A Summer Trip in Europe Leads to a Personal Realization
Walking around the streets of London and Paris over the summer opened my eyes to a different kind of world then what I have experienced over the past eighteen years of my life. It’s difficult to realize how privileged we are living in the Western world because our problems seem so magnifying since they are our own. I won’t lie and say that I have not done that because most of us honestly do that.
On my trip, I faced a harsh reality while visiting the UK and France with my grandparents. They took me on this trip to celebrate my graduation and eighteenth birthday. London was our first stop on the trip and I had a blast while exploring all the different sights and history invested in London. What really caught my eye in the streets of London was how many Muslim women I saw that were wearing the veil.
Woman wearing niqab in London underground station
Growing up in the states and being a frequent visitor to New York, I thought I saw many people wearing the veil and not being afraid of the stereotypes and hateful comments being made towards them. I had never thought that in London, a city affected by more terrorist attacks than New York would have so many women in the country so fearlessly wearing the veil or full on niqab. The women I saw walking the streets of London truly are an inspiration to live your faith with no worries.
Paris is home to the Tour de Eiffel, Champs Elysées, Arc de Triumph and so much more, how could it not have been the highlight of my trip. Our hotel was located on one of the more posh streets, right in between stores such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Piaget, and so many more. Our first night there went relatively simple. We went to the hotel, took some rest and then visited the Eiffel Tower followed by dinner at a local Turkish restaurant, typical tourist shenanigans.
The 2nd day we spent in the city was more proactive, we took a bus tour and got off at all the famous sights within the city. This day changed the way I looked at the world. As we were walking down the Champs Elysees, I noticed a Muslim family sitting on the street outside of the Louis Vuitton store. While crossing the street without even thinking I asked my grandfather “why are there so many Muslim people living on the street here?” I really do not know why that was the question that came to my mind since Europe has had an influx of refugees.
Elderly Muslim refugee in Paris
The conclusion I came to was I had not expected the situation to be as bad as I saw it to be. My heart sank for these families with young children who were just trying to make it through life one day at a time, barely making ends meet. I have seen my fair share of people living on the streets, whether it be in Pakistan or the streets of New York, but never like this.
Maybe it is just the way people on the street are in Europe or maybe it is due to the fact that I have heard their story over and over again on the news and in interviews. These refugees sacrificed everything to escape war. No one ever wants to leave the safety and security of their home. The refugees had no choice but to leave, their safety and security was snatched from them by and extremist ideology. This trip proved to be much more than a vacation, it inspired me to want to bring about change, in the US and abroad.