Ebola and terrorism are causing tourists to cancel vacations in all parts of Africa, in particular Kenya.
I'm one of those tourists with a trip planned to go on safari to Kenya and Tanzania. It will be my second trip to Africa, the first was to South Africa and Botswana.
It was that experience that drew me back.
I love Africa... at least the safari part, seeing magnificent animals in the wild. Well, as long as they last and the poachers don't finish off every living beast we have left.
As soon as the plane touched down in San Francisco, I knew I had to go back. That was two years ago. Africa hasn't left my mind since and I'm eager to explore more of it.
Everything is planned: the dates, camps and logistics from Nairobi to the first camp in Kenya to the return from Tanzania two weeks later. Deposit made, agenda secured.
Nairobi was to be the first overnight at least until the terrorist attacks at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi occurred.
Then a second attack happened, so my travel agent moved the first night to the town of Karen, the location for the book, of Out of Africa, a memoir published in 1937 by Isak Dinesen, a pen name used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke where Blixen made her home in Kenya, then called British East Africa.
That plan worked for a while until a visitor published a post about being attacked at the same lodge near where I would be staying.
I'm not a wimp. I'm not afraid of taking reasonable risks, but these risks felt beyond what I'm comfortable with. Even so, I've kept my reservations intact.
Determined to fulfill my dream of returning to Africa, I look for positive reasons of returning to the magnificent plains of that massive continent. Africa, to me, is earth before man. A primal place of the beginning of mankind as we know it today. In all my travel, nothing has touched me the same way.
Then Ebola entered the picture. Still, I'm undeterred. After all, Ebola is mostly in West Africa and I'm traveling to East Africa. What's the deal? It's a big continent.
It seems to me closing off West Africa and limiting travel will hurt the economy of the continent as well as inhibit resources to actually help control the spread of Ebola. I don't want to be one of those people. It's not in my nature to cause suffering of those in need.
Not traveling to Africa hurts those workers who make a living off of tourist dollars. I don't want to be a callous American. Am I really afraid of getting Ebola at a safari camp? Will limiting travel make a difference?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said,
To completely seal off and don't let planes in or out of the West African countries involved, then you could paradoxically make things much worse in the sense that you can't get supplies in, you can't get help in, you can't get the kinds of things in there that we need to contain the epidemic.
To be an informed traveler, I signed up with the State Department "Smart Traveler Enrollment Program" (STEP). It's a service to allow U.S. citizens traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is also a way to get current information about troubles abroad.
Now I'm not so sure I'm pleased with my decision to be so thorough about my planning. The department issued this warning: "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya."
Does this means if I go and something bad happens the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi will wag a finger in my face and say, "We told you not to come!"