I hate Cairo. I hate this city.
Sure, I had a great time at the Giza pyramids (on my first day of the trip). Sure, Coptic Cairo has beautiful narrow alleys, a cool Hanging Church and ancient synagogue, and feels like you're walking through a piece of history. Sure, there's the Saladin Citadel, with its gorgeous mosques and sweet panorama view of the city. Sure, it's fun riding a boat down the Nile, while blasting music and having a drink with some friends. Sure, Khan el-Khalili souk is bustling with energy and soul, and huge crowds of people. Sure, there's a ton of incredible food everywhere you go.
"Yonah," you might be asking, "if there is all this cool stuff in Cairo, why do you hate it?"
I hate Cairo because it's loud, polluted and dirty, and has some of the worst traffic I've ever seen in my life. The noxious fumes on the roads are tearing my lungs apart. Having been to many developing countries in Asia, I'm used to chaotic roads. However, what really sets the driving in Cairo apart from these places is the aggression. It often feels like drivers are trying to prove something by how reckless they are, and they often let little things get to them. One Uber driver got so angry at another driver that he lost his cool, and kept swerving more and more erratically. Eventually, he got his left side mirror knocked off by another car (he finally calmed down after that).
I also hate (and this is more of a qualm with the country than the city) that I have to return to Cairo every time I want to switch destinations within Egypt, as most trains and buses depart from the capital city. To be fair though, this has been made much more pleasant by my generous host in Ma'adi, a quiet, cozy suburban district. I often forget I am in Cairo until I have to venture outside to do anything.
I hate Cairo, but it's ok! It's alright, because I've taken some incredible trips to other parts of the country, and have more on the horizon.
I went camping in the desert, near the ancient city of Faiyum. We climbed up a small mountain to watch the most beautiful sunset I'd ever seen in my life. Then, we pitched tents and watched a meteor shower under clear starry skies.
A day later, I began what was easily the highlight of my trip thus far. I ventured ten hours away to a place called Siwa, a large desert oasis near the Libyan border. It was out-of-this-world beautiful. The desert landscape clashed with that of thousands of date palm trees (which you can simply pick and consume fresh dates from). It is one of Egypt's most isolated settlements, so it's also a very interesting place culturally. The people of Siwa are ethnically Berber, and even speak their own language (Siwi). Siwa contains many ancient structures, such as the Temple of the Oracle of Amun, famously visited by Alexander the Great, and the Mountain of the Dead, which contains several tombs.
On the outskirts of the city, is a large salt lake, which is probably the prettiest thing in all of Siwa. The water is a stunning shade of turquoise, and it looks extremely aesthetic next to the salt formations and desert sand. Some local Beduins have set up saltwater swimming in nearby areas of the desert, where you can float on your back, just like in the Dead Sea! The desert also contains several hot springs (most notably Cleopatra's Bath), some with nearby cafes if you want to spend the afternoon swimming. Finally, there are a couple of great spots for sunset watching; they serve fruit juices and hot drinks and are perfect for winding down after a long day of sightseeing.
At the moment, I am back in Cairo for a short period of time. However, I plan on soon departing for a different region of the country for some more backpacking. I'm extremely happy I decided to go to Siwa, and cannot wait to see what else Egypt has in store for me!
A few days ago, I left the job I'd been working at for the past four years...for the second time.
The first time was back in 2014, before I spent eight and a half months backpacking across Asia. Over the course of 11 different countries, I discovered deep truths about myself, and the world around me. I fell in love with some of the best cuisines in existence, and and met people from over 100 nations. I saw some of the most beautiful (and ugliest) destinations on Earth, and visited sites that most people only dream of. Some might call it a "trip of a lifetime." Only I knew I didn't want it to be a one-and-done.
So I saved up some money, renewed my passport, got a couple of visas, and put in my two weeks notice. My sights are set on New Zealand, where I intend to live for a year. Along the way, I have trips planned to a few exciting destinations, the first being Egypt.
