All travelers have a list. You know the one. Even if it’s not written down, it’s there, in the back of your mind, all the time. It has all the places you ever want to visit on it. And usually, it’s in some sort of priority order. And along with that list, I imagine we all also have some travel regrets: The places we didn’t visit before….something happened.
At the top of both of my lists now is Egypt. I have long wanted to see the pyramids. The royal tombs. Sail down the Nile on a felucca. Ride a camel somewhere other than the local fair. Hear the call to prayer in person. Wander through an Egyptian marketplace.
And yet I’ve never been there. Why haven’t I gone? So many reasons, so many excuses. I’m a frequent solo traveler, but not an exceptionally brave one. Egypt being a very different culture than the one I come from, I felt it required more than the typical amount of research on my part to be “prepared” for it. Plus my vacations from work are typically one week. Anything longer that that becomes an issue. I just haven’t felt I could do a trip to Egypt justice in one week.
And I’m not all that comfortable with the idea of having to fend off aggressive salespeople and beggars or deal with a culture that has very different concepts of the role of women all by myself. I know other women have done it successfully, but it just sounds exhausting to me. But ultimately, those are all just excuses. I have an unfortunate habit of “saving the best for last”, and I think that’s what’s happened here.
So of course, the current revolution in Egypt has left me feeling regretful about that attitude and that I didn’t take the time to visit the country sooner. Gary Arndt recently wrote a post about how travel changes your perceptions about world events; if you’ve actually been to a place (like Egypt), you care more about what’s happening there than you do about places you’ve never been. (A great argument for why we should all travel more internationally.) And yet, even though I’ve never been there, I find myself caring very much what happens to the people of Egypt. I’m inspired by their willingness to face their fears to fight for a better life. I hope their struggles result in their voices being heard and a leader of their choosing. Maybe it’s because I know someone who lives there (luckily she was out of the country when all this started), or maybe because I’ve traveled there in my mind, and in the pages of some of my favorite books, I don’t know. But I care.
The odd personal reaction for me is that, instead of wanting to shy away from Egypt now because of the unrest, I feel doubly invested in wanting to learn more about it and in visiting as soon as it’s safe to do so, kind of like how I felt doubly invested in visiting New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I’m sick of having regrets about the things I haven’t tried and the places I didn’t visit. I will see the pyramids before I die, dammit. And while I’m there, I’ll toast the people of Egypt for having the courage to try to change their lives. They are an example to all of us.
Do you have a travel regret? Thoughts on the situation in Egypt? Please share in the comments below.
Photo credit: The Giza Pyramids 3 by tom@hk.