Taking Comfort in the Uncomfortable

Booking travel with a tour group, one can just kick back and relax.  Pay the money and let the operator worry about everything.  But being part of a tour group brings other challenges.  One is always at the whim of the group’s schedule.   The trip can be only as good as your group chemistry.   Moreover you can’t tailor what you want.  I could solve these by just getting a private tour, but this can be expensive.   Being a photographer, I also need my own transportation to get to places early in the morning, in the evening and late at night.  These being the cases, I rarely join groups.

But this always brings uneasiness when embarking on new trips.  Have I taken care of everything at work?  What if we miss our flight that only leaves once per day or worse once a week?   Did I bring all the necessary paperwork and visas?   Will our next city’s accommodations be uneventful?  Will we be safe?  I’ve learned to accept that these questions will always be there as we immerse ourselves in each location.

Location: Jerash, Jordan
Sensor: Sony A7R
Glass: Canon TSE 24 f3.5 mk ii

However, immersing oneself in a relatively safe place such as Tokyo or Paris, is very different than exploring developing countries.  The most recent place we visited, Jordan, gave me no less trepidation, especially because of the geopolitics in the surrounding area.   Directly to the west of us, the Hamas/Israeli conflict was in full swing.  Directly to the north of us, Russia had just invaded Ukraine -the Malaysian airline from Denmark was just shot down just a few days after arriving.  To the east of us, rebels were fighting Assad in Syria, and the growing ISIL group was gaining strength in Iraq as well as Syria.

While I already knew the situation was a little hairy, it was getting hairier every passing week nearing our trip.  And while Jordan is a relatively safe place for Americans, many of my colleagues and friends kept on asking me was if it was safe to travel there.   Some jokingly telling me to up my insurance.  Each of these inquires when stacked on top of each other begin to add up in the back of one’s mind.  As we flew over the lights of Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, and began our descent through the blackness of the West bank and the Dead Sea and into Amman Jordan, I began to worry a little bit more.

Location: Jerash, Jordan
Sensor: Sony A7R
Glass: Canon TSE 24 f3.5 mk ii

I was already a little on edge given that I was psyching myself up to drive in Jordan.  We initially looked to hire a driver as it was not that expensive, however, in my haste to book, I already had put a deposit down on a rental car.  I would be driving ourselves around for the next 4 days.  Thank goodness we had opted for a local GPS.  I would not have been able to navigate the Arabic street names without it.  Driving in the relative stillness of Amman at 2 AM in the morning gave me a little bit more elbow room to maneuver, but there was an erie calm as we made the 45 minute trip from the airport to the hotel.  Pulling into the hotel, large metal barriers blocking the entrance and guards with mirrors peering under the car gave me pause to think where I was.

I had planned to tell everyone that we were Chinese/Taiwanese in our travels.  However when security at the airport and the hotel are asking for papers and passports and that we have american dollars on us, it became in my mind a bit futile to think we could get by without people knowing our true nationality.  It became more ridiculous as we spoke to the staff in perfect english and they were perfectly adept at greeting us in Chinese “Ni Hao.”  Striking up a conversion with one of the managers, he mentioned to us that his brother was living and enjoying life in New Jersey.  Eventually we just said, “We’re from California.”  To which he started singing California Dreamin….

Location: Jerash, Jordan
Sensor: Sony A7R
Glass: Canon TSE 24 f3.5 mk ii

Jordan, depends a lot on tourism.  They don’t produce a lot of oil if any, and get aid from the US.   Despite being a conservative Middle Eastern muslim country, they are still quite used to and welcome Westerners.  And while our day was a long one in assimilating to Jordan -our first trip to the Middle East- it was relatively quick adjusting period.   Soon we were off driving to Jerash, Kerak, Wadi Rum, Petra, and through the streets of Amman just as easily as in other places.  I soon found myself worrying more about ensuring I had enough gas and whether or not we were getting ripped off by the local guides more so than anything so much more serious.


2 responses to “Taking Comfort in the Uncomfortable

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