People have asked me, "Why are you doing this?" The truth is, I’m not entirely sure. I simply have a passion for exploring and discovering different cultures and regions, and don’t want to be stuck at a desk job for decades at a time. Perhaps a better thing for people to ask themselves is “Why am I NOT doing this?” Which brings us to the second question:
“How are you doing this?” Well, as someone with no dependents or major financial burdens holding me back, very easily. I simply wait for my apartment lease to expire, save up some money, buy a plane ticket, and go. It’s that simple. Your family and friends will likely still be there when you return. Withstanding an economic collapse in your wake, there will probably be employment opportunities upon your return as well. You know what won’t be around when you return? Time. It will pass, whether you are sitting at a cubicle, or wandering around the Amazon rainforest.
That’s not to say one should be stupid about leaving one’s job. For instance, when I first traveled around the world, I spent around damn near every penny I had. I returned to New Jersey, broke, and had to crash on friends’ couches for several weeks before getting back on my feet. Since then, I have learned better financial habits, and have saved up a solid emergency fund, on top of what I’ve set aside for travel. Quitting your job to travel doesn’t need to be a risky, brash decision. Plan ahead (but not too much!)!
If you have no dependents, some extra savings, and want to see the world, traveling is a no-brainer. Regardless of what society might tell us, we are not beholden to our jobs. Chances are, your company has hired you to use you to make money, and you have taken the job for a similar reason. It's all business, not personal. Unfortunately, people often feel like they "owe" something to their employers, neglecting to realize that most businesses will kick you to the curb as soon as you are no longer profitable for them. Life is too short to not pursue your passions and dreams.
So to sum up, here is how to quit your job to travel (assuming you are in a position to be able to do so). Step 1: Take a deep breath. Step 2: Do it. Step 3: Profit. Step 4: Repeat.
Here's wishing all of my loyal readers the best on your future travels. It's a pleasure being back!
Hey everybody. Seeing as I am stuck working a day job for now, I've decided to start a weekend travel project. I am attempting to visit all 565 municipalities in the state of New Jersey. As of the time this blog post is published, I am 73 cities in.
Why am I doing this?
Well, I've lived in New Jersey nearly my entire life, and have barely seen any of it. Although I've traveled thousands of miles across the world, I have not really explored my own back yard. How can someone with a burning passion for travel, NOT take a look at his wonderful home state? The weekends are not long enough to travel long distances, so I will be traveling short distances. To be honest, I don't know what to expect, but that's okay. It's more fun that way.
Even though I don't own a car, I can get around most of New Jersey by public transit, walking, and the occasional Uber ride. This project is a chance to get outside more, stay in shape, and discover the hidden gems that the state has to offer.
If you'd like to check this project out, here is the link. Every time a county is completed, I will write a retrospective/analysis of it. Additionally, there is an ever-expanding photo gallery available to view. The link will be added to the "Resources" page of this site.
This will be a long haul, so hold tight.
I know I have written very few new blog posts in recent months. There will be more coming up, as soon as I can summon the willpower to write them. Also, I'll be going to Vermont in May, so stay tuned for that!
Here we go!
There's something unsurprisingly dissatisfying about completing an eight month trip overseas, and having to return to a day job. The road achingly calls out, reminding you of the good times you've had and the people you've met. You want more, but you can't have it. There is rent to pay, loans to pay, bills to pay: all of the fun stuff. The weeks fly by in a boring daze, over and over and over again. That's the funny thing about time, it passes by faster when you get into a groove, even a boring groove.
It had been nearly a year since I'd last traveled, and there seemed to be no escape from the daily drudge of routine. I needed out, even if only for a brief period of time. That's when I came up with a brilliant and rare idea: the American vacation.
With only five vacation days at my disposal, I wondered how the hell I was going to take a vacation of any significant length. The answer was simple: by padding it out with weekends, and choosing a relatively small country to visit.
I recently returned from an eight day vacation to Costa Rica, and let me tell you, it was the best decision I've made in a long while. While there was not enough time to extensively explore the country, I was able to get a nice flavor of the land, and had ample time to clear the senses.
