A few days before I was about to leave for my first international trip my friend Carol gave me the best travel advice I’ve ever received: “Don’t experience your trip through a camera lens,” she said. “Let your eyes see it.” I have carried this advice with me ever since. Wherever I go I make sure my eyes see more than my camera does.
In Jordan, this is unavoidable. There are activities here that are not suitable for a standard camera. Folks still do it, and get great pictures out of it, but we weren’t confident enough in our ability to keep the equipment dry and/or sand free. I don’t regret how few pictures we have of these places. Our eyes saw them, our bodies felt them, and it was great.
Floating in the Dead Sea
I “stood” in the deep water with my arms stretched out over my head and didn’t sink. It’s a wild experience. I only wish I had brought water shoes as the rocks were very sharp from the accumulation of salt. But for the rest of my life I will remember effortlessly floating there, looking out on to Israel and Palestine, and thinking, “My work is loving the world.”
P.S. Don’t get the water in your mouth. It tastes like burning.
Hiking the Siq Trail in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve
This is a hike we’ll not soon forget. Ninety percent of it is spent in the river, fighting the current on the way up and riding it on the way back. I am grateful to Ryan and the gentleman from New Hampshire who helped me navigate the ropes for some of the more challenging climbs over water soaked boulders. We absolutely loved this hike. I think it was our best day in Jordan.
Snorkeling in the Red Sea
After running out of time to get to the Red Sea in Egypt we made it a priority to do so in Jordan. We drove to Aqaba on the southern border and rented equipment from a beach front hotel. We were not disappointed. The coral was vast and varied and the fish were gorgeous. I watched a clown fish dart in and out of an anemone for a good five minutes.
Camping with the Bedouins
On the way back from Aquaba we detoured into Wadi Rum, land of the famous Lawrence of Arabia. While most tourists opt for a day trip, we negotiated a rate to stay at one of many Bedouin camps. The hosts were warm and welcoming, they fed us a wonderful dinner and breakfast the next morning, and we walked around the desert, looking at bugs and getting sand in our shoes.
There’s a story that a traveler was shot at by local Jordanians in order to make him come back and have tea with them. Responsibility toward the visitor is so deeply part of Jordanian culture that they are aggressively hospitable. We were invited to birthday parties. We sat in a tent surrounded by goats while a local family made us “Welcome Tea.” We, in fact, drank so much “Welcome Tea” that I had a hard time sleeping some nights. The only English some cab drivers know is, “Welcome to Jordan!” There are no words adequate to express just how awesome it was.
So here’s some travel advice to complement Carol’s (which you should also take): Whenever you meet a stranger, even if they’re just from the next town over, say, “Welcome to [Place]!” And just watch how it affects you (and them).
Our work is loving the world.