Behind the Scenes

He Said, She Said. Part 2

“This reminds me of New York.”                                                                             -The best compliment we could give a place.

A picnic in Central Park is our favorite

Our favorite New York restaurant Joseph Leonard

We asked all of our Egyptian tour guides if they were offended by the term "Muslim Extremists."  Aboudi said it best: “I simply cannot call them Muslims.  They are evil men, who twist the Quar’an for their own gain."     

“Trust in Allah, but tie your camel to a post.”                                                                  -A Muslim proverb                         

“Always uncomfortable, never unsafe.”                                                                -Our motto for the trip                                                                

Aboudi and other tour guides brought Egypt alive for us

We went to many places where terrorist attacks had happened or could happen.  And while we were very risk averse, we refused to not go to a site because of fear.  Terrorists win when that happens.

“Is that…?  Yep, Mmbop is playing on the radio.”                                                -Ryan during a taxi ride in South America

A woman in Buenos Aires, after she finished giving Blakely directions to the train, finished with: “Watch your purse, and don’t talk to anyone.”

“No, you don’t understand.  I need clothes with serious durability.  Like half spandex, half tire leather.”                                                                                      -Blakely, while shopping to refresh her backpack, to a naive shop attendant pushing cashmere

“There’s a Hermés on our block.  We’re good.”                                                  -Blakely checking out the safety of our new neighborhood in Buenos Aires

Our neighborhood was full of gorgeous French architecture.

And rose gardens of course!

“Watch your head!  If you hit your head, watch your language!”                       -Our boat driver in Belize

“You know what word I can’t get behind?  Abreast.”                                           -Blakely to Ryan on a long bus ride in South America.  People ask us what we talked about.  The answer is: Everything.

Israel, an Introduction

Israel is the mecca for us.  Its history is long, deep, and full of a turmoil that continues today.  There's no wonder that the land is fought over so viciously: it is precious and, to many, worth the greatest price.  We feel honored to have walked on the streets, gazed at the hills, and even stood in the places where the events took place that literally give our life its meaning.

Unfortunately, the land of Abraham is full of us measly men and women and the imperfections reflect that.  But these faults don’t diminish Israel’s value.  In fact, they create a desperate desire in all hearts to preserve the land and the history that it holds.  We’ll try to relay the depth and breadth of our awe as we walk you through our remarkable stay in the Land of All Lands. 

Before we get into our Israeli itinerary, we should discuss the border.  After Africa, Egypt, and Jordan, we were very relieved to be in a more westernized country.  Ryan almost kissed every person at the border crossing, and he kept saying “We are really happy to be here,” like a crazy person.

Blakely was pretty excited too.

The first thing we noticed was that soldiers abound.  The second thing we noticed was the women soldiers, which after Egypt and Jordan, was a stark though welcome contrast.  All of the border soldiers were impeccably uniformed and frankly good-looking, and they hold their weapons at the ready.  The sight of soldiers is one that will carry through all of Israel and they carry their automatic weapons visibly.  

 

Lastly, we went to Israel in a time when tension between Israel’s Palestinian population and Jewish population was escalating.  While this was worrisome, we had no issue avoiding the protests or violence.  Israel’s citizens heavily depend on tourism and no one, on either side, wants a tourist harmed because the repercussions would severely damage their economy.  We never felt threatened.  Instead, we were troubled that such a magnificent country is torn apart with complicated and seemingly unsolvable issues.

Since our time in Israel was jam packed, we’ve divided the posts by region and that, to some degree, will separate what religion each post focuses on (the exception, obviously, being Jerusalem where Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all rein).  We were overwhelmed with wonderment for all of the different religious sites in Jerusalem.  And, with all my heart, I wish what we share wouldn’t drive us apart, but instead would bring us together. 

More to come.  Until then, here are some of our favorite pictures.

Our sunrise bike tour had us a little loopy.

Africa, It's Complicated

When I think of Africa, I think of red sunsets over endless lion-colored land.  I think of people scarred but not bitter and land dry but full of life.  I think of dark skin in bright clothing. 

If Africa was a song, it would be a chaos of a violent and soulful harmony.  It would be heartbreakingly sad, yet hopeful.  It would be old, but not finished.

Africa taught me the world is full and thick and deep.  It taught me my age. It taught me my size.  It taught me to not feel sorry for people who live differently than me.  Africa taught me to look.  It taught me to listen.  It taught me things are usually better in daylight.  Africa taught me how to not be afraid.

Quotes from our Travels

He said, She Said

“I’ve got some bad news.  Instead of Giza, you said we were in Gaza.”          -Ryan spell checking Blakely’s post.

“I wish the sun would go down so we can go to sleep.” -Ryan.  Our habits have changed a bit.  We see LOTS of sunrises.

At a bus station before dawn.  A young ragamuffin boy with a wheelbarrow was helping us with our bags.  He could barely speak English but, before we entered the chaos of the station, he turned and sternly told us: “Don’t trust anyone!”