The first word that comes to mind when talking about Costa Rica is "green." I mean, it is hands down the greenest country I have ever visited. Outside of the big cities, the country is just a giant mass of rippling rainforest, green mountains, and volcanoes. There are countless national parks and reserves to see, full of tropical birds, insects, animals, and gorgeous flora. Additionally, the country has miles upon miles of beautiful beach. It is one of the most eco-friendly places on Earth.
The trip started in Costa Rica's capital, San José, a fairly standard large city. While a long, sleepless flight had sapped much of my anticipation and energy away, one plate of casado (a traditional Costa Rican dish of rice, beans, plantains, meat, and salad) was enough to get me hooked. I immediately fell in love with the country, and delved into the eight day trip with a smile on my face.
Because of time restraints, I was only able to visit two other places in Costa Rica; however, they were both quite pleasant and relaxing areas.
Cahuita, a small city on the Caribbean coast of the country, was first. It is a calming swath of palm trees and clean beaches, free from the hustle and bustle of San José. The city contains a national park, full of photographically pleasing animals, insects, and trees. The park spans a huge length of beach, allowing people to dip their feet in the water whenever they feel like it. At night, Cahuita's small-town vibe shines through, as locals and tourists head out for delicious Caribbean dinner fare.
After a brief layover in San José, it was time to visit the second city, Santa Elena/Monteverde. Located on the opposite side of the country, it contains several so-called "cloud forest reserves," large stretches of preserved rainforest, full of the green life that inhabits much of Costa Rica. At first, there was some confusion whether we were in Santa Elena or Monteverde. I'm still not 100% certain the difference between the two, but something tells me they are the same place. Either way, hiking through the Santa Elena cloud reserve was a great wrap up activity. One more bus ride back to San José, and it was time to fly home.
There you have it, my brief excursion to Costa Rica. So long as I have to work a day job, I intend to take vacations whenever possible. Let's hope the next time comes sooner, rather than later!
Greetings from New Jersey.
After more than eight months of travel, I have finally returned to the United States. It’s been one hell of a ride. Instead of focusing on the actual events of my trip (though I will certainly write about it in the near future), I want to address the question: “How much did my trip cost?”
People ask me that question very often, so I figured I’d get out the calculator, and add together all my costs for my trip. This doesn’t just include the standard food, transport, accommodation, etc. categories that I’ve focused on in my previous retrospective posts. No, this includes everything: flights, visas, travel insurance, and a whole other slew of categories.
During my 254 days on the road, I visited 83 cities in 11 countries, took 10 international flights, rode dozens of buses and trains and stayed at dozens of guesthouses, and ate at hundreds of restaurants and street stalls. For all the fun that I had, I feel like I kept costs quite low. On my tight budget, I was able to go to many fine locations, and even managed to squeeze in a couple of moderately expensive countries (hello, the Maldives and Lebanon).
The countries I visited were: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. You can check out my monthly spending breakdowns here, where I delve specifically into each country.
Without further ado, I introduce the breakdown of my total costs for 254 days of travel:
Accommodation - $1,568.88. Average of $6.18 per night. I think I did very well, though I was helped out a bit near the end of my trip. You see, I was able to stay with family and friends for free in Israel. Sticking mostly to dormitory rooms and cheap guesthouses, I was able to keep the prices at a minimum.
Food and Drink - $1,631.37. Average of $6.42 per day, and $2.14 per meal. Once more, it didn’t hurt that I was able to mostly eat for free in Israel. However, I’m still in shock that my food costs were actually higher than my accommodation costs. Street/restaurant food tended to be very cheap in the countries I visited.
Transport (within countries) - $777.76. This includes every bus, train, boat, and taxi ride I took during my travels. It does not include international flights, but I will get to that soon.
