One last update from the trenches; or, on MANning up.
Got a new flight to New York via London. I leave Beirut at 9AM tomorrow.
Obviously I sort of feel like a loser for cutting my journey short. Why couldn’t I just, like, MAN UP (as they say)? I could have explored Beirut, which seems to be a wonderful city, more. I could have, like, actually taken pictures. (My camera was dead for my only full day here. Oh well. I saw the Pigeon Rocks and the sunset on the Corniche; there are pictures on the Internet.)
Honestly, I could have. I’ll probably regret leaving at some indeterminate point in the future. Which is part of why I’m writing this now.
Here is my deep insight from my solo journey through Syria (and mini-journey to Lebanon):
Basically, it’s over-rated.
I’ve had a lot of fun in the past two weeks. I’ve also had a lot of really frustrating and lonely times. The best times I had were the ones spent with people in hostels, i.e. mostly not Arabs (with some quite notable and completely worthwhile exceptions). I’ve seen a lot, learned a lot, and I don’t regret a single moment, even the ones where I was swearing like a sailor because I was sweating in places I didn’t know I had sweat glands and searching desperately for an ATM.
But even when I’ve been having fun, I haven’t really been DOING anything. And that’s why traveling solo just for the hell of it is overrated, in my opinion. I like DOING THINGS. And by “doing things” I emphatically do not mean “partying” or “riding buses” or”climbing on rocks in the desert” (though I have been known to enjoy these things in my time). Basically, I like the things I do to have an impact on something or someone other than me. That’s part of why I loved the monastery so much (again, more on that later). What I was doing had a tangible impact, even if it was just “the bathroom is cleaner!” or “now people have things to eat!” And on top of that, I feel like I made real connections with people. Because real connections with people come from DOING THINGS, TOGETHER, and not from idle chatter over dinner or tea.
That doesn’t mean I regret this journey. Because in addition to learning this fact, I’ve also learned a lot about the logistics of traveling and, you know, being a grown-up.
And it also doesn’t mean I’ll stop traveling, or even stop traveling alone.
It just means next time, for any trip longer than a few days, I’ll be volunteering all along the way.
Also, one thing I’ve said on this blog before but it bears repeating: I’m not ashamed of liking being at home. At Yale and basically anywhere you find young adults who think they are cool, people like to say, “oh man, I’m such an adult, I hate going home and, like, spending time with my family.”
Bullshit. I love my family. And I even like my hometown, because, you know, it’s my hometown. If you have problems with your family, then I’m sorry for you, but it doesn’t make you cool. It just means there’s something important missing from your life.
Going to be home in a little over 24 hours, and I can’t wait. <3