Living in Paris for the last few years, there are questions that I used to get pretty frequently. I used to get asked for hotel recommendations, how to get tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower, what restaurants to try. I used to get questions about whether the croissants really are as good as they seem or what cheese to try. I used to get questions about how to use the metro, how to dress for the weather, and whether or not people tip.
Now, by far the question I get most – and almost exclusively – is, “Is Paris safe?”
Now the people who contact me about coming want to know if they are foolish for visiting, if they will lose their lives if they come to Paris.
In short, the answer is yes. Paris is safe.
And is not safe.
The truth is, you could die in Paris. Yes, there could be an attack while you are there.
You could also slip on ice walking to your mailbox. Or get shot. Or die in a natural disaster. Or a car accident. Or your body could simply cease to function.
Yes, if you want to stay safe, it’s best not to go to Paris. It’s best not to travel at all. It’s better to never leave your house if you want to be safe.
And anyway, who needs to see the Eiffel Tower lit up and twinkling at midnight? Who needs to see young couples kissing beneath it? Isn’t it better not to meet the young Senegalese man trying to sell you five Eiffel keychains for 1 euro, 1 euro, five for 1 euro, hello lady, five for 1 euro?
Better to be safe.
And best not to ride the metro. You could be pick-pocketed, yes. It happens. You could be next to someone that doesn’t smell nice. You will sweat in the summer. You could be confronted by someone who is strung out or drunk. And about once a week some line or another is shut down due to a suspicious package. It’s not safe. And it’s better if you don’t hear the three-year-old Japanese girl singing at the top of her lungs while her mother tries to shush her. It’s better not to hear the metro musicians, better not to see the groups of teenagers with backpacks flirting with one another. Better not to be in close proximity to people from countless different nations. You’re better off if you just altogether avoid the hauntingly beautiful moments this crush of humanity affords.
Better to be safe.
And forget about walking down the street. All out in the open. Eating and drinking on terraces, watching the world go by. Something could happen at any moment. Best not to sit with your espresso and fully enjoy the company you are with. Better not to tap the sugared crust of your crème brûlée with your spoon while huddled under heat lamps. Who knows what could happen? It would be better for you not to walk down side streets and discover new things. It might be dangerous if you’re out there all alone, discovering wonder after wonder, finding God in unexpected places.
Best to stay home.
And the cathedrals. Prime targets for an attack. So really it’s better to stay away. After all, who needs to walk in from the cold to hear their heels tapping on ancient floors. Who needs to see the Jesus with the golden heart towering over them? Would you really miss sitting in the sacred silence? Maybe you would be better off never lighting a candle for your hurting heart while whispering a desperate prayer. It might be too dangerous.
It’s better if you just don’t go.
It’s true that you won’t know what you’re missing. If you never have that conversation with the stranger next to you at the cafe, if you never need to stop someone for help with directions, you’ll be none the wiser. If you never see a culture up close in a way that makes you wonder why they do the things they do – and why we do the things we do – you’ll never know the difference. If you travel, regardless of where in the world you go, you will be uncomfortable. Everything will be unfamiliar. And you will be more susceptible to danger.
So maybe, if you want to be safe, best to stay home.
As long as there is brokenness in this world – as long as there is evil – we are not safe. As long as our ticking hearts are slaves to biology, we are not safe. The world is not safe – and some places seems less safe than others. But I can tell you one thing from what I’ve seen – not every place is safe, but every place is beautiful. Every place teaches you. Every place opens up a bit of your heart that you didn’t know existed before. And that is worth risk if you ask me.