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reflections | CHOOSE TO GO

Choose to Go By Judy Garrison | Photography courtesy of Seeing Southern

Wolfgang and Reginald walked right off that boat and into the city. I might not have believed it had I not gotten to know them earlier in the week. At ages 96 and 97, respectively, their English accents made every story recounted even more delightful and intriguing, even the one about bombs dropping from the sky over London in the 1940s. Dressed to the nines every day, they were on a mission to see, learn and understand every country, city and person that crossed their paths during this 8-day trip down Europe’s Rhine River. Aboard the Viking Longship Alruna in December, I enjoyed the holiday season more than I had in years. Amazing food. Inspirational culture. Awe-inspiring history. Delightful people. Being isolated from the world’s events, our excursions and ship time rejuvenated my tired soul. Then, there was Strasbourg. Two days before our docking, a gunman walked through the largest Christmas market in France, shouted the familiar Arabic phrase, killed two innocents, and wounded a dozen more. Needless to say, Viking scrambled as to what to do with the ship’s scheduled stop in Strasbourg. Might I add, they scrambled well, never skipping a beat. An impromptu trip to Freiburg would replace the French market. They quickly gathered the buses, loaded all of us who wanted to go, and off we went, crossing Germany’s river border, away from the police presence, away from the gunman still at-large, away from the fear. Everyone, except Wolfgang and Reginald. Part of me questioned their tenacity, but most of me admired them. Given 82 DeSoto

the choice, they chose to go into the city, not wanting to miss what they had come to see. I suppose the world will always find a way to interrupt the life we are living. For the good or bad, these moments change us. This moment was the closest I had ever come to terrorism, but as long as I travel, I’m guessing it won’t be my last. Even though there was an air of uneasiness looming that day, among other emotions, I felt safe. I also felt gratitude to those who stood with guns drawn, opening doors of uncertainty, in an effort to protect those they didn’t know. I mourned for those who would not go home that night, and I felt anger for a stranger’s senseless actions that had trickled all the way down to me—a woman from Georgia who was a passenger on a river cruise along the Rhine River in Europe. And then I remembered Wolfgang and Reginald and their enriched and accomplished lives, and I felt inspired. What would their lives have been like had fear stopped them in their tracks when bombs fell from London’s sky? The unseen places. The untold stories. I choose to go. A tad bit of fear promises to keep me on my toes, but I will not let it lead the way. I choose the enriched life that only walking off the boat and into the city guarantees.

Judy Garrison is a freelance travel journalist and photographer from Athens, Georgia. Known as Seeing Southern, she travels the world in search of the story behind the story. Follow her travels at seeingsouthern.com.

Profile for DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South

DeSoto Magazine April 2019