The U.S. State Department has issued a World-Wide Travel Warning….but what does that really mean to you?
While this sounds rather ominous, Travel Advisories have become the norm for the U.S. State Department, especially since the pandemic. In the beginning stages of the pandemic the State Department issued a “Worldwide Caution” warning that was lifted in August 2020.
The current warning comes amidst major geopolitical tensions over the war in the Middle East, and, of course, the ongoing war in Ukraine.
These advisories are numbered according to importance, with Level 1 (Exercise normal precautions) ranging up to Level 4 (Do not travel).
The current advisory is not advice to avoid travel. Rather, it’s advice to exercise increased caution and “stay alert” in locations that are frequented by tourists. In most cases where travel to another country is involved, that is always good advice regardless of any travel warnings.
You can find the various warnings on the U.S. State Department website here.
The State Department is also advising all travelers going abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts in case of an emergency. This can help in many ways, such as arranging evacuation flights in some cases. Canada and other countries have similar programs. Bear in mind there are no guarantees, as independent travelers coming home from Israel will testify (evacuation flights were not available and most had to buy their own tickets at fairly high prices).
Of course, if you are traveling with a group such as Select International Tours, and if problems should arise, and you need to return home, you can rely on their team of professionals to make those arrangements for you. This was the case most recently for several of their groups traveling in Israel….and they all made it home safely.
Those of us who travel often….and especially tour operators….have been through this before. We’ll never forget the chaotic days of 9/11 when troops were stationed in airports as the burning Twin Towers were being shown on the TV screens all over the airport. Since that event, it goes without saying that travel has changed significantly. Today, we tend to check out locations a bit more carefully than before (realizing that the news media will always try to find the worst stories possible).
Well, our decision is to keep traveling….with certain precautions in mind. Traveling with a group is a pretty good idea…..most everything is handled for you and a lot of the details are up to them. And, of course, certain destinations may not be advisable. For now, Israel trips have been cancelled by almost all tour operators.
But if you want to travel to Europe there are good options: The one we like best at the moment is Poland…a traditional Catholic country that has survived Communism and kept the Faith. And, of course, river cruises are another great choice.
Finally, for those in the U.S. and Canada who might wish to stay on the North American Continent, we suggest Mexico (yes, it is in North America). Although parts of the country are not safe, tours to Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine and the area around it pose little threat to pilgrims. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe makes a great pilgrimage.
Like everyone else, we continue to monitor the situation and pray for peace.