a world

Where Do You Go When Nowhere Is Safe?

{Photo credit: Paula McHenry Barkmeier via Toby Israel}


To turn on the news of late is to open the floodgates to a barrage of ill-tidings.

Terrorist attacks, Ebola, protests and more attacks. That is not to write off the gravity of these situations, for they are undeniably serious. But still, I can’t help wondering what is left. Where do you go when nowhere is safe?

My musings inspired the creation of this folk tale:


Once upon a time, there was a girl. She loved to explore and go on adventures. The spray of light on the horizon played a lilting melody on the back of her eyelids.

One day, the girl announced that she wished to go into the woods at the edge of town.

“Don’t go into the woods!” cried the townspeople. “Don’t go; don’t go,” they pleaded. “The woods are not safe,” they admonished. “There are wolves and witches and monsters and men. Nowhere is safe. Nowhere is safe,” they said.

And so she stayed, safe in the town, and gazed at the woods, imagination aglow. “Oh, how I wish to go into the woods,” thought the girl. “Oh, how I wish to go!”

Months passed, and the girl’s gaze shifted. “I will sail the sea,” she announced one day, “to see what lies beyond it.” The townspeople shuddered and shivered and quivered with fear.

“Don’t go out to sea,” they cried. “Don’t go; don’t go! The sea is not safe,” they admonished. “There are sharks and storms and sirens and surges. Nowhere is safe, my girl. Nowhere is safe; stay here,” they said.

So the girl sighed and laid aside her plans, and she did not go. But she sat upon the shore and watched the waves, and her thoughts crashed against her skull in time: “Oh, how I wish to go out to sea. Oh, how I wish to go!”

In only a few weeks, she had yet another design: “Surely the mountains are safe enough… that is where I will go,” said the girl, jaw set.

“Oh!” cried the townspeople. “Don’t go to the mountains!” they pleaded with her. “Don’t go; don’t go! The mountains are not safe,” they admonished. “There are winds and ghosts and bandits and banshees. Nowhere is safe, you see. Nowhere is safe; stay here,” they said.

The girl craned her neck to look up at the rocky crags that broke up the sunsets and cast long evening shadows across the town. And she did not go. She sat and she glowered, and her mind raced on. “Oh, how I wish to go to the mountains,” thought she. “Oh, how I wish to go!”

Again and again she presented new ideas, and again and again the townspeople shuddered and shivered and shook their fingers sternly.

“Nowhere is safe, my girl. Nowhere is safe,” they said. “Don’t go there; no, you mustn’t go there. There is war and sickness, and there are demons and dragons. You see, the world is not safe, my girl. Best to stay here — oh yes, best to stay here,” they repeated. “Don’t go! Don’t go!”

Months passed in this way, or perhaps they were years, and the girl began to sit longer, to stare farther, to think deeper.

Finally, this is what she thought: “If the woods and the sea and the mountains are not safe, then surely neither is this town,” she said to herself. “And indeed if nowhere is safe, then it is ‘nowhere’ where I must go!”

And with that, she packed her bag with books and bread and blankets and bottles, and she set out along the road. The townspeople, when they caught sight of the girl, ran after her, calling frantically, “Where are you going? Where are you going?”

“Nowhere!” the girl shouted over her shoulder. “I am going nowhere. You needn’t worry — it is safe there!” And she laughed and walked on.

And she crossed the woods and the sea and the mountains, nowhere always just ahead. She encountered dragons and dangers, monsters and men, but fairies and angels and vagabonds, too, and these last ones guided her way.

“Nowhere is safe. Nowhere is safe. Oh, how I wish to go,” her thoughts chanted through her head in tune with her feet, and never did they tire. On the girl walked. Up and out and onward she looked.

“Go,” whispered the sun. “Go! Go!”


Where do you go when nowhere is safe? That is indeed the question facing the 21st century nomad.



Toby IsraelToby Israel is an incorrigible vagabond. She travels in search of dragons, mermaids, adventures and searches… and cross-cultural understanding. Avid dancer, yogi, cook and lover of words, she is inspired by movement and poetry, good food and new things. She studied Anthropology at Middlebury College and now seeks to squeeze by as a freelance writer. She writes a column for Elephant Journal, and a travel blog, Next Stop World. You can also follow her journey on Twitter and Facebook.


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