What They Don’t Tell You About Traveling Abroad and Leaving Your Hometown
Do it! Save some cash, fill in and send that application, pay the fees, do the paperwork, wait in line in multiple governmental institutions, wait and wait some more, email the embassy and get called for an interview. Congratulations! You are now eligible to travel to your dream destination.
Netherlands? Santorini? Bali? You name it; they all sound equally fancy. Book your ticket, research the weather and pack your luggage. Mentally prepare yourself to be magically healed and embark on a self discovering journey. Wait, what would aunt Rasha have to say about her niece traveling alone? Never mind, you’ll probably like it there, apply for immigration and never have to deal with her again, right? Now say your goodbyes, double communicate the time difference with your loved ones and go catch that flight.
Check in, unpack and start exploring this new city. Oh my God, people actually respect traffic lights. Don’t get alarmed just yet; strangers on the street will even smile and say hi to you. Knock yourself out, grab a bite and proceed with the usual touristic venues. Go back, battle jetlag and fall asleep. When you wake up the next morning, it will feel overwhelmingly freeing; you are alone overseas in a beautiful country and the fun is just getting started. Go out, engage in conversations and start making friends, thank God you’re bilingual. The fun will commence for the next couple of weeks, the interaction with different races and cultures, the decency of passersby and the overall independence of it all will leave you wanting more.
Two months in, something will change. You will start longing for something inexplicable, something you can’t grasp your head around, you can’t be homesick, can you? You are in a country where no one harasses you on the street, no one judges you for having a headscarf on or not, no one shames you for going back home past midnight. The list goes on on and on, the pros definitely outweigh the cons of traveling alone, but you find yourself lost. But how? Isn’t traveling alone so liberating? Isn’t our masculine dominant Arab society so irritatingly suffocating? Aren’t the norms back home unfair to women? What can you possibly be missing
They say traveling alone and being exposed to different norms, races and even scenery can never harm you and I dare not disagree, but here is what they don’t tell you. They don’t tell you that you carry your baggage wherever you go; the things that hurt you back home will continue to trouble you overseas, only difference is the people who comfort you are left behind. Your loved ones who get you through the day are back home; the country you wholeheartedly despise. They don’t tell you that even if you rate yourself as the most adaptive person on the planet, a part of you will never belong to this new beautiful country, a part of you will reminisce about the days back home, dark as they might have been. They don’t tell you about the cruelty of time difference and what it can do to your relationships back home. Before you know it you’re missing out; you missed your nephew’s birthday, you missed your best friend’s promotion, you missed your sister’s surgery, and to add insult to injury you missed your grandfather’s funeral. They don’t tell you what it’s like to watch your country on the news as an outsider, how heartbreaking it is to hear of a tragedy happening back home and how helpless you will feel in the midst of it all.
WE SAID THIS: That being said, I’m by no means against traveling and exploring new cultures. I’m however against the notion that there is a universal standard cure for all mankind. While traveling may have worked wonders for many individuals, it may not necessarily work for you. I think there will always be a subconscious part of you that loves the crowded, polluted, chaotic and even dangerous country you grew up in, not because it’s beautiful per say, but because it’s home.