Millennial Idealism vs. Islamist Reality

Two Americans were killed while on a bike trip through ISIS territory. It wasn't parody.

Mark Alexander · Aug. 17, 2018

When we first saw a report about the death of two Americans biking through ISIS territory, we thought it was a parody. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

Last year, a Millennial couple, Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, quit their jobs in Washington, DC, and departed for a year-long biking tour around the world. According The Pluralist, “Austin, a vegan who worked for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Geoghegan, a vegetarian who worked in the Georgetown University admissions office, decided that they were wasting their lives working.”

Before departing, Austin wrote: “I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed.”

On their mode of transportation, he wrote: “Bikes are clean and quiet and…more approachable. Humans can be an astoundingly generous species, and whether out of amazement or pity or a mix of both, one is likely to be offered more smiles, more encouraging waves, more curious conversations and genuine offers of a bed or a place to camp when biking than by perhaps any other mode of transport.”

Their biking trip ended in tragedy on 29 July in Tajikistan, when five Islamists drove their car into their cyclist group, then emerged with knives, killing Austin and Geoghegan and two others.

Before the naive couple was murdered by the Islamic State adherents, Austin wrote:

“You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse. I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own…”

Regarding Donald Trump, Austin wrote on his trip blog from a location in the Middle East:

“On the television across the room, Al Jazeera plays softly. Donald Trump has just announced his plans to move an embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and the Muslim world is visibly upset. … As a clip plays of a sullen Trump waddling across the screen, I do my best to disappear into the soft plush of the couch cushion behind me. But American as we may be, no one here seems to mind.”

Tragically for Austin and Geoghegan, their worldview was shaped by the primary factor that delineates liberals and conservatives: emotive versus intellectual, how they felt about the world rather than what they thought about it. Unfortunately, as a case study of ill-fated consequence, for them, there will be no more “sunsets … thunderstorms … and gentle breezes.”

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