In a world where Instagram acts as a resume, it’s distasteful to display weaknesses, especially in the sector of picture perfect travel.
Though travel encompasses many elements of self-growth, it is only achieved when every layer of your limit is stripped bone-naked. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to drop everything and take a taxi straight to the airport. Just when I think I’ve come out stronger, I’m knocked flights down. Travel, as much as it seems destination oriented, will always be about the journey.
For me, Egypt has been the epitome is this realization. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lived in third world countries and traveled in the most notorious danger zones, but this, this is something else. I’ve never been scraped with obstacles during my travel like this before. Again, these problems are not limited to Egypt, it just so happens that my location coordinates and misfortune align.
Sometimes we think the best of a place because our experience there is the finest money can buy. Nonetheless, there is a big difference between visiting a country and living in it.
My previous trip to Egypt had been exactly that: a week of extreme shelter and luxury. I’d only met a handful of people; mostly other tourists in the hotel. My travel goggles filled with the country’s rich history and architecture had the best of me.
This post is a reality check. This is me taking off the glasses and stomping the shit out of them. Here is what no one tells you happens before the pictures and their filters.
In order to even afford the ticket, I often work 2-3 jobs for months to save as much as I can. This means not driving, living with my mama, not eating out, and often avoiding plans with friends because I know every outing will cost me.
The difference between travel and vacation
I’m going to write a detailed post about this soon but for now, the biggest differences between travel and vacation are time and budget.
Vacation: Usually temporary and follows a one-time financial splurge.
Travel: A head first dive into the localities of a culture with a lack of luxury and financial stability.
Omg I miss my mama
I can overcome any physical obstacle but the gaping hole in my heart for a sense of home is crushing. I wake in hunger for a hug on so many nights and force sleep down my throat on an empty stomach.
Moving from city to city, bus to train, I lose track of time and cleanliness. Many small towns don’t have the extravagance of running water or functioning toilets. I’ve had to shower in the sink several times and I bun my hair for weeks on end when I can’t find suitable bathrooms.
Loneliness and social segregation
I aspire to challenge myself and go to places where I’m forced to adapt. With that said, I still stand out like a sore thumb due to traits out of my control. If it’s not the color of my skin, it’s my disability of self-expression. I’m constantly meeting such cool people and it hurts so much to know that there cannot be more than a surface “Hi, how are you” exchange.
I realize it’s impolite to speak a language someone in the circle doesn’t understand but it’s equally impolite in my eyes to ask someone to not speak their mother tongue in my presence. More than this, the physical differences isolate me most. As an unveiled woman, I’m the recipient of a plethora of stares in conservative areas. Even with all this attention, conversations rarely spark.
The ideal diet of 5 year old
When you start living on your own, you realize how much effort it takes to build a kitchen. A couple of plastic spoons and stolen sachets of Nescafe can only take you so far. I had chocolate for breakfast yesterday because I was too lazy to go out and buy eggs. When I finally bought the eggs out of desperate hunger, I realized I didn’t have a spatula to pick them off the stove.
Your body will hate you
After eating Harissa (delicious canned Tunisian hot sauce) and bread for three days, I dread going to the toilet. I’ve also lost all motivation to work out because it’s too hot without fans for at home pilates, too culturally undesirable to run outside as a woman, and too expensive for a gym membership. We also don’t have a mirror so this makes it a little easier to neglect my body.
I took a bus from my small city and reached Tahrir Square in Cairo at around 3 am from where I had to take a taxi to a friend’s place. As a stand out tourist and the only woman on the bus, these 5 hours of my life were spent in utter anxiety. I often fear not only my possessions but the fact that my despair would be uncared for outside my country.
Yes, travel is every kind of privilege, thrill, and fun imaginable, but it’s also important to take every piece of media with a grain of salt. This doesn’t mean travelers should stop documenting mesmerizing scenes, it just means that it’s not the only narrative.