‘If you ever make it back alive….’

One of my friends told me that she would love to hear my stories, if I would make it back alive. Well, I guess I did! I got home safe and sound about two weeks ago. So this will really be my final blog (ok, you can’t change  a person that much, it will be my final blog for a while. Being at home for two weeks without having bought any new flights is a weird feeling!).

 

I started my blogs to challenge the perceptions we have about the Middle East. It was never the question ‘if’ I would make it back home. I never doubted about my security. I’ve traveled to quite a few places, but the Middle East is one of the safest areas I’ve traveled to, which sounds weird for a region where there are wars and bombs.

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The Middle East is the region with ‘hospitality teas’ on every street corner.

Before I left for my trip, I often didn’t even mention I was going to Iran, because it led to so many negative comments. Yet, especially Iran, the country people thought I wouldn’t survive, was the safest country I traveled to. As a solo backpacking woman, you don’t have to run for your life, or fight to keep men at a distance. I’ve been perfectly safe and instead made so many friends.

 

Instead of traveling to a ‘super dangerous’ region, I experienced a region where hospitality is taken to a whole new level. What really made my trip different than previous trips, is the people I met. So often I was received as a long lost daughter or dear friend. The people I met on the way, all of them, did everything within their power to make my trip as comfortable as possible. I’m struggle to find the good words to describe how loving and caring everyone has been to be. Daily, people were willing to share everything they had. A blackberry phone that I got, or when they gave me the keys of a mini cooper that I could use for the day (I didn’t do this, was too scared to crash it), and even entire houses (even though the owner was sometimes not even at home. I often got the message ‘you can find the key under the rock next to the door’), free paragliding trips… Pretty awesome!

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And sometimes, you just wake up in paradise and realize that your trip is pretty awesome!

Yes, there are wars in this region. And bombs. I’ve had to change my itinerary a few times for security reasons. And to be honest, I’ve been lucky, sometimes appearing at places just before or just after attacks. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t survive a trip to the Middle East (it was partly my own choice to search the boundaries of what was still safe).

There are a few countries I wouldn’t recommend going to now, which is exactly the countries we’re receiving refugees from.

IMG_2374I can’t help but think about what we’re doing right now with the refugee crisis. I know it’s way too simplistic to just welcome everyone. Of course, there are solutions at different levels, and I’m leaving it to professionals to find long term solutions. But what I realized was that if people can be so welcoming and truly made me feel at home, are we doing the same? (me included, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone). In the whole debate about refugees, I sometimes miss common humanity. The majority of the people are amazingly loving people who make sure you’re having the best time of your life. There is a saying here that can be translated as something like ‘if you do good, Allah will be good to you’. This is exactly how I experienced travelling in this region. People went way beyond ‘doing good’.