International Flights - $1,776.48. Airfare is a necessary evil of travel. Of course, if I had visited Central America instead, the cost for flights would have been much lower. However, I ended up flying very far away from my home country, thus driving up the cost of transport. I took ten flights during my trip. They include:
1. New York (USA) → Bangkok (Thailand)
2. Bangkok → Siem Reap (Cambodia)
3. Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) → Singapore
4. Singapore → Chennai (India)
5. Thiruvananthapuram (India) → Male (Maldives)
6. Male → Colombo (Sri Lanka)
7. Colombo → Madurai (India)
8. Delhi (India) → Beirut (Lebanon)
9. Beirut → Amman (Jordan)
10. Tel Aviv (Israel) → New York
Visas - $397.02. I attained paid visas for Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Jordan. Unfortunately, a couple of mishaps contributed to me paying higher prices. First, I did my 60-day Thai visa through a travel agency, which ended up costing me $100 more than I should have paid. Also, I was ripped off at the Cambodia/Laos border, which you can read about here.
Travel Insurance - $286.70. This includes a standard emergency policy for nine months. Sure, I never had to use it, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Alcohol - $271.57. I must admit, I barely drank any alcohol during the second half of my trip. Perhaps I was all partied out from Southeast Asia, but I managed to keep my beer costs to the minimum.
Instruments - $308.56. This was by far the biggest waste of money I encountered during my trip. When my original guitar broke on the flight to Bangkok, I ended up purchasing a new one. I shipped it home soon after, because it was too much of a hassle to carry through India. In Chiang Mai, I also bought something called a “Seung,” which is a traditional Thai instrument. Of course, it was too difficult to bring with me on flights, so I actually abandoned it at a guesthouse. Sigh…I could have really used that extra 300 bucks.
Shipping - $72.43. This includes the costs of shipping my guitar to my family, as well as shipping various souvenirs back home to my friends.
Unused Currency - $6.49. I could not exchange back the small coins and notes from each country, so I kept them as souvenirs.
Miscellaneous - $783.87. I know I should have done a better job at breaking up this category into smaller categories. This includes every other cost, such as admission fees, ATM fees, laundry, film, toiletries, etc. Oh, and let's not forget that ring I bought in Thailand...
Total Costs - $7,881.13.
If I average it out by total days traveled, this comes out to $31.02 per day, including all costs. Sure, I could have spent more and I could have spent less. However, I am very pleased with how my budget turned out. I got nearly eight and a half months of travel in Asia for under $8000. It was worth every dollar, baht, riel, kip, rupee, rufiyaa, lira, dinar, and shekel.
This story actually happened a year ago, the first time I visited Israel. I happened to be on a Taglit/Birthright trip. For those of you who do not know, Taglit sponsors a free trip to Israel for anyone Jewish or of direct Jewish lineage, between the ages of 18-26. For all you travelers who may qualify for this trip, I’ll include a link at the bottom of this post.
Anyhow, back to my story.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a religious person. Although I grew up as a practicing Orthodox Jew, I ultimately ditched my beliefs, for personal reasons. So when I arrived to Israel, I felt none of the “spirituality” that my friends and teachers had told me I would feel. In fact, Israel felt quite similar to the United States: while it did have an undoubtedly Middle Eastern vibe, I found it to be extremely westernized and modern. Outside of a few religious areas, it was also a surprisingly godless place. For example, Tel Aviv is a well-known party city, loaded with nightclubs and alcohol fuelled debauchery.
One of Israel’s historical highlights is the Western Wall (also called the “Wailing Wall”), located in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Western Wall is one of the only remnants from the sacred Temple Mount, and is therefore the holiest of all Judaic sites. Jews from all over the world come to this wall to pray together; it is a sight to behold.
The wall itself wasn’t what made me cry. No, to me it was just another ancient wall. What set me off was the group of people praying to the wall. Let me explain.
It was quite a powerful experience, seeing so many people united under the same premise. Here I was, a tourist, watching hundreds of people bawling their eyes out in unanimous prayer. The sheer level of emotion being expelled was enough to get me emotional. In a world that is often divided and warring, it was powerful to see so much “togetherness.” It made me think about what we can accomplish as a species: how, if we only stop for a minute we can realize that we all want similar things out of life. Here were Jews of all different shapes and sizes, all different religious backgrounds, and different countries. Yet, for this short moment, they were all able to look past their differences and group together.
