeling that manifested itself in me the minute I heard the news.

While I can’t exactly describe the feeling, and I’m not sure when things will start to feel normal again, I do know two things for certain.

1.  I’ll continue to pray for the families of the victims and those who are still in the hospital, while also continuing to thank God that everyone I know who was there is safe.

2.  This won’t stop me from traveling.

At 1:45, just after my friend had finished the race, we met up with his family.  His dad, who I haven’t seen in a while, asked me “when I’ll start traveling to places that are safe” so that he can come visit.

He was referring to the fact that I was in Japan during the tsunami two years ago.

At 2:55, right after the explosions, I received a text message from my friend, telling me “to stop traveling and stay home in good old safe Audubon.” 

Both of these people had my best interest in mind, but both followed the same faulty logic.  That they KNEW what was safe.

In the first instance, we soon found out that what my friend’s dad thought was safe, Boston, obviously wasn’t.  I can only pray that my friend in the second instance is never proven wrong as well.

The fact remains that we do not know what is safe and what is not safe, only what we THINK is safe and not safe.

And oftentimes, we’re wrong.

Hundreds of thousands of children went to school on the day of the December 14, 2012, and almost all of them returned home safe.

Unfortunately, some of the ones that went to Sandy Hook Elementary did not.

Does this mean that we should stop sending our kids to school?

5,000 English teachers were part of the JET Programme in Japan when the tsunami happened.  4,997 of them were safe.

Unfortunately, 3 of them were not.

Does this mean that people should stop going to Japan?

I am in no way saying that precautions and preventive measures shouldn’t be instituted to protect against tragedies that happen, because they most certainly should.

What I am saying is that if we live our lives in fear, that’s all we will ever experience:  fear.

I’ve now been around two incredibly traumatic events in the past few years, and I am incredibly thankful that both times, I’ve been safe.

Both times, I’ve also been left with a weird, unshakeable feeling after it happened, one that makes me question why I was lucky enough to be safe, why I travel so much, and whether I should stop.

And both times, I’ve come to the realization that traveling is something that has enriched my life in such an immensely positive way that there is no way I could ever give it up.

The smiles on people’s faces from around the world, the a-ha moments when you finally grasp a nuance of another culture, the smells and tastes of the wonderful foods.

All of these are things that I’m never willing to give up, regardless of whether I’m being “safe”.

Because really, who’s to say what safe even means?

This post is much more of a stream of consciousness than my typical posts.  Normally, I edit my posts 2 or 3 times to makes sure they are correct, but here, I felt it was much more important to get my real, true thoughts down as quickly as possible so that I could work through what was going on without making many changes.  Please pardon any spelling or grammatical errors.

(photo courtesy of garryknight)


  1. Deb R says:

    Beautifully written Trav, Thank you.
    I dropped my daughter at the Mall today and had this sick feeling that maybe I should not have done that. But I still had to drive away and let her continue with her life and plans.
    The world we live in basically sucks right now but I agree we must carry on.
    Come back next April for the Boston Marathon. I guarantee, we Bostonians, will make sure it is a great event!

    1. Trav says:

      @Deb R- I definitely have plans on coming back next year, which I believe is the best way to show whoever did this that our spirit will not be broken by one person or a small group of people. I can’t even imagine what it is like to have children and have to be worried for them on top of yourself. Stay strong.

  2. Shuki says:

    Nice post. I agree 100%.

    One thing you forgot to take nto consideration is that what these terorists are trying to do is instill fear, and that alone should be enough reason to continue traveling.

    1. Trav says:

      @Shuki- Exactly. Not only should we not live in fear for our own sake, but also to show the cowards who do stuff like this that we goodness does trump evil, each and every time.

  3. benjamincahn says:

    i’m glad you and yours are safe, travis. this post gave me goosebumps. i can only imagine. thank you for sharing.

    1. Trav says:

      @benjamincahn- Your welcome. It gives me goosebumps thinking about what could have been, but only strengthens my resolve to continue to see as much as I can in the time I have.

  4. Santastico says:

    Glad to hear you are all right. Love Boston, my sister lives there, I lived there for a while and went to school in New England, I am huge Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics fan so Boston has a special place in my heart.

