My husband David was offered an opportunity to go to Cairo with a band he plays in. The lead singer is popular abroad and when this gig came up, she called the musicians she plays with to see if they were interested. An all-expenses paid, luxury trip to Egypt, the instruments would be shipped over and the musicians would receive salary and per diem for their services. The concert was being sponsored by some big international group who catered to high worth clientele and this group wanted to hear this singer and her band. Who wouldn't jump the chance to go? The downside? You're flying into a region of political unrest which experiences frequent militant attacks against foreigners, particularly Americans. Oh, getting blown up, yes, that's a downside.
Now, I love to travel, so much so that I am affectionately called a travel 'ho by my husband because I will do anything to go on a trip - buy bubble gum with a credit card to earn airplane miles, enter travel contests, finagle any situation to be included on an excursion. So of course, when he got the offer, my first question was, "Can I come?" David was hesitant at first, which really pissed me off. What, he doesn't want to go to Cairo with me, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity (which it really isn't because Cairo will still be there long after I'm gone), it will be like a second honeymoon, it will be an adventure to shake up the all too frequent routine we find ourselves falling into and making us crazy. Then I thought, oh, he doesn't want both of us to go because of the danger factor. What if we both go to Cairo and something happens to us? What about the kids?
I did research about the situation there, came across articles on how to travel in unstable areas, even saw an article in a travel magazine called "Exit Plan," about how to get out of a country during a political coup. Did you know they have private companies you can hire that will go in and extricate you should you be caught in the middle of a hot zone? The main advice I came away with...book a hotel near the airport (in case you need to get out fast).
But really, there are ways to make yourself less obvious and less a target when abroad, or anywhere for that matter. Observe the local customs, dress appropriately for the region and religion, try to stay out of large crowded areas (markets and bazaars being a favorite target of suicide bombers) and sadly, if you see that large bus of American tourists visiting from Florida, don't go anywhere near it.
I floated the idea of going by several friends to see what their thoughts were about the danger factor. Most echoed the "You only live once...once in a lifetime" concept, and dismissed the idea that Cairo was that much more dangerous than here. "You could easily get mugged and killed on the street down at Hollywood and Cahuenga Boulevard if you hang out after 1am," one friend said. See, I could die locally without the expense of an airline ticket or thirty hours of travel time. Note to self, avoid Hollywood and Cahuenga after dark...
I talked to our dear friends who are our children's guardians. She was very encouraging, hopeful that we got to go. Then I reminded her that if something happens, our children would be moving in with them. She paused for a beat - she hadn't thought about that one - I think she was trying to figure out how an already overtaxed schedule (because whose isn't with kids) was going to absorb two more bodies, and then she said something like, of course we hope that wouldn't happen, but if something did, we'd raise them (my girls) right. Good answer.
So I go back to David, at peace with the idea that we should risk the journey, that will would be fine going together and that he should talk to the singer to ask if wives can come along. Of course, the singer's significant other was going on the trip...with some dubious title of sound man/manager, she didn't say no, but she back peddled when David asked. "The band members may have to share rooms, but I'll see," she responded. So much for all expenses paid, luxury trip.
David was still lukewarm on the idea of both of us going. I thought he was concerned about our girls possibly losing both their parents because I insisted we go into a crowded marketplace to buy leather sandals. Instead, it was much more simple than that. "I'd like to take my first trip on the road with the band on my own. None of the other musicians wives are going." I felt like the mom whose kids don't want her to walk them into their classrooms at school anymore. So it wasn't about security, it was about fitting in with the band.
I resolved myself to the idea that he wanted and was going to go off to Cairo on his own. I fretted a little - both of us getting blown up together is one thing - I can deal with that because I wouldn't be around to have to deal with it. But him going on his own and having something happen? He would be leaving me alone with the girls -which really is a rather terrifying thought - forget about losing the love of my life, the kids would outnumber me - never a position any parent wants to be in. I was about to suggest to David that maybe going on the trip wasn't such a good idea after all, which sounds awful because it was a good idea when I was going to be able to go...but then the call came. The singer said that the group sponsoring the show was making her bring only a skeleton crew, not the full band, just bass and drum (and her sound man/manager/significant other, of course). I was sorry for David, but relieved. I was surprised by his response. Yes, of course he was disappointed, but in some ways he didn't want to go. Why? The guy who loves, steak and potatoes, fast food and pizza, who doesn't like anything too exotic or spicy, was worried about what he was going to eat in Cairo.