Just GO somewhere: Reasons you should travel

Recently, I’ve been dreaming more and more about traveling the world. You would think that going out of the country twice this year would be enough, but there’s something that is just so appealing to me about traveling, and it makes me want more.

Like you may have read on the “Who I Am” page or in my last post “23 Things,” my parents started exposing my brother and me to travel when we were tiny. (They’ve been all over the world, too!) When I was 10, I took my first overseas flight and the four of us toured six countries in Europe for three weeks. I’m pretty sure that when you’re exposed to travel, you don’t want to stop. Or maybe that’s just me!

Skip to my college years. Throughout the last four years, I’ve had the amazing opportunities to visit 11 countries on four continents to do mission work, study abroad, complete thesis research, and just to explore. During each of these travels, God opened my eyes to new experiences, cultures and ways of life, as well as to the stories of the people I met. And I want to encourage you to do the same.

I’ve compiled reasons I think YOU should travel to new cities, new states, new countries, and new continents. Here’s my plug… Just GO somewhere!

To see the world and to see God’s beautiful creation. This may sound obvious, but there’s so much beauty beyond what we see in our own worlds.

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(The Norwegian Fjords)

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(The canals of Amsterdam)

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(The Atlas Mountains of Morocco)

To experience new culture and new ways of life. We have a tendency to be ethnocentric and think our ways are the best. But we can really learn from seeing how other people and the rest of the world functions. When I lived in a village in Morocco, I was able to watch how the villagers walked through each day. While their lives were difficult, and most of them worked very hard, there was a simplicity to their lives that I envied. Read more about my experiences here.

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(Grand Mosque, Casablanca)

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(A traditional Berber house, Tighza, Morocco)

To try new food. While I do love hamburgers, fries, cobb salads, and most American foods, the rest of the world has so many flavors that are so much better! Fresh salmon in Norway, masala and curry in India, French cheeses and bread, Belgian chocolates, Mediterranean olive oils. And not to mention the coffee!! I may be biased, but Americans miss out on some good flavor.

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(Moroccan mint tea and cookies)

-To meet new people. Everyone has a story to tell if you take the time to listen. Most women I talked to in Morocco were readily willing to share their stories with me. What an incredible opportunity it is for us to love people by simply listening. An example is Fatima’s story (pictured below).

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To learn new ways to communicate. Not everyone speaks English. It means a lot to nationals if you try to speak their native languages. I remember learning short phrases like “Aapka naam kya hai?” (“What is your name?” in Hindi) and “Salaam, la bas?” (a typical Tachelhit greeting, like “Hello. How are you?”) to help relate to the nationals.

To appreciate what you have and to put things in perspective. Hearing about a place or different people is not the same as actually seeing it for yourself. I heard about the brothels in Mumbai, but until I actually met the women in the brothels, I could isolate myself from this tragedy. This is the same for how women are treated in Moroccan villages. I’ve read and heard so much about how women are treated in traditional Muslim cultures, but I didn’t fully grasp it until I saw it for myself.

It’s a call to action to participate in what God is doing outside of yourself. Life is not about glorifying ourselves; it’s about glorifying God. We are called to be the hands, feet, and mouthpieces of Jesus to the world. Jesus’s command to believers is to go and make disciples of all nations. We are called to serve others and share Jesus. We have been blessed to be a blessing.

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I love how Paul says this in Romans 10:11-15. He writes, “As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

If you haven’t already, create a bucket list of places you want to visit, and make it a point to see one of these places each year. I have a lofty goal of stepping foot in all 193 countries, meeting nationals, and sharing their stories and my experiences. Just the thought of that thrills me! I would also love to complete the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

In honor of all these places, and because of my love of maps, my dad and I bought an enormous world map (shown below) and put pins in all the locations we’ve visited. (I have one of my own in my room in Ohio.)

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Why do you think it’s important to travel? What places are on your bucket list?

Mine de Sel (8/17/2011)

Somewhere between Telouet and Animeter, sits a sign that reads, “Mine de Sel: 300 meters,” with an arrow pointing down a dirt path laced with trails of salt. Because the path meanders between steep hills, the salt mine seems impossible to find until it’s just about in front of you.

Upon arrival at the locked metal door of the mine, we saw a small stone and earth house in the distance, which is where the directors of the salt mine live. Two men, one in a traditional white robe and hat and the other in jeans and a long-sleeve tee shirt, were standing outside the house when Ahmed called out to them. A few moments later, the men greeted us as we went inside the cool of the mountain and escaped the intense heat of the midday sun. Immediately on the other side of the door stood a large pile of rock salt crystals held back by 10-kilogram bags of salt. On the left, was a lonely wheelbarrow and another two massive piles of rock salt crystals. The only light in the mine came from sunlight streaming through the open door and one small flame, that was attached to a tank of gas. Besides that, the mine was a cool, dark cave, complete with stalactites and a bat.