    1. Trav says:

      @Santastico- Boston is, and will continue to be, a wonderful place to visit and live. I’ll be going back as often as I can, and this city will bounce back.

  5. natalie says:

    Thank you for a lovely reminder about fear….I’m glad you’re safe and still traveling.

    1. Trav says:

      @natalie- Thanks.

  6. Elenor says:

    Humans have a weird sense of what’s risky and not risky, and we “think” (except it’s not actually thinking, it’s more hard-wired, and less reasoned, than that) about which risks we’re willing to take and which we avoid — and then making up things we call reasons for it. (I’ve been reading a lot of “the Dans”: Kahnneman and Ariely, lately)

    Dr. Peter Sandman has a lot of stuff on his website about risk communication — which I find helpful in figuring myself out, not so much in terms of me doing risk comm. for others as doing it for myself in my own decision making. Even if there had been no bomb, and even if a bad thing had happened when you and your friend were at the finish line (say, someone mistaking an accelerator for the brake, which happens not infrequently); the hardest thing to deal with is: it really IS a random toss-up whether or not you are the human who gets hurt.

    Contrary to Einstein’s wish, God DOES play dice with the world. (Or, for those of us who don’t believe there’s an old guy in a toga micro-managing our lives in their every detail: the universe is RANDOM; and randomness cannot be managed or prevented, only lived through.) Part of the joy you find in travel comes from that very randomness; however there is no guarantee that the random events will be positive. (I believe, as you seem to, that the positive ones outweigh the negative ones.)

    My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed and those maimed and injured by this dreadful act, but there is no safety in life. Take reasonable precautions and carry on. (And even though Sandman says, in *good* risk communication one ought not make these types of comparisons:) The chances of you getting hit by a plain-old bus are way, way higher than of being hurt in a bombing. The chances of being injured in an earthquake are way, way higher than being shot in a mass shooting. Chance is random; take reasonable precautions and carry on.

    My husband, with whom I traveled (mostly cruising), died suddenly in 2011. I’ve had to make (and am having to make) the adjustments required by the fact of my entire “normal” life being destroyed. I’m having to create an entirely new “normal” life. This is the human condition. When I am once against financially (and emotionally) stable, I will go back to traveling (mostly cruising). Life goes on for those who do not die. Life ALWAYS goes on for those who do not die.

    And life is risky, no matter where you are or go.

    1. Trav says:

      @Elenor- Wow, thanks for this. I’m sorry to hear about your husband, but appreciate you sharing such a heartfelt comment. Live is meant to be lived, and that’s what we should do. The people I know who are truly living life will agree that the positive outcomes outweigh the negative ones, and I think there is a pretty easy message to glean from that. No regrets!

  7. Jenny says:

    Thank you for this post from your heart. I’m glad that you are safe.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jenny- Thanks! I wasn’t sure how to write it, or how it would be received, or if it mattered, but those “fears” that I had were pointless. If even one person benefited from what I wrote, it’d be more than worth it.

  8. hobo05 says:

    100% agree with what you’re saying. We can’t stop experiencing our lives because of fear. It would no longer be a life worth living to be living in fear all the time.

    1. Trav says:

      @hobo05- Perfectly said!

  9. jerri arlan says:

    beautifully said.

    1. Trav says:

      @jerri arlan- Thanks, that means A LOT.

  10. smay says:

    Wow Travis so glad you are safe! Japan for the Tsunami and now this …. do me a favor and let me know where you will be on your next trip. ;-)

    1. Trav says:

      @smay- Will do. Don’t head to Washington DC on the weekend of April 27th and 28th or Colorado Springs May 10th-12th!

      1. Caroline says:

        Will you be in DC for FTU?

      2. Grant says:

        uhh oh not FTU!!

        1. Trav says:

          @Caroline @Grant- No, actually I won’t be at FTU in DC but will be the area to meet up with some old friends. Let’s hope bad luck doesn’t follow me!