Another thing that really struck me is how the Wailing Wall manages to remain relatively untouched by tourist traps. Even though many tourists come to the wall, I still got a genuine sense that the people were there for honest, personal reasons. Unlike Cambodia’s Angkor Wat or India’s Taj Mahal, there are no children running around trying to sell you Wailing Wall key chains and jewelry. It is very easy to immerse yourself in the spirit of the site, without too many distractions.
The Wailing Wall is a site to behold, and I strongly recommend that anyone going to Israel takes a trip there. This godless writer saw the communal power of unanimity, hope, and prayer.
Click on the link to check out Taglit Birthright.
I recently left India, and headed to the Middle East, where I have spent most of the past month. The countries include: Lebanon, Jordan, and (for a couple of days) Israel. The currencies are: Lebanese Lira (also called Lebanese Pound), Jordanian Dinar, and Israeli New Shekel.
The Middle East is definitely the most expensive region I have traveled in so far. However, with some careful budgeting, I was able to have an enjoyable experience for very little. Israel is by far the most expensive of the three; however, I will be staying with friends and family, thus negating most of the accommodation and food costs. Lebanon comes next, because of its pricey accommodation. Jordan is definitely the least costly of the three; however, it has especially expensive entry fees. More on that later.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of my spending habits, for the eighth month of my travels.
Accommodation - $242.22. Average of $8.07 per day. Lebanon really drove the costs up for this category, because the cheapest dorm I could find was around $16 per night. Jordan's hostels are significantly cheaper.
Food and Drink - $190.12. Average of $6.34 per day, or $2.11 per meal. With the exception of Israel, food was pretty inexpensive, especially in Jordan.
Alcohol - $32.87. Most of this came from Lebanon, especially the New Year's Party I attended.
Transport - $110.07. Lebanon actually had the cheapest public transport out of the three countries. A five hour bus ride in Israel, however, cost around $20.
Miscellaneous - $70.32. Includes things such as toiletries, laundry, ATM fees, souvenirs, etc. By rights, I should have paid another $70 for entry to Petra in Jordan. However, I was given a partially unused ticket by a French traveler, and ended up getting in for free. Sometimes you get lucky.
Total amount spent - $645.60. Average of $21.52 per day. I surprised myself by how little I spent, especially because the Middle East feels more expensive than other regions I have been to. However, my free Petra ticket certainly played a part in this, as well as my careful budgeting and spending.
My stay in Jordan was short-lived, albeit wonderful. I spent the first two days in Amman, the capital city. The food and atmosphere were nice; Jordan definitely felt more traditionally “Middle Eastern” than other places I have been to. Although it is a modern country, lots of people wear traditional garb, and pretty much everybody speaks Arabic as a first language.
From Amman, I headed down to Wadi Musa, a tourist trap of a city. It is full of overpriced shops and touts, whose main focus is selling tours to Petra. For those who don’t know, Petra is the centerpiece of Jordanian tourism. It is a magnificent old city, carved out of mountain stone. The archaeological park it’s housed in is huge, and at least one full day is needed to do justice to this amazing site. At $70 for a one-day pass, it’s expensive to enter. However, I was given some partially unused tickets by a French couple I met in Amman, so I entered the park for free.
My feet were worn out and sore from several hours of hiking through Petra, so I made the decision to cross the border to Israel the next day. Since I have friends and family living in Israel, I figured it would be relaxing to hang out with them. Therefore, I headed to the Jordanian city of Aqaba, where I would cross over to the Israeli city of Eilat.
The first thing that went wrong was that the taxi driver who brought me to the border, tried to rip me off. Although we had agreed for him to turn the meter on, he still insisted I pay him 11 Jordanian Dinar ($15.50) upon arrival. Seeing as the meter came out to less than 3 Dinar ($4.25), I absolutely refused to meet his demand. After a minor verbal scuffle, I paid him 3 Dinar, stormed out of the cab, and walked toward the border.
