As I write this, the first leg of my round the world trip is slowly coming to an end. In less than a month I will be back home for Christmas. So far, I have travelled during three months, and through six countries. While all of them were great in their own way, two have managed to completely exceed my expectations: Kazakhstan and Armenia.
I’ve been thinking about what I wrote about Iran. The aftermath of the feeling this country left me with; the generic, creeping unease, the constant discomfort that grew bigger and bigger on me, the way one small sexist remark, after a while, had the power to ruin my day. Not because the comment was necessarily super rude or intimidating, but just because it was one too many. Because having to deal with tiny insults and minor inconveniences every single day became tiring, and a burden.
I’ve been thinking about it because I never endured that feeling so strongly in my life. It was a new, very unsettling experience. I’ve been also thinking about it, because many of you have given very strong reactions to my story.
My flight from Almaty to Tehran held two great surprises: Astana Airways is truly a superb airline and Pau, the Spanish guy with whom I went on a day trip to Turkestan, turned out to be in the same plane! We shared a very comfortable trip, with enjoyable food, free gin tonic (woot woot) and good company. Soon after the mighty Kazakh mountains disappeared from sight the ground got covered in desert and it still looked that way when the fasten your seatbelt signs switched on, I donned my hijab and prepared for landing. “It doesn’t make you look younger,” the man in the seat next to me shamelessly proclaimed while I was fixing the fabric. “Mind your own business,” I was tempted to say… but then I couldn’t really disagree with his argument. Continue reading Tehran: a great introduction to Iran→
Home to one of the oldest civilizations in the word, my beloved poet Hafez, spectacular Islamic architecture and silk road heritage. I had been looking forward to visit this intriguing country for so long, as I was often told that Iran must be the safest country in the world, the Persian people the kindest on the planet, and that a visit starts with opening your mind and saying “yes” to everything.
“Welcome to what could be the friendliest country on earth”, the Lonely Planet opens its most recent guidebook, two of the mayor subtitles being “The beauty of Islam” and “Redefining hospitality”. Talking about setting standards high!
When starting my journal about this country, however, I can’t help but look back on the above quotes with bitterness. I feel like I was ill informed, by the guidebooks, the forums, the traveller’s reviews,… While Iran is no more dangerous than the average country, a big shadow looms over my experiences of the past three weeks: a bitter taste that is related to the exact opposite of the things mentioned in the guidebook. I would call them “The oppression of Islam” and “A great deal of harassment”. In summary, I would highly suggest any female traveller to not say “yes” to everything. If I had, I’d probably be fucked a hundred times by now.
I made this drawing to say thank you to my colleagues whom I’m leaving after 10 years. Yesterday was my last day in the office… I think I still need a moment to process it all: the sadness of goodbyes and the excitement of a new beginning, the waves of kind attention and gifts, the gratefulness and emptiness.
It’s always been my goal on this blog to write from honesty. I don’t believe the world is served by false portrayals of perfection or happiness: there are two sides to every coin and travel is no exception. Continue reading Gratefulness and emptiness→
Exactly one month before the start of my big adventure, my friends took me to this marvellous exhibition in Ghent’s Caermersklooster. It’s about the roots of Flanders and the heritage of our homeland that we carry inside us. With unusual local artwork, a stunning setting and the best company, it is a moment that I will continue to cherish during my journey – because as much as I believe in the importance of travel, I also believe in the importance of home, and as my departure comes nearer and goodbyes become plentiful, I realize more than ever how I am rooted among the people I love ❤
Or as Lin Manuel Miranda sings in Moana: We keep our island in our minds, and when it’s time to find home, we know the way.
My take on the world and the things I love. Prominently among them: travel, art and the ordinary. I share my discovery of our beautiful world, my self and the arts I'm trying to develop (photography, sketching and writing) in a way that is both honest and poetic. Please join my journey.