Ahmed took the light and led us to three different work areas, all of which looked about the same. Each area had been carefully blasted in using small sticks of dynamite. Once workers bomb a section, they clear away the fallen crystals and then begin chiseling out more salt. One particular section was on level ground, while the other three sections were blasted on a downhill slope, causing us to have to descend to see the base of the crystal-covered hill. Two of the downward sections had shallow pools of water, which from a distance resembled white foam. However, upon moving closer, we noticed clear water with large deposits of ground salt sunk to the bottom.

From the mine, the workers either ship the salt to major cities such as Casablanca and Marrakech to be processed and turned into table salt, or workers sell the salt in crystals to locals to be given to their animals for good health.

One can usually find 16 workers in the mine, the number including the four mine directors. For now, the worked has stopped because “it has been a dead year,” said Salah Ait Bafas, 65, director of the mine (the one dressed in the traditional robe and hat). Workers make 60 dirhams per day (about $7.50), while the directors make 1,500 dirhams per month. However, when the salt doesn’t sell (.5 dirhams per kilogram), no one gets paid.

This is especially difficult for both Salah and Ibrahim Bador (the worker dressed in jeans and a tee shirt) because each has a wife and children to support, five and six children respectively. Salah (from Marrakech) and Ibrahim (from Telouet) spend much of their time working — for days or weeks consecutively — and then spend a few days at home. Both men agreed that the work in the mine is difficult, tedious and often lonely, but they are willing to sacrifice if that means making ends meet for their families.

Marrakech Express: a.k.a. Twizzlers and Everwood (7/18/2011)

To be honest, Marrakech was not what I expected. Although, I’m not quite sure what exactly I expected in the first place. I suppose I imagined the marketplace scene from Aladdin, with lush fruit stands and handmade beads. While there is a large marketplace, Djmaa el Fna, we mostly spent our time going from the Riad (hotel) to the airport to search for our missing luggage. That was only one of the handful of mishaps that we encountered going from France to Morocco.

First, we spent more than an hour in the Paris metro waiting for specific tickets to get to the airport. And upon arriving at the airport only an hour and a half before our flight, we struggled to find our terminal and get through security in time. We arrived at the gate just in time to find out that our flight had been delayed (we only had an hour layover in Casablanca before having to catch the flight to Marrakech).

Anxiety really started to set in, which is unusual for me anymore. My emotions were going crazy from being frantic about finding the terminal in time and then being worried about missing our flight to Marrakech when someone was waiting for us at the airport. I was also sad about leaving France, tired from not getting much sleep, and nervous about the adventure upon which I was about to embark. I bet you can imagine what happened next… tears. Of course, it’s me. Thankfully, lots of prayer, texting my mother, and a hug from Kim helped to make things better.

I kept checking the time while we were on the flight. And the whole time, I thought for sure we had missed the flight. So, when we finally arrived in Casablanca, we spoke with a woman at the transfer desk. Turns out that flight was delayed as well. I was quite relieved, overjoyed might be the word.

Later, when we got to Marrakech, we discovered that our bags were still in Casablanca. After hours of waiting at the airport with no sign of them, we left to at least get a good night’s sleep in the hotel. Thankfully the hotel was air-conditioned, had wifi and had a free breakfast, because we ended up staying an extra night due to baggage problems. And the guys who were sent to pick us up (Ahmed and Mohamed) knew their way around and helped us, which made things a little easier on me. (Ahmed and Mohamed are cousins. Ahmed is also the brother of Carolyn’s husband Mohamed. We are staying with Carolyn, who is from the U.K. I’ll tell you more about her later.)

I did get to experience a little of Marrakech outside of the airport. The city reminded me of my visit to South Asia, which prepared me for this trip. The streets were dusty and crowded with people, cars, and mules. Motorcycles whipped by you (I was literally almost run over four times). Trash cans and traffic lights virtually do not exist, so we saw litter and a few close calls with accidents.

I also spent about an hour at a cafe by the place of the bombing in April, known as Cafe Argana. The area is a huge tourist spot. I felt strange seeing the building up close because I had been reading the latest news about the bombing for months in my tutorial, and I saw so many pictures of the aftermath of the attack. That experience was eerie for me though I’m not really sure why.IMG_0543     The day’s setback in Marrakech turned out to be a huge blessing, considering I wasn’t feeling well. Besides going to the airport twice and eating dinner at a cafe called “Ground Zero” (which happened to be by the most famous mosque in the city and is pictured above), we were able to spend the entire day resting in bed. Did I mention the room was air-conditioned? That in itself was a blessing, especially in the 110 degree heat of the desert. Any other down time we had, we spent it watching Everwood and eating a pound-and-a-half bag Twizzlers.
Oh the tastes of home…

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