It was surreal, being between two countries; I had very little idea of what to expect. Jordan quickly gave me an exit stamp, and pointed toward the Israeli side of the border. I held my breath, and slowly began the walk to Israel. I could see blue and white flags off in the distance, and wondered how long it would take to be admitted into the country. Since there was a Lebanese stamp in my passport (Lebanon and Israel don’t get along very well), I figured they might question me for a bit. I was prepared.
A guard was waiting for me in front of the Israeli crossing. She took my passport, asked me my purpose for traveling, and ushered me inside. They took my bag, ran it through a scanner, and then proceeded to question me. “Who are you visiting in Israel? Is this your first time here? What other countries have you been to?”
I calmly answered each of the interrogator’s questions, and when it came to the query about the other countries, I began listing: “Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, and Jordan.”
When I got to the word “Lebanon,” I noticed an immediate change in the interrogator’s attitude. She sharply asked me what I was doing in Lebanon, if I knew anybody in Lebanon, if anybody had given me anything to bring across the border. Once again, I calmly gave my responses, and seemed to appease her curiosity.
She then proceeded to do a detailed search of my backpack. She flipped through my clothes, journals, and everything else in sight. Of course, they found nothing incriminating, and gave me my passport and an exit card to bring to the stamping booth. “Cool,” I thought. “That wasn't so bad.”
When I handed my passport to the employee in the stamping booth, she immediately asked me why I had been to Lebanon. I answered her questions, and was then told “I need to check your passport in the back for a while.”
“Oh great,” I thought.
A second interrogator was brought in. He took me into a little room, and began asking me the same questions as I’d been asked before. Once again, I answered everything in an honest and calm fashion. He asked me to write down the name and phone number of my mom, and told me to wait outside.
It happens to be, my mom lives in Israel and is an Israeli citizen, so I was ecstatic. I figured he would just call her to confirm my identity, and then send me on my way. No such luck. I waited in the same chair for over two hours, during which nobody told me what was going on. The only thing that happened during those two hours, was that a K-9 drug sniffing dog was brought by to give me a friendly whiff. The dog found nothing, but that didn't stop them from making me wait another hour and a half.
Without any more updates or questions, they finally gave me my passport back. This time, it had an Israeli entry stamp on it. The whole process took around three-and-a-half hours.
I later messaged my mom to ask whether she had also been extensively questioned. They hadn't even called her.
I’m nearing the end of my wonderful stay in Lebanon. The country has been great. The food is nice, people are nice, and sights are nice. I’ve been asked multiple times about whether the country is safe or not, and I can guarantee that it is. I’ve felt safer in Beirut that almost any other big city I’ve been to. Everything has been fine and dandy here. That is, except for the time that I literally got electrocuted.
It was a night like all other nights. I was sitting in the hostel common area, reading some emails. A group of people asked me if I’d like to join them for dinner, and having been holed up inside all day, I happily said yes. We walked outside, laughing and talking as we went. I forget exactly what the topic of conversation was, but I remember passionately blabbing about something. Well, the streets of Beirut happened to be poorly lit, and suddenly, I bumped head first into something shocking. An exposed, hanging power line.
You know that feeling when you stub your toe, and time stops for several moments? That’s kind of what happened to me. My brain didn’t even register what was going on for a few seconds. I jumped away from the dangling cable, which had been touching my forehead for what seemed like an eternity. “Hey guys!” I said. “Help, I was just electrocuted.”
It must have been the direct current, because I didn’t feel any pain. Nor was I knocked unconscious. Nor was there any spark or any traditional “shock.” It was more of a super-alert kind of feeling, where I lost some control over my muscles and (it seems) my nerves. It became difficult for me to speak and think, things that I usually do too much of. I could literally feel the electricity pulsing through my body, and it did not make me happy.
Unfortunately, I am predisposed to having panic attacks. So the fact that I had just been zapped by a power cable, registered in the most horrendous way possible. I could rapidly feel my body and mind racing, and ended up having a full-blown panic attack. The first thing that jumped to mind was “out of all the ways I could have chosen to die, this is by far the lamest.” My friends tried to calm me down, but to no avail. After roughly fifteen minutes of being asked how I was feeling and cajoling me to sit down, I told them I was going to the hospital. “Go eat dinner without me; I’ll call a cab,” I insisted. I apologized profusely, and hurried to find a taxi.
