South African human rights activist Desmond Tutu once said: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
Even as the world is grasping with the uncertainties of the Coronavirus, the light at the end of the tunnel is that history is replete with stories of overcoming tremendous adversity and the worst of times.
Life will eventually get back to some semblance of normalcy, and to the delight of so many of us, yes, we will travel again. There are countless cultures and destinations that have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of chaos and destruction. Here are some amazing examples.
Kristy Mosolino, owner of Wishes Travel, a boutique travel agency in Birmingham, Alabama, says that when she and her family visited Bogota, Columbia a few years ago, a lovely woman teaching them to make tostones and empanadas shared the story of living the terror under Pablo Escobar and the Columbian drug lords. Families caught in the crossfire of violent attacks became everyday collateral damage. People lived in constant fear. Even walking to the grocery store or local market was dangerous because of car bombs.
So, many Columbians learned to grow most of their food in small gardens behind their homes. Only the wealthy could flee to other countries while the majority of residents had no escape. But as Kristy said, “Today their story is filled with hope and promise. The wars ended. Communities healed, and travel to Columbia became possible. And yes, our experience there was incredible.”
Today, Columbia greets visitors with its rich history, stunning scenery and some of the continent’s most friendly and welcoming people. The only South American country to border both the Caribbean and the Pacific, Columbia sports a massive range of ecosystems, cloud-forested mountains, palm-fringed beaches, Amazon rainforest, untamed rivers and snowcapped mountains. Add in the beauty and culture of its colonial cities and its delectable cuisine and it’s a travel lovers’ paradise.
In 1992, Croatia splintered from former Yugoslavia to become a sovereign country. The world watched in horror as the country was thrown into chaos by various warring ethnic factions. Croatia was the scene for many human rights violations and brutal crimes against humanity. While living in Italy, the war became personal as my husband, a retired naval officer, was sent to Zagreb by NATO as part of a peacekeeping force.
Historic bridges and castles were destroyed. Buildings that survived, were scarred with war-torn holes. Despite all the devastation, I recall my husband telling me, “It’s such a beautiful country.” Years later, we had the chance to return to Croatia, and oh, was he was right. The country has healed, and it is a magnificent destination.
From the shimmering Mediterranean and rugged Dinaric Alps to the rolling hills near Slovenia in the north and the stunning Krka River waterfalls in the south, Croatia today is heralded as the jewel of the Adriatic. It is once more the preferred vacation destinations of many Europeans and other world travelers.
The reconstruction of Germany after World War II was a long and arduous process. Germany suffered horrific losses during the war. Cities were devastated by heavy bombing. Industrial and agricultural areas suffered immense damage. Add in the Holocaust and the massive civilian losses due to the war and you have a country whose spirit was broken.
West Germany’s economy recovered faster as the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany represented a clear delineation of not only borders but of culture, economics and lifestyle. 1989 was a pivotal event in world history with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of Communism in Eastern and Central Europe.
Today, Germany is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe and Berlin happens to be one of its most visited destinations. The country is filled with fairytale villages, verdant forests and waterfalls, alpine meadows, majestic castles and glorious Baroque palaces. Modern and medieval cities are filled with treasure troves of great art, history and culture. Their varied simple to sophisticated lifestyles is all part of Germany’s charm. And there’s nothing more fun or more German than enjoying a stein of beer at a centuries-old Biergarten, especially during Oktoberfest.
Located in the east-central African Great Lakes region, Rwanda is renowned for its breathtaking scenery. Dominated by mountains in the west, savannah to the east with numerous lakes scattered throughout, it’s hard to believe this “front seat to the jungle” as it’s often called was once home to ethnic violence and genocide during the Rwandan Civil War in 1994.
Today, this African country opens its arms to visitors with numerous wildlife tours led by local guides who know their region best. Who can resist a trip to see real gorillas in the mist and rare golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park? Or tracking chimpanzees and sighting Dent’s monkeys, grey-cheeked Mangabeys, olive baboons and more in Nyungwe Forest National Park?
This region, already on my travel bucket wish list, has been calling me like a moth to a flame, and I really can’t wait to visit!
Even those of us who were too young to remember the Vietnam War are familiar with this conflict from the countless movies, documentaries and stories chronicling its horrors. The long, costly and divisive conflict pitted the Communist government of North Vietnam and Viet Cong insurgents against the government of South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States.
Millions of combatants and innocent lives were lost. Hundreds of thousands of children were orphaned. The war literally ruined farmland, green fertile river valleys and lush tropical jungles. Harsh chemical warfare defoliated its richest forests and poisoned thousands.
But again, hope reigns supreme.
Vietnam is one of Asia’s most popular destinations, and for good reason. Two modern metropolises, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and Hanoi feature skyscrapers mixed with colonial architecture. Add in the French boutiques of Hoi Ann, fascinating ethnic markets, the verdant valleys of rural Vietnam, glistening waters of the South China Sea, world-class beaches and tantalizing cuisine, and Vietnam is a feast for the senses. Today, whether former friend or foe, the Vietnamese people welcome all who come to visit and experience their slice of paradise.
When all is said and done, the adage “this too shall pass” is one travelers can cling to. Wanderlusters and globetrotters live to travel, and we will once more. If any lessons are learned from a world that has overcome plagues and pandemics, disasters and destruction, it is this. The sun rises, the sun sets, and life goes on. The world we live in is truly a beautiful place.
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