          1. Aww too bad! It would have been great to meet you.

          2. Trav says:

            @Caroline Lupini- Yeah, I wish I could go. At the time, I thought I had another engagement that turns out fell through. Oh well. Hopefully at the next one!

  11. litlfish18 says:

    I am very proud to have you as my brother and I am so thankful that both times you and Heather have been safe. That was a beautiful post. Miss you and Love you.

    1. Trav says:

      @litlfish18- I’m the one who got to stay at your apartment in Spain, so it’s me who should be thankful. Love you too!

  12. jennifernice says:

    Excellent, heartfelt post with a timeless message for all travelers. Really, all of us. We can’t live in fear, only do our part to promote peace. Incidentally, my husband ran the Boston Marathon 1 year ago and I stood at the finish line near the explosions… so we experienced a strange range of emotions on Monday. Thank you for writing this.

    1. Trav says:

      @jennifernice- Congrats to your husband for completing the marathon. I’m glad this piece spoke to you some, and hopefully helped you figure out some of those emotions that are churning inside.

  13. Glad you are safe and thanks for taking time to pray for the victims and their families. My wife and I have also been enriched by our travels, thus we will not stop either.

    1. Trav says:

      @Douglas Garner- Glad that your travels have been a positive force in your life as well. I think we’d be hard pressed to find someone who thought travel didn’t help enrich their lives, which is why my mission is to help as many people as possible be able to travel.

  14. Great post, Travis. We are too fear driven in general. Great message .

    1. Trav says:

      @Jeff Steinmann- Thanks! I agree that in all facets of life, fear plays a big part. Just the fact that I was a scared to post this, thinking that it might not resonate right, it might be pointless, there might be spelling errors, etc. is a prime example of why we shouldn’t let fear inhibit us from doing anything. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive…it would have been a shame if I had let fear talk me out of posting it.

  15. smitty06 says:

    The thing that I love about people who travel is that they are not afraid of everything. They are willing to accept that bad happens sometimes, but we cannot let it limit us. That being said, I am glad that your friend is a fast runner.

    1. Trav says:

      @Smitty06- Right on, bad things should never limit us. Take those things, figure out how to deal with them, and then move forward. And I’m with you, all the credit in the world goes to Doug, who ran an incredible 3 hour marathon. Glad he took his training seriously!

  16. ctran85 says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been living in Boston my whole life and there were too many close calls for me: a friend who was running and got stopped at the 26 mile mark, another friend who was about to leave her office to meet up with her, boyfriend who planned to go watch but decided to stay home instead, and same boyfriend who worked during the Marathon last year at the Crate and Barrel between the blasts.

    Others weren’t so lucky: 3 died, more than 10 lost their limbs and dozens more were otherwise injured.

    Travelers more than others know what a small world this is and how our lives our intertwined. Please help out by donating to the victims whose lives will never be the same again. ABC News has a link to the The Boston Marathon Victims Fund – The One Fund Boston and the Kraft family will match donations up to $100,000 on the Patriots site if you note “Boston Marathon” in the field provided. You don’t have to go through these sites, but please donate and please make sure you are donating through a legit site. Thanks again for this post, and take care.

    1. Trav says:

      @ctran85- Thanks for posting this. I’m glad that you and your friends are all safe as well. Hopefully, the donations will pour in.

  17. Caroline says:

    Thanks for this post. I just shared it with my parents and one of my good friends, because they are usually pretty worried when I am gone and generally worried about the places I want to travel to in the future. Maybe this will help them understand better. Glad you and your friend are both safe.

    1. Trav says:

      @Caroline- I’m glad that this was something that was done well enough that you felt comfortable sharing it, and I’m hoping that it helped your parents and your friend react in a positive way. Traveling can be scary, and interestingly enough, it is usually the people who are staying home that are more scared than the people who are actually traveling. Maybe the best way to convince your parents and friend is to have them tag along with you sometime!

  18. Jason says:

    Trav – good post. You are right, life is about FREEDOM and experience. You could minimize risk by avoiding typically crowded areas; that is where those inciting terror normally focus their effort.

    As Thomas Jefferson said, “Those that trade freedom for security will have neither.”

  19. john says:

    This tragedy is not your tragedy.

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