My late father loved travel so much than even in his 80s he was flying to Canada and exploring the Rockies in a minibus.

He may have been bitten by the travel bug in his teens when serving with the Navy in the Far East in the Second World War, but he continued his visits around the globe throughout his lifetime.

I feel, though, that his most hazardous journey involved the twists and turns of life itself, from the basic upbringing on a small Tyrone farm in the 1920s and 30s to his amazing grasp of computer technology as a 90-year-old.

Through tragedy and happy times, he’d always tell me that as an evangelical Christian he was accompanied by his greatest friend, his Lord and Saviour. So, it was no surprise to me that when he gained a university degree at the age of 80, he chose Saint Paul as the subject of his dissertation.

Paul’s life was some journey. Having zealously persecuted Christians in his early life, his dramatic conversion saw him devoted to serving Christ.

This didn’t make his life’s journey easy; far from it as he was under house arrest for years, at times at odds with his fellow Christians and determined to speak out in opposition even to Saint Peter at Antioch, and was eventually beheaded after being sentenced to death by Nero.

Challenging others with uncomfortable conversations isn’t easy, particularly when he found himself in disputes with other Christians. But he opted to speak up rather than live a quiet life just for the sake of it.

It’s human nature to keep your head down if people are giving you flak, or even misrepresenting you when you speak up for what you believe in. It has been ever thus throughout history, even in our own country. But in these changing times, everybody should have their say.

Herodotus said that circumstances rule men. Men do not rule circumstances.

Ireland, north and south, has had a difficult journey over a hundred years, and changing circumstances are creating difficulties on the road ahead.

Brexit, for example, has divided people and while the practicalities of its outworking remain unclear, one poll shows that post-Brexit Unionists and Nationalists are to some extent going back into their identity bunkers.

And yet, many grassroots Unionists feel betrayed by the British establishment and are disillusioned and worried that, as Mike Nesbitt once put it, they are in greater danger from English Nationalists than Irish Nationalists.

Adding to increasing uncertainty is the current Covid-19 pandemic, and not just the dramatic changes to our lives as we go forward. While the Stormont administration has worked together at times, the disagreement again this week over travel between Britain and Northern Ireland and, indeed, between north and south, highlighted again that even a pandemic crisis will bring out the national identity divisions.

And, of course, the demographics of Northern Ireland have changed much over the years. The poll I mentioned above estimates that just 33 per cent identify as Unionist, only 23 as Nationalist and 39 per cent as neither. So, we’re a community of minorities.

This all doesn’t equate to victory for a united Ireland, but all the change should mean an engagement about our shared future.

How we all face up to the hazards will decide our destination, but sometimes it seems we’re reluctant to join in a conversation about creating the road map.

Perhaps the most reluctant section to join in is the Unionist community. I’ve seen one commentator suggest that Unionists should simply “hang in” which sounds hopeful in the extreme; while others either deny that there are any issues and the Union is safe for decades to come.

Others browbeat and even demean those who want to have a genuine conversation about how we can all share this island. As if only their brand of Unionism is the only valid one, and their world view is the only legitimate one.

A recent example of this is the trolling of Linda Ervine, who’s Unionism is strong enough to embrace the Irish Language.

But the inescapable fact is that in many Unionist homes across the country, the debate is going on about what the future looks like, and ignoring changing circumstances will only work for a while.

Better surely to have uncomfortable conversations. Unionists should at least state their case more confidently as to why they feel Northern Ireland would be better in the Union, and even acknowledge that there is a debate going on as to how relationships could be improved north-south and internally in the north to make life better for everyone.

Like my dad, I’ve had quite a few challenges throughout my life, but I’ve adapted along my journey and I want to make this island a better place for my children and grandchildren, and indeed everybody else’s.

Last week in this column, I wrote about the perception of Orangeism and was pleased that it opened up a debate. There was praise, there was criticism, but at least people were expressing their views and that can only be a good thing.

There is some conversation going on in Nationalism, too.

The Taoiseach, Micheal Martin has ruled out a Border poll and is setting up a “shared island” unit, saying that he considers the crux of the matter is to build relationships. And this week, the SDLP announced they were establishing a New Ireland Commission to engage with people and communities on future constitutional arrangements on the island of Ireland.

Interestingly, the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood spoke about the initiative and described Sinn Fein as “toxic” to Unionists. And the feeling is that the Taoiseach ruling out a Border poll is partly designed to outmanoeuvre Sinn Fein in the south.

The widespread belief is that Unionists are encouraged by this isolation of Sinn Fein. What is means though is that the shared island debate is firmly on the agenda and Unionists would do well to engage in it.

Hanging in there won’t build a better future.