Same bus station.  The bus driver was cutting a rope with a rock.  Ryan asked if he wanted a knife and the bus driver replied good naturally: “Oh no.  We don’t allow knives in the bus station or we’d all kill each other!”

“Whatever you do, don’t run.” -Our walking safari guide’s advice if we encountered a lion or leopard.

“There’s more to see than can ever be seen.  More to do than can ever be done.” -Circle of Life lyrics and perfect description of our time in Africa.

“This face is too fat to be you.” -Storekeeper to Ryan when she checked his ID.

“Travelers, in general, are horrendous.” -Blakely in a dark moment.  

“Whoa!” -Us 10x per day.

Salaam Means Peace

For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by Muslims. 

Zanzibar, located off the coast of Tanzania, is 99% Muslim.  After my time there, I feel profound awe and respect for a religion where women drape themselves in gorgeous fabric to hide everything but their faces.  Where throughout the day, and wherever they are, grown men hear the call, turn to face the birthplace of their Prophet, drop to their knees, and pray.  I sometimes have a hard time bowing my head before meals.

We were treated with such kindness and respect.  I dressed modestly, but blushed over my exposed collarbone.  Not for the first time on this trip, I suddenly understood an entirely new perspective.  These women cover everything but their eyes.  Whereas I cover my eyes and show almost everything else. 

Despite my decidedly Western appearance, the women smiled and made me feel welcome and safe.  In our exchanged smiles, I imagined a communication of mutual respect and an apology for our peoples' cruelties against the other's.  I fantasized of the progress if a billion such smiles happened between a billion different people from each side of the hemisphere. 

We have entered Muslim territory and this is just the start.  I know we will likely have some bad experiences.  But I’ll always remember and be humbly grateful for this beginning.  

The Root of (Most) Evil

While traveling, we learn as much about ourselves as we do about the cultures around us.  Each new place forces us to examine facets of life from a new perspective.  Thank goodness.

South Africa forced us to think a lot about racism.  Not a subject for polite dinner conversation and certainly not a normal post for the blog.  But South Africa doesn’t allow the subject of racism to hide and, when brought into the light, we were forced to reexamine our hearts and minds on what is the deal?!?!  With the U.S. boiling over, it became even more imperative to scrutinize racism within our world and within each of us.  

Read our thoughts in The Root of (Most) Evil.  And, if serious isn't your style today, here's a children's poem we wrote to help discuss racism with little ones.  We hope you enjoy the story of a very brave Panda from an Indian Zoo.

The Dark Side of Dreams

We know we’re lucky.  We not only identified a dream but, even crazier, we’ve made it a reality.  It’s an honor and a responsibility, because many people who are more worthy and more able don’t get this chance. 

It’s also terrifying to bring a dream out into the light.  Dreams are much safer locked in our minds since you won’t know what a dream will really be like until you’re in it.  What if you dream to live in a cloud, but you get there and all you can see is fog?  Or you dream to live in a sunbeam, but once inside it’s only a glare?  It’s easier to put dreams on a pedestal instead of letting life smudge the ideal.  Safer.

Not this time.  Not us.  We still can’t believe it.  And maybe it’s because we knew of our dream’s disadvantages that we haven’t been disappointed.  We knew it would be dirty and uncomfortable.  We knew we’d get tired and hungry.  We knew we’d fight.  We knew we’d be scared.  And we know we may still fail.

In knowing the dark side of our dream, we’re able to revel in it’s light.  And in the lowest times of our dream, it’s still an honor to live it.

Taken in Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa

Reading for Adventure

As we planned, we needed inspiration for our adventure.  And what better place to find it than reading?  Here are our recommends if you're thirsting for a voyage and need to reconnect with man's need for exploration.

Our Favorite Finds?  Around the World in 80 Days, Arabian Nights, and Roughing It.  Then the MUST read: The Alchemist.  The undercover delight: Dark Eden.  Know of a great adventure read we missed?  Comment below.

Up next, reads on Africa (and Go Set A Watchmen because I can't help it). If you have any suggestions please comment-- I've started with The Power of One and am fairly obsessed.

 Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

 Roughing It by Mark Twain

Roughing It by Mark Twain

 Arabian Nights

Arabian Nights

 The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

 Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

 The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

 Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

 Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

That Time We Chose Love.

Our trip is focused on love (duh).  And two things happened around the same time that helped us to choose the big L as our trip's focus.

We've already told you the first reason. But there's a second reason that was too precious to shout.

It's this: we watched Andy Stanley's message on the definition of Christianity.  Yep.  That loaded and terribly convoluted word "Christianity."  And, as usual, he made so much sense.  

What only a few people may guess, Christianity is only about love (not mostly.  Only).  And his words reminded us of this and this and this and we felt encouraged.  But then we remembered this and this and this.  And we got furious.  And so sad.  But mostly furious.  Furious that it got so wrong.  And overwhelmed with how to make it right.

