In the last month, I went to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. I am still recovering from the flood of emotions and knowledge I was rewarded with. Everyone I met along my journey was always friendly towards me. I was never made to feel unwelcome and managed to always interact with the locals.
Iraq: I traveled by road from Baghdad down to Basra. I loved taking a walk down the cradle of humankind. Visiting sites still standing thousands of years later. It was the first one of the three and I can be very curious about different cultures and religions. Instead of getting more answers I left with more questions I want to be answered. I was there whilst the Arba'een pilgrimage was taking place. I can't compare Iraq to another visit but think it would be a fair call to say that this would have to be the best time of the year to visit.
Afghanistan: I arranged a small private tour with two traveler friends. My only regret was that I did not stay longer. This will be up there with my favorite experiences and trips one day. We could often interact with the locals, I am not shy and would go up to have a conversation with people even at a restaurant. Perhaps if I was in a country that tourists frequent more I would likely rarely do this. However people would usually stare, I would return with a smile and then decide why not go up and have a conversation. In my opinion, a big part of a country is the people. Especially in countries where the majority of information shared globally is war-related I will find the human aspect, try to capture it with my camera and then share that part. Not the sensationalism aspect. For me, this was very easily done in Afghanistan and we were even able to interact and take photos with a group of girls wearing burkas. It really is amazing how far a smile and hello can go.
Somalia: I was often warned this is as bad as it gets. Having already been to Somaliland and opting to still go despite the constant danger warning it was important to me to see more than just the one day in Mogadishu. Fortunately, someone had invited me for a trip for 5 nights that included, Kismayo, Garowe and, Mogadishu. There is very little information out there so for the first two regions I presumed they were highly dangerous since that was a common misconception. Instead, a common theme I witnessed in all of these countries is how life still continues. You will people being happy, sad and worried. You will see them out celebrating and remembering devastating events. You will see new construction going on despite their world being torn apart for decades.
I have been heavily rewarded with courage, perseverance, and hope. No university could have taught me these skills, as well as this month did.