Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eyes Wide Open

It's been a while since I've written. I was traveling through the Middle East for two weeks, during which I barely had time for a bathroom break, let alone a blog. But I'm back now, and my experiences in these parts of the world were so incredible, that I feel the need to not only blog about them on my travel blog (naturally), but here as well.

Every time I travel I learn a lot, both about the destinations I'm traveling to and about myself. However, I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever had such a learning experience as I did on this past trip. Part of it was probably due to that fact that it was a region of the world more or less unknown to me. I've never been to the Middle East, and I admittedly didn't know nearly as much about the history or culture as I'd have liked to before I went. I think this ignorance, in the true sense of the term, is also one of the reasons I learned so much about myself on this trip. Because of it's impact, I thought I'd share a few of those thoughts here.

  • I was very embarrassed to realize that for as much as I hate being the subject of stigma and ignorance, I'm guilty of it too. I'd say at least 50 percent of the things I thought I knew about the Middle East and Islamic culture were absolutely wrong. Now in fairness, these were things I'd read in travel information and research to prepare myself for the trip - not media hype brought on by past events and such. Regardless, this trip openend my eyes on so many levels when it came to the culture, the religion, and the people of the region. 
  • I learned what a difference wide open spaces and lack of clutter can make. Coming from the city, I'm used to crowds, noise, and busy-ness, and I admittedly love it. But driving through the expansive desert, being the only car for miles, and watching a camel caravan roam by, you realize what "space" really means. And how much the lack of it can cause tension and stress. 
  • I observed which of those people in my life made the effort to reach out to me by some method or another while I was away. Two weeks is a long time to be out of people's everyday lives. It's interesting (and sometimes humbling) to see who you do hear from, and just as telling, who you don't. 
  • I realized I could handle more than I give myself credit for. I had a major client issue within my first two days there. Half way around the world (literally), an 8 hour time zone difference, and a necessary website that I was told was "not available in the UAE",  it seemed almost impossible to deal with this. But I managed to take care of it. I won't say I wasn't stressed out, but I did it. 
  • I was reminded how lucky I am. As we rode along with our private guides and hung out in our 5-star hotels, I realized that I truly am amazingly lucky. Not only monetarily, but in the fact that my family is so close that I thoroughly enjoyed a two-week vacation with my parents. I know a lot of people who cannot say that, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to be able to say that my family members are also my closest friends. 
  • I learned that even a world traveler misses some things at home - like a good cup of real American coffee, instead of Nescafe. 
  • And for fun - I realized how much of my wardrobe involves tight clothes and low necklines. I actually had to go out and buy new clothes in order to be able to dress in a way that I felt was appropriate and respectful of the cultures in the countries I was visiting! 

What lessons have you learned when you've taken yourself out of your comfort zone, into a new situation, culture, or location? I'd love to hear about them! 

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