Before my expedition to Jordan, I had never seen myself as much of a traveller; I despise flying, and travel tends to provoke a reaction in me known as “airport meltdown”. It usually means a strong coffee, a little chocolate, and buying something from duty-free to read during the flight. However, that was on conventional family holidays; when I was in Heathrow airport, ready to go to Jordan, there was little time to panic, and my airport demeanor changed radically. Perhaps it was the clothes; trekking shorts and t-shirts, as opposed to jeans and knitted jumpers; but however it happened, something changed rather radically.
Looking out over Amman
The country itself was a city completely removed from anything I have previously experienced; the traffic, the taxis, and the streets were a combination of organised chaos, the smell of every spice imaginable, and people greeting you every four steps (being the only party of Caucasian people walking through central Amman, you tended to attract attention). It was almost as though you were a different species, however the hospitality was unrivalled in Europe; in Paris, “good” treatment is the waiter serving your food within a reasonable time frame; in Jordan, more sweet teas than you could ever hope to consume were offered, without asking, by every person you walked by. For a country which is economically less developed than the western world, the human kindness of people was extraordinary; this perhaps shows that kindness, a commodity that has been lost largely in Europe, costs nothing.
As time went on, we made our way to the Dana nature reserve for a trek across the natural desert landscape, and to stay in the traditional huts. It was here that I spent one of the most memorable nights of my life; the day had been incredible, trekking and seeing native plants and reptiles, however the evening was quite literally life altering. After our trip leaders had done the sensible thing and gone into their huts for the night, one of our friends wished to know how the sweet tea (the kind I have never been able to replicate) was made. And so, the owner of the camp, invited us into a tiny kitchen around a fire, and showed us; later, we sat around a small camp fire, talking about his experiences, and imagining how it would be to live his life; the most haunting part of the tale for me is that he spends every day in almost complete solitary confinement; very rarely has he left the reserve. He lives a completely simple life, far away from modern-day technology, using only a mobile phone for business purposes. He still lives on the side of a hill where his mother did, and he will continue to do so, maintaining the family business.
Later sunrise in Dana
The world as we understand it today has lost many traditions that were revered only fifty years ago; our understanding of the family has changed, and where people once acquired a job at twenty that they would continue in until retirement, we constantly change careers, change our convictions, and change our ideas. This is symbolic of the age of change in which we live, however to experience a place that holds a deep regard for the traditional family structure, and maintaining the country as it once was, is a deeply moving experience.
Once we left the nature reserve, we went on into Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world. We spent a fantastic day climbing up to the very top; past the Monastery, and looking out across the country. It is rather under appreciated country, at least in my opinion, and I think it is breathtakingly beautiful. It was interesting to see how high the city really climbed; in that day, we estimated that we’d climbed up and down approximately two thousand stairs, determined to see the High Place of Sacrifice, the Monastery, and a tiny viewpoint above the Monastery that looks out over an extremely beautiful landscape. The physical effort that went into that day was more than worth it; and when we were watching sunset from the High Place of Sacrifice, I resolved to see all the wonders of both the ancient and modern world.
Looking down from the highest place in Petra
By the time I got back on the aeroplane to come home, I’d convinced myself that I would simply have to travel; everywhere, and everywhere. I’d just have to ignore my brain and fly all over the world, because I want to experience things like I did when I was in Jordan, all over again. I want to understand far more than is directly in front of my face, and I hope to be able to travel to South America, and go in a horseshoe shape, across the continent, doing things like volunteering, and of course, Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
I hope everyone , at least once in their life, gets to experience things like this; I feel immensely privileged to have had the opportunity to go, and when I’m at work, wondering why I should be making yet another decaf soya latte with extra foam, I think of Jordan, and the prospect of going even further afield, and this particular thought makes the task much more palatable.