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Risk Management

It’s funny how being a parent changes your perspective.

I did a lot of traveling when I was young and single, both for my work here at the magazine and for fun in my personal time. And during those years, I did a number of things that were perhaps dangerous — or at least ill advised — without thinking too much about the potential consequences. I remember riding horseback along the rim of Copper Canyon in Mexico and climbing a rickety ladder to the tin roof of a two-story building after a fresh rain in Costa Rica. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of street food in places not known for cleanliness and ended up with nasty stomach bugs as a result.

Today my daughter Daisy is 3 years old, and my son Liam just turned 1. When I travel now, I find myself thinking more carefully about the kinds of activities I participate in. It seems foolish to chase thrills now that I have a family that depends on me. Those kids need a dad, and I’m the only one they have.

In addition to changing the way I see adulthood, being a parent has also changed the way I remember my childhood. When I was young, my parents often frustrated me to no end; now I understand the decisions they made, and I’m glad they chose what they did.

One of my parents’ most remarkable decisions was to encourage me to travel. Whenever a trip opportunity came up, there was no doubt I would go, even if I had to find a way to pay for it myself. They sent me to places that were probably farther away than they liked and let me go probably before they were ready. Consequently, I had some incredible experiences in high school and college that laid the foundation for a life and career in travel.

I didn’t know until years later how difficult it was for them to tell me goodbye at the airport and watch me disappear down the jetway. And I probably won’t know that feeling completely until I put my own kids on a plane someday.

It would have been easy for my mom and dad to hold on tighter, keeping me close to the nest where all was safe. But they understood what many of us don’t: Safety is a myth. There are no guarantees in life. Risks exist everywhere. The question is whether we’re taking the right risks.

I like to think I’m taking smarter risks these days. And I’m glad my parents took smart risks, too. Because the chances they took when I was a child have made me the man I am today.

It’s easy to look around the world and see risk and danger everywhere. It’s tempting to hunker down at home where it’s “safe” and wait for more peaceful times to begin traveling again. But what is the bigger risk: encountering danger on the road or missing out on a life of adventure by staying home?

If safety is a myth, we might as well go out and see the world.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.