Shaking, hyperventilating, and convinced that I was going to die, I hopped into the taxi and was on my way. I think the driver could tell something was wrong; he ended up not charging me for bringing me to the emergency room.
When I entered the emergency waiting room, the best possible thing happened. The man working the desk refused to let me in unless I paid first. At that time, I didn't even have money on my debit card. Thank goodness. You know why? It made me sit down and think about why I was there.
I realized that I had completely jumped the gun, and had assumed the worst about my situation. I sat in the waiting room, took a number of deep breaths, and decided to walk home. I collapsed into bed, exhausted from the mental exercise I had just gone through.
None of this stopped me from anxiously researching the effects of electrocution over the next couple of days. I had a number of small panic attacks, where I contemplated what sorts of horrible muscle and nerve damage I could have been exposed to. You know what, though? It’s several days later, and I feel totally fine. My panicking mind absolutely warped my sense of reason, and brought me to the most horrendous conclusions.
That’s my story of getting electrocuted in Lebanon. Tomorrow, I fly to Jordan. You can bet my eyes will be peeled for those loose street cables!
Lebanon (duh) has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 63!
It was December 31st, and I took an early-morning tuk-tuk ride to the Delhi airport. I was flying to Lebanon, and had resigned my fate to a full day of travel, one which involved a six-hour layover in Dubai.
Thankfully, the flight from Delhi to Dubai was delayed by nearly two hours. On the surface, this may sound like a bad thing. However, it was a blessing in disguise. Instead of six hours, my waiting time was reduced to a measly four. So when I boarded the layover to Beirut, I wasn’t nearly as frustrated from waiting as I would have been. For those of you who have had to wait for a layover, you’ll know that it’s usually duller than a roll of aluminum foil.
I arrived in Beirut a few hours before midnight. Since I had been in transit mode for about 12 hours, I was hoping to catch a quick rest, and then see what the people in my hostel had planned for the New Year’s. Perhaps they would go out on the town. Nope. There was already a dance party going on in the hostel. People were rapidly arriving to celebrate, causing to crowd to get bigger and bigger. Half the room was dancing, and somebody was serving drinks from behind a counter. Within an hour, I was tipsy and mingling with fellow travelers. That’s it; there was no forewarning, just a full-blast New Year’s party. I had expected a few festivities, but nothing on this scale.
The room was soon full, and when it was five minutes to twelve, everyone hurried up to the rooftop to bring in the New Year. While we counted, dozens of fireworks went off all around town. Through the BANG!s and POP!s and SNAP!s I could hear people murmuring that they heard gunshots going off. It was a crazy cacophony of sound. Some people on our rooftop lit up their own fireworks, causing a deafening and colorful scene before me. For about ten minutes straight, all you could hear were explosions.
Once New Year’s was beckoned in, everyone headed downstairs to continue dancing. I swear I’ve never seen such synchronized, sensual, passionate dancing outside of a music video. I’m not much of a party animal myself, but I was entertained by just watching the action take place. It was at the same time one of the most jaw-dropping and enthralling things I have experienced. The unbridled joy and intensity was mind-blowing, and it caused the room to take on a life of its own. The Lebanese have amazing style, and pretty much anybody could have passed for a professional dancer.
Unexpectedly, I went from the chaotic (and often exhausting) country of India to a fun-loving, zealous environment. Obviously, I cannot judge an entire country based on a New Year’s party; the next week and a half will truly shape my opinion of the Lebanon. However, I could not have come in at a better time. For a country that has the Syrian Civil War knocking at its doorstep, I was shocked by how ready and willing people were to have such a good time. Whether it is resilience or a simple “I don’t really care” mentality, it is unmatched by anything I have ever seen before. I will be glad to continue exploring Beirut during the upcoming days.
Photo Credit: rabiem22, https://www.flickr.com/photos/rabiem/9229231222/. All rights reserved.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write music and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.