..and so, that was the adventure of the Third Wheel Camel Family in the Middle East.
My travel philosophy can be generally summed up in a quote by the late Christa McAuliffe:
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
I’m generally not one to be moved by motivational quotes and trite inspirational platitudes, but I so truly love this sentiment that you need to take the opportunities that are presented to you, even if they make you uncomfortable or force you to face unknowns.
Unfortunately that philosophy didn’t end up working out too great for her, but thankfully it has (so far) been much kinder to me. I’ve had the great fortune to be able to travel around the world with or to people in wonderful places, and this is no exception. I am so happy I had the opportunity to go to the Middle East, a place that is so foreign to and so misunderstood by so many people.
That being said, I admit that in many of the stages leading up to the trip… from the initial suggestions, to the planning, even up until we got on the plane… I was scared. I knew that Zach would not take me to a dangerous place and I knew that Jordan was friendly with Americans and relatively westernized… but that logic was often overshadowed by the horrified reactions I got when I told people where I was going, or the constant propaganda and bile that is spit around the US as to how barbaric the Middle East is. I’d look at a map and I’d see where I’d be and how few inches there would be between me and some truly dangerous places and.. well, it was scary. It felt like I was doing something kind of crazy.
But you know what? Once I was there, I wasn’t scared for a moment. The fear I had been feeling was only the fear of the unknown (..and flying, god I hate flying). Once I was there, I saw that there was nothing to be afraid of (besides flying). Once I was there I was too swept up in the beauty of the surroundings and the friendliness of the people and the food and the drink and just the whole experience that there was no time or place to be scared (except about the flight back home).
Even in places that are very, very different, there’s still so much that you see is the same. We mostly want the same things out of life. We love our families and work hard to provide for them. We’re proud of our homes and our cultures. We laugh, we cry, we eat, we drink, we sing, we dance. There are bad people and cruel people and selfish people too, but even in that we are all the same. Being an asshole truly knows no time or place, and that is actually a very comforting thought.
And all seriousness aside, this trip was really just fun as hell. I got to experience so many firsts! First time in either country, first time in the Middle East, first time swimming in salt water, first time in the desert, first time riding a camel, first time cursing while driving 160km down a dark Jordanian highway, etc. etc. More so, I got to experience it all with my husband (!!?!!?! ..someday that won’t sound really weird to me but today is not yet that day) and two of my closest friends. It really, really did not suck. I hope that from my pictures and stories that people are able to see how great it really can be.
So, in conclusion..
Don’t be scared of the Middle East. Yes, there are places there that have tremendous problems and that are incredibly dangerous… the same could be said about the south side of Chicago. Do not let the stereotypes and the xenophobia that run so rampant in the US cloud your judgement of a whole, huge region.
Don’t be scared of Muslims. Yes, there are extremists and yes, there is plenty that is problematic about the religion …so are many parts of the Bible. Do not be fooled in to thinking the religion is synonymous with oppression or militance any more than any other religion can be.
Don’t be scared of refugees. They are just trying to live their best lives and do what is best for them and their family, just like you and I do every day. They are escaping hell. We can and should help.
The world can be really, really scary in theory but it is really, really not scary in practice.