A contribution i made as a reader to a new travel series launched by Al-Masry Al-Youm’s travel section titled “Why we do travel”
Leaning on the side window, the small torch tied around my forehead was the only source of light in the dark bus. I was reading the last chapter of “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, and while reading I figured out why I travel, alone. That was back in December.
Contrary to my travel habits, where I tend to welcome any social approach under the claim that I like to meet and talk to strangers, this time I was totally anti-social. I almost rudely turned down the offer of two Dutch people traveling with me on the same bus to sit next to them, and perhaps have a good conversation during the three-and-a-half-hours bus ride.
Eight hours earlier, I was touring old Hama, stepping into the sunlit streets and marveling at its white-stoned old houses. Thinking of what I had to do in the next 24 hours, many scenarios had popped up in my head:
Scenario one: Take a bus to Lattekia where I had planned to spend New Year’s Eve and see the other side of the Mediterranean sea, where I was brought up, then spend the last three days of my vacation in Damascus.
Scenario two: take the bus to Palmira, visit the historical city and spend the evening there, and travel next day to Damascus.
Scenario three: take the bus to Palmira, visit the historical city in just two hours, then take another bus to Damascus, spend the extra night there — an exhausting scenario that will include at least seven-hour bus ride in one day!
Although it was a trivial and small decision, it haunted me for a few hours, on the bus, while touring the streets, while stopping by the Hama waterwheels “al noureya” and while visiting Al Azm Palace “Beit el Azm” . As I enjoyed the warm sunny winter day, I constantly thought about what I really wanted to do.
This time I didn’t have a prepared schedule, or friends and companions to decide for me. It was only me and it was all about my needs and wishes. The thought of “what people usually do” wasn’t an option. This time, I had to listen to the voice in my head and decide.
And this was the moment where the question: why am I travelling first popped up! I’m certainly driven by the natural human need to explore, meet new people and encounter new cultures, etc. But I realized at that moment the real reason, for me, was that travelling helps me to redefine my boundaries and to realize how all the surrounding stops influencing me , including traditions, beliefs, society, ethics, and everything I was raised to follow and to take for granted.
And it has nothing to do with the revolutionary statements of some people who are in constant search for freedom. The reality is that traveling mutes all the external voices and for the first time you start to listen to your true self and to your wishes. You learn to know yourself well and to enjoy your own company. At that moment in Syria, I was responsible for myself and I was taking my responsibility seriously.
On that bus, as I turning the last page of my book, I looked up to face my image reflected on the bus window, and to look directly to my eyes lit by my head torch. Here I am, the self that I traveled to Syria to gaze at.
Exhausted, I let out a sigh, closed my eyes and tried to sleep for the remaining hour in my long ride to spend New Year’s Eve ning in Damascus, after I toured Palmira just for two hours.