With its roots in ancient Arabic, translated roughly, Diyafa  combines hospitality and generosity. The concept has been hardwired for centuries into the traditions of the nomadic Bedouins of the Sahara and Middle East. Practicing Diyafa means offering food, shelter and protection to any fellow nomad no matter who they are, and no matter how much or how little you have. The code of Diyafa acknowledges and honours the levelling effect that travel has on all people; we’re all sharing the same adventure, and we all want the same thing: to learn about the world, learn about ourselves, broaden our horizons and enrich ourselves by sharing in the lives and cultures of others. 
British backpacker Grace Millane’s own adventure was brought to a heart-breaking, utterly senseless and unforgivable end late last week, when she was murdered in New Zealand just days after her 22nd Birthday.
In the last couple of days, I’ve probably read a dozen or so articles on the subject. Many of these were heartfelt tributes, similar in tone to the tearful statement made by Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, when she addressed the Millane family. Sadly, however, incidents like this also breed another very different, and sadly predictable, kind of response – on a 24-hour delay, out come the Boogieman articles.
You can spot them instantly: they always start by acknowledging the tragedy in the first paragraph before swiftly moving on to their agenda: casting a villain and scrambling to find a “bigger picture” angle. Articles like these ask, and claim to answer, one tasteless question: “Whose fault was this?”
Is Tinder to blame? Is it a gendered issue? A political one? Do we blame alcohol? A lack of timidity and caution on the victim’s part? For every think-piece, there’s a different boogieman. It made me a little queasy after the fourth or fifth article because – within a day – this profoundly human tragedy, this young girl’s life, had been reduced to something abstract: an illustration rather than a person. This is so often the case when terrible things befall the innocent: the incident is dissected and intellectualised until it becomes so ephemeral that it’s divorced from our own realities.
The bottom line is that a happy, joyful and beloved young woman lost her life whilst travelling. It’s a horrific thought, but it’s one that we need to sit with. We need to take a deep breath and use both our hearts and our heads while we consider, even for a moment, how it makes us feel. Then we need to use our empathy to realise that we’re not alone, and that millions of our fellow travellers probably feel the same way. Then, once the sadness, anger, confusion and concern have passed, we need to have faith in the goodness of the world and the goodness of our fellow travellers. We need to have awareness of ourselves, our hosts and our surroundings – but we also need to hold onto some belief in Diyafa… and be willing to practice it, as well as expect it. 
The aftermath of tragedy isn’t the time to go hunting for boogiemen; it’s the time to sit with the news and allow yourself to feel… and to come to terms with one uncomfortable truth: Grace Millane did everything right – but it still cost her life.
If something like this can happen in a major city, in a developed country, to a well-prepared, clever & road-smart girl like Grace, then it can happen to anyone. We, as travellers, need to take that fact on board – even if you do everything “right”, there are some things we can’t prepare for. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but blaming Tinder won’t make it go down any easier. 
There are, of course, precautions that we can take when we’re preparing for our travels. There are resilience strategies we can put in place, contingency plans we can have in our back pockets… but above and beyond all that, there’s one key lesson we need to remember: the best-laid plans of even the most prepared & experienced traveller can quickly and chaotically go awry. Grace’s unnecessary and sorrowful death is a reminder of this – and a reminder to us, as the travel community, to look after each other no matter what.
We can’t let fear sour our view of the world, and we can’t let paranoia overtake our desire to explore or colour our perception of certain countries & cultures. We can’t let the evil actions of a single man make us forget that seeing the world is a joyful experience. Travel is the ultimate exercise in freedom, independence and open-heartedness – a privilege and a pleasure which we can’t allow to be tainted by fearmongering, alarmist Boogieman-hunters.
Instead, we should look at the response of Prime Minister Ardern, who wore her sadness on her sleeve and bore it to the world before, in the same breath, reminding millions of her country’s historic hospitality and kindness towards travellers. We should let ourselves sit with the humanity of what’s happened, and let it remind us that we – the travellers of the world – are strong together. We’re a community, and we have each other’s backs… that’s a truth that’s never more relevant than when chaos rears its head, bringing tragedy and uncertainty with it.
Grace died for one reason, and one reason only: a single man, sitting in a cell in Aukland, who allegedly made a single cruel, heartless and senseless decision. He is the one on trial – not “party culture”, not Tinder, not the people of New Zealand, not travel, not any given gender… and certainly not Grace herself. In the face of tragedy we need to stand in empathic solidarity and think about what more we can do to help each other along the road… we need to think about Diyafa. 
For practical advice on keeping safe while you travel, check out “Going Places: Young, Kind, Conscious Travel” on Facebook – it’s Vagaband’s community page and we’re there to provide as much knowledge and support as you need, no matter where you’re heading. You can also visit the Caroline’s Rainbow Foundation; the CRF are doing incredible work on educating young travellers on safety and wellness on the road. They have an app and other tools that can help keep your travels safe.
- Walker Pappin 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published