I’m writing this blog not because I have something to write about. Something original, something me. But more because in my own research before travelling, I felt the presence of room for a blog tailored to answer the questions of mental preparation prior to a solo adventure. I was going to Jordan to do research for my senior thesis on Palestinian refugees and I wanted to come back not only with a wealth of academic information, but also a sharper, more worldly viewpoint. I will be doing research under a professor with the help of an organization named Arab Thought Forum. And in my free time, I want to explore and absorb Jordan
Now I know what those raised brows are thinking: travel blogs are not new. Maybe not. But my journey, my set of thoughts and combination of encounters, thrills, background, emotion and the product of memory that this blog will log is unique. It’s personal. And I hope through this log I can not only consolidate and solidify my experience, I can also provide for a nice group of people what it feels like to travel alone for the first time in an alien land after yearning for such an experience for years.
Before I reach Amman and start logging about Jordan, I’d want to share the yellow brick road that is leading up to it. I am in Zurich right now so the memory of it is fresh, untainted by the actual event, kind of like watching a ball game “live”. I love airports. Like hospitals, they never sleep. Airplanes themselves are like time capsules- you are essentially boxed into this flying contraption that takes you to a different time zone. While you are in the plane oblivious to the physical transition into another border, another time zone. And then suddenly, you get down from the plane at the hark of a faceless driver and whoop! You’re at a different time zone! Time zone. An interesting term on it’s own- a humanly constructed mechanism to make sense of day and night that dictates schedule, the physics of your wrist watch, your ability to attend a conference call the right way.
The other great thing about airports is the people. Essentially, it reminds me about international conferences- people from everywhere congregating at this hub. In conferences they exchange papers, in airports they come with travel documents. I wish people talked more, to each other. In an endless stream of mental occupations and shyness, people ignore the chance to meet another soul through random chance. Now I find this opportunity a privilege. Call me beatnik but I’m a sucker for the mass-consciousness theories. If nothing else, that should be enough reason to meet, greet and exchange cultures, stories and experiences. If the world is getting smaller why not make it more intimate? Why not deepen the empathy in the acknowledgement that there are many different types of people in the world. For these reasons, I am personally attempting to make room in my inherently introverted nature to accommodate the level of extraversion required to attract a great conversation.
Today it definitely paid off. I met two of the most delightful people I have in a very long time. One was a wonderful woman who just graduated her program in a type of dance, the name which I cannot accurately spell but sounded like urethmei. The other was a spunky old man who made a fantastic career in food engineering and work ethics.
I don’t want to forget these people. I don’t want to forget people I meet in general. Maya said so many wonderful things about her life that I learned of, and the Swiss gentleman gave me valuable advice on career that I found pertinent to me. No I don’t want to forget their faces. Maya was lean, had the soft grace you would expect off a dancer, but meeker. I am not acquainted with the kind of dance she does, but seeing her makes me imagine it to be soft, with ethnic beats of a Belgian folk step. I don’t know why. Her face was kind, her forbearance like a pine tree- tall, lean and earthy. She was reading a book called “Bee Season”, and I remember.
The Swiss gentleman, with whom names were not exchanged, said he wanted to speak to me because he thought I had a motorcycle. I was reading Robert M. Pirsig’s book called “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and the travesty of the book cover design was such that the "Zen" part was de-emphasized to a degree that made me look like a manual-reading biker-chick. No wonder he wanted to talk to me: the brown girl with regular Plain Jane clothes and Kohl reading on Motorcycle maintenance. Unfortunately I wasn't that cool. He said "That's okay, I had my teenage years during the Hippie era. Nothing beats Flower Power!" I wish he was related to me somehow.
And all this while I was staring out the windows at the beautiful Swiss view. Sipping a latte. Reaching out for the truffles I bought AS SOON AS I landed. One thing I certainly noticed is that I reflexively make attempts to “get the most out of a travelling adventure”. I labeled this endeavor an adventure, whatever that means, however fruity it is. For me it meant actively seeking out ways to make the “project” as comprehensive as possible. As you can probably understand, my tendency to get ambitious can compromise the Zen aspect of travelling- I have difficulty taking it as it comes. I’ll give you an example, while sitting in the airport reading my book, I constantly felt reminded that I was missing out an opportunity to talk to somebody. I mentioned how I felt about communicating with strangers, but having that sense of responsibility distract you from doing something good such as reading is probably NOT good. It shouldn’t be a burden. You shouldn’t constantly feel as if you are playing a tug war with yourself to just go up and talk to people for the sake of communicating.
The way I’m dealing with it? I’m reminding myself to do one thing at a time. Read now, if somebody from the crowd strikes you maybe make that effort to go up and chat. Otherwise, relax. And enjoy- chatting is meant to be enjoyable! That said, being able to talk to strangers at will is a skill that comes from habituation. That’s what I’m doing, expanding my comfort zone. I was always somewhat bold but shy and now I’m trying to minimize that shyness. Travelling, I thought, would be a great way. Months from now I will look back at these logs to see if I got far from this point. Maybe through my story, you could find your story. Hope is a great thing! And travel? It could mean anything to anybody.
And with Hope I end my first post. The last thought I'd like to share is that I wish my passport allowed me to step outside for the few hours I was in Zurich.