Travelling and Trembling Over Terrorism
After walking out of Harvard with diploma in hand tomorrow, Jeffrey C. Levy '86 plans to travel abroad with his friends for a "last hurrah together" before plunging into the professional world. No, he and his friends will not be walking on the Champs Elysee this summer. They'll be hiking along China's Great Wall. Not because they prefer Chinese food, but because, as Levy says, "the terrorist stuff pushed us eastward."
"It was almost like an imposed coin-flip," Levy says. "We didn't have a burning desire to jump into terrorist warfare against Americans."
Recent acts of anti-American terrorism in Europe have affected Harvard seniors' plans to make the traditional post-graduation "grand tour" of Europe. While those who still plan jaunts to London and Paris are proceeding with caution, other graduating seniors like Levy have decided on a wide spectrum of alternatives--from driving cross--country to visiting the world's fair in Vancouver and country-hopping from South America to the Far East.
"Chinese terrorists haven't been in the headlines lately," Levy says with a smirk. Flying to Bangkok in mid-June, he and his companions plan to spend some time enjoying the "beautiful beaches and French women" of Thailand's Club Med. While plans for the rest of the trip are not definite, Levy projects that they will be "slumming it" in China, Japan, and Hong Kong until some time in August, staying in cheap hotels and visiting Harvard friends working there or travelling on Rotary Fellowships.
Levy says he has no regrets about going to Peking instead of Paris this summer. While he has been to Europe before, he will visiting the Far East for the first time. And he is happy that their parents, who "had a big impact" on their travel plans, won't be worried all summer about their safety.
"I just felt it was not a good time in the history of the world to be traipsing around Europe," says Roger J. Kaplan '86, who also won't be going there as he and roommate Arthur D. Goldman '86 had planned. Kaplan and Goldman decided to tour North America instead in light of terrorist attacks which had occurred even before the United States and Libya squared off in the Gulf of Sidra last April.
"We didn't want to be heroes," Kaplan says. "Terrorists target places where Americans go." Goldman says his parents' fears, and not his own, will keep him on this side of the Atlantic for the summer. "I wasn't really worried, but they thought it was possible something would happen," he says. Although his parents had offered to help pay for his trip as a graduation gift, after the rash of terrorist incidents they told him they would only help pay for his vacation if he stayed on this continent.
"If I had kids I'd probably do the same thing," Goldman says.
Kaplan says he has no regrets about his decision not to travel to Europe. "I think it's still unwise to go at the present time," Kaplan says. "You have to let the situation cool a little."
Amy L. Rosenberg '86 and fellow senior Rhonda J. Roberts '86 also scuttled plans for Europe after "our parents decided we weren't going," Rosenberg says. Parental concern peaked "right around spring break," and the duo soon abandoned what had been very sketchy plans to travel through Great Britain.
"The fact that they would tell me their reservations when they knew it was something I really wanted to do made me realize how concerned they were," Rosenberg says. "It wasn't worth giving my mom ulcers."
"I was a little upset at first" about scrapping plans for a Europe trip, Rosenberg says, but then she and Roberts planned a trip to the West Coast, with a stop at Vancouver's Expo '86 on the way. "Europe isn't going anywhere; it's been there for a long time," she says.
Rosenberg says she has heard that the Expo is already drawing as many as 100,000 visitors a day, but the crowds won't deter Roberts and her from going. "I'm expecting lines and stuff," she says. "We'll just end up meeting more people."
In addition, Rosenberg says, "I'm pretty psyched to go to the beach; I've never been west of Syracuse."
While a number of seniors have opted to stay away from Europe this summer, many still plan to go, according to area travel agencies. Crimson Travel Agency reports that while its European bookings have declined region-wide, its Harvard Square office continues to experience brisk sales. "Students are still going," says the agency's marketing manager Maryann Toldalhagi.
"This office has seen that Harvard students are being fairly objective about [terrorism], and realize that the odds of getting hurt are not that great," she says. While one campus singing group, Collegium Musicum, has scrapped plans to tour Great Britain, the Krokidiloes still plan a tour that includes stops in such sites of terrorism as Athens, Vienna, and Rome.
But even among many of those who are going through with their Europe-after-graduation plans there is a measure of concern about terrorism. One of a group of seniors planning to travel together through Western Europe, Steven P. Dostart '86 says that he and his roommates will be cautious not to make their American origins obvious. For example, they will probably avoid wearing shirts with English writing, and they may heed advice to stay out of perceived terrorist targets like American Express offices and Harrod's in London, he says.
Dostart says that while he and his roommates wanted to go to Greece, fear of terrorism in an international airport with a bad reputation was a factor in their decision to nix a visit there. "We wouldn't fly into Athens," he says. They had thought about using some other means of transportation to visit Greece, but they have decided they don't have enough time to make the trip, Dostart says.
The group had been planning a European vacation since the beginning of last semester. One member, Erik King '86, says he has been counting on this type of post-graduation trip since high school.
But when a number of terrorist incidents in Europe followed the bombings in Libya, "we were sitting on [the Europe trip]," Dostart says. They picked up travel pamphlets about Mexico and Alaska and heard out their parents' concerns. Very recently they concluded that terrorism in Europe had sufficiently subsided, and bought non-refundable round-trip tickets for Paris.
"We're seniors--we can't do it again," says Dostart. "If I didn't go, I think I'd regret it terribly." The Quincy House resident stresses that while he and his roommates appreciated their parents' doubts, they wanted to make an independent decision about whether to go. "We're not kids anymore," he says.
Douglas A. Winthrop '86, another in the Quincy group, says his parents are concerned about his planned trip to Europe, but "they're getting acclimated to the idea," he says. "They weren't thrilled but they never said no."
Dostart and his roommates plan to meet up in Spain with another senior, Charlotte M. McKee '86, whose vacation in Europe is a graduation present which she discussed with her father last summer.
A week after graduation the Lowell resident will fly on British Airways to Great Britain--she purposely avoided booking on an American carrier--and will spend six weeks touring Western Europe.
The terrorist threat will keep McKee from visiting Rome, Athens, and islands off the Mediterranean coast as she had planned. "It bothered me at first, but there's really nothing I can do about it," she says. Like Dostart and his his roommates she now figures that even if sheand her parents had considered Rome and Athenssafe, time constraints might have prevented herfrom making stops at these cities.
McKee and Dostart both say they are lookingforward to traveling among a smaller than usualcrowd of American tourists in Europe this summer."I'm sure all the Americans are very obnoxiousthere," she says. "I'll be one of a smallerobnoxious group than usual there this summer.