Friday, July 11, 2008

The Freedom of the Road

Writer's note: This post was actually an email I sent out to my listserv of friends on June 25, so the time references are slightly off, but other than that, I thought it'd make a good first post.

The freedom of the road.

It's that sense of absolute liberty to go wherever your heart prompts you, without any regard for time or place, unburdened by responsibilities, timetables or irate parents. The only limits are those imposed by one's imagination and purse strings.

It's been a while since I've had that feeling. Two years to be exact. It's been so long that I had almost forgotten how great it feels to be able to indulge my wanderlusts at a whim. This past week, I rediscovered that feeling.

It's been about ten days since I've made it back to the Sandbox. While at a hostel in Damascus, I made friends with a couple of backpackers. A.'s a Briton who has been on the road for a couple of years now, traveling twice up and down the coasts of South America and on to Australia, Asia and now the Middle East. K.'s a tall, blonde Icelander who's in the midst of a trek from Cairo through the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, possibly Afghanistan, and on to India. He's been traveling for five months now, and has no idea when he'll go home as he has no return ticket yet. Both of them had met on the ferry from Egypt to Jordan and are now traveling together till the inevitable separation of paths comes sometime down the road. Despite their differing backgrounds (A. is 26, worked formerly in the finance sector; K. is 21 and has not yet been to university), they both share that same insatiable wanderlust and sense of that adventure that's all too rare nowadays.

In a way, they've rejuvenated me. For a while, I'd been brooding about where my life is headed and what I'm going to do with it. This trip, in many ways, seemed like the finale on what's been a great 27 years of globe trotting. I envisioned myself coming back and finding a job to pay the bills, settling down and all the rest of that jazz. It's been really refreshing to meet kindred spirits that have shown me that no, I'm not weird for wanting to see the world and actually going ahead and following those dreams, that there is another way to live life.

So, when they asked me if I would like them to travel with them to the desert city of Palmyra, I hesitated only for the briefest of seconds. The room I had arranged to rent in Damascus was not yet ready to move into as it was still occupied, and instead of hanging around in the city for a few days, here was the chance to see more of Syria with a couple of rather laid-back, interesting travel companions.

The past week's been a blast. At first I was just going to Palmyra with them, but I had such a great time that I ended up traveling on to Homs, Hama and the really cool village of Hosn, which is perched on a mountain. Along the way, we picked up several more companions, including a amiable Korean lady, a pair of Lithuanian and German law students who had just spent a semester in Turkey, and finally another Korean girl who was taking a one year break from university to travel. And so we were six, spending our last night on a rooftop of a hostel, with nothing but a mat to sleep on. Yet the wonderful conversation, the beautiful setting and sleeping under the stars will forever be etched in my memory.

After parting ways in Homs, I made it back to Damascus yesterday and finally moved into my room in the Old City. I'll be living above a goldsmith's workshop. The goldsmith, Haitham, owns the place and rents out the rooms upstairs to foreigners studying Arabic in Damascus like me. To be honest, it was a little disappointing, as I had been hoping to rent a room where I would actually live with the family. However, things have been working out so far, so I guess I'll give it a go for a month at least. I'll be rooming with an American student (who I haven't actually met yet, as I think he's traveling), and a couple of Swiss guys and two Italian girls round up the rest of the contingent. They've all been really friendly so far, and Michael, one of the Swiss guys, actually showed me how to get to the university and register for classes this morning. The other Swiss and the two girls will be moving out soon though, so I should have some new room mates pretty soon.

I've finally registered for classes and taken the mandatory AIDS test. On Monday, I will have to take the placement test to discover which level I will be placed in. I have been trying to catch up on my grammar terms and revising my vocabulary, but at this point, it's pretty much all in God's hands.

This weekend though, I travel to Beirut to meet up and party with A., K. and possibly the rest of the gang. Despite the clashes and unrest in Tripoli this past week, it should be good times! I can't wait to revisit Beirut and see what it's like now. In a sense, it feels like I have unfinished business there, since I was forced to leave by the outbreak of the '06 Israeli-Hezbollah war. This trip should provide some closure. I'll be sure to provide details in the next email. Till then,


I a n

1 comment:

Marium said...

needless to say Ian, I'm so jealous and happy for you...its awesome to be back on the road and im happy that you are...miss talking to u on gchat...give my salaam to damascus