The harsh reality is that, in most places in the world, Christianity is associated with judgement, ignorance, and even hatred.  And that is exactly the opposite of everything we should be.  In the beginning, disciples of Christ were known for their extraordinary, unconventional, and unconditional love.  And now look where we are.

So.  Back to us.  

We aren't the smartest in the world.  Nor the bravest.  Nor the wisest/coolest/rightest/anythingest.  We can't do much.  But we can do this.

So we are.  To as much as our (very) limited abilities allow, we're gonna shovel out love as we go.  And we'll fail tons of times.  But we gotta start somewhere.  And frankly, as Christians, we have a lot to make up for.

This is the last time we'll say on the blog that we're Christians.  It's our hope that, by our love, everyone will know.

Frequently Asked Questions

We will talk about this trip until our faces are blue and our vocal chords are dry.  But there is a more efficient way to handle this.  So here are answers to the questions EVERYONE asks.  And now, when we talk we can focus on the more interesting topics.  Like Ryan's beauty regiment on the road. 

  • What electronics are you bringing?  1 iPhone, 1 iPad, 1 Kindle, 1 iPod, 2 computers, a SLR camera, and GoPro.  Note: this is ENTIRELY too many but we're allowing ourselves an extra computer and a kindle.
  • Are you really only bring 1 backpack each?  And how?  Yes, 1 backpack each.  Honeytrek has an awesome packing list that we started with.  The list breaks down to us each having about 12 shirts, 6 bottoms, a few dresses for Blakely, raincoat, long underwear, base fleece, bsuit, underwear and hats/gloves/misc.  Our style will be nomad-chic.
  • What about shoes? That's a doozie-- 1 pair of hiking shoes, 1 pair of flip flops, 1 pair of nicer shoes. 
  • Anything else?  Cool things like steripens to sanitize the water and a sewing kit to keep ourselves together.  
  • What are you most excited about?  Blakely says SE Asia.  She's never been to that region and it promises to be so different and beautiful.  Ryan says safaris in Africa.  But he promises to keep the car doors locked.
  • What are you most scared of?  Ryan says the first moment when we break down on each other (how to avoid that: keep Blakely fed).  Blakely says random acts of violence that could occur in a foreign country (but could also occur in New York, so...).
  • Where are you going? See Blog.
  • How did you plan the trip?  See Resources.
  • Do you have the entire trip planned out?  Yes and No.  We have our itinerary based on seasons and priorities.  We have our Must-Dos and recommendations for each country.  But our lodging and most activities we will book when we get to each place.  Since we're traveling slowly, this will be the main way to save money since we can barter.
  • How do you pick where to go?  First of all, there's a checklist.  But the breakdown is: first you write an insane to-do list (we're thinking about posting this, stay tuned).  Then you prioritize that list.  Some of those priorities will have certain time windows (seasons) and you start puzzle piecing it together.  Next comes the budget and the saving.
  • How will you give back?  We have scheduled some volunteer opportunities ahead of time.  Those are the ones with organizations that require a bit of notice (orphanages, animal hospitals, etc).  But as we travel, we'll give back as we go.  We'll pick up trash while hiking.  We'll speak in schools when helpful.  In cities, we'll give out money (Baha just kidding.  Who do you think we are?  We will give out food though).  The opportunities to do small unremarkable good are everywhere.

Keep the questions coming.  It's our dream and who gets tired of talking about their dream?

A Southern Girl's Guide to Planning a Trip Around the World

A picture of Blakely's misspent youth.

To be read phonetically.  

Note: The entirety of this content uses phrases directly from our Southern childhoods.  It is written from the POV of a supportive, but sassy Southern lady (as if there is any other type).

 

 

 

This trip is a doozie and I'm proud of y'all.  But thinkin of y'all in some foreign land gets us all as nervous as cats on a tin roof and alotta folks can't make heads or tails of why y'all're leaving.  Honey, you're as stubborn as a mule so I don't need to worry about you changin' course.

Now this trip won't all be easy.  Plans'll go cattywampus just about when you're all hot and bothered.  You'll want to bless out every good-for-nothin who gives you the short end of the stick.  Don't fly off the handle or get your pretty feathers ruffled.  Just take a breath, eat somethin wholesome, have a cocktail, put on some color, and get back out there.

Sugah, now, you can't go trampin around the world in your pearls and lace.  They'll be on you quicker than a duck on a June bug.  So cover up what God gave ya and mind your manners.  That doesn't mean they won't get onto you.  But you're in their territory so you gotta respect that.  Just say "yes m'am," "no m'am," "yes sir" and "no sir."  Honey catches more flies than vinegar.

Dahlin you know I think the world of you and the babies think you hung the moon.  So have a fabulous time.  But remember who you are and who's you are.  And y'all hurry back now, ya hear?