Comfort zones and homes away from homes

Uprooting yourself, tearing yourself away from your nearest and dearest, to a place where you near on know nobody, starting a new job, finding a place to live , living out of a suitcase, locating the supermarket, getting used to different accents, words and new cultures (ideally without embarrassing yourself or possible even offending somebody(or many-body’s), spending a lot of time on your own, exploring new areas (my personal favourite!) celebrating small wins like successfully navigating the public transport system or big wins like landing a new friend – these are some of the trials and tribulations of moving countries. For some of you that sounds daunting to leave your familiar environment.. whereas for others like me, I get giddy with excitement at the possibility and the newness around me!

The counter balance of all this is that ‘moving ‘home’ back to the familiar, the place you grew up and spent the first 25-30 years of your life (if you are old enough to have spent that much time anywhere that is :-)) is tough.. At least 3 times a day I close my eyes and wish that I could just go back to my old life in London where things ‘felt’ easier (definitely not easy!), where I was making my own choices and I felt at home away from home until it became my home (re-read that to make sure you got it!). Now, because I did not leave ‘sunny England’ by my own choice with an expired visa being to blame for the tears that flowed the entire duration of my flight from London to Dubai (potentially a PB for continuous tears for me!??) I now feel a bit like the little blue man from Googlemaps that you pick up and just drop wherever you fancy and he just has to deal with that.

Sure, life in Brisbane is definitely not terrible and Brisbane has grown to be a cool little city while I had my back turned. I have a great job and I work for an amazing company in an excellent team, but building a life somewhere takes a lot of effort, buying cars (thanks Dad!), finding another place to live, working out how to catch a bus to work, re-acquainting yourself with the supermarkets – it’s a whole load of effort required to tick off these tasks that I didn’t choose to have on my to-do list. Of course I went through all of this when I relocated to London, but it somehow seemed worth it because I knew why I was doing it – I knew what the reward was. I am yet to find the why, or the ‘carrot’ for my new life in Brisbane and I can tell you, I have been looking under rocks, in crevices, between the couch cushions. left right and centre, it is not going to show itself easily, but I am sure it is there!

It’s amazing to be reunited with my friends and family here, seeing how they have grown and changed, catching up on a few years as well as a few missed beers. In many cases it is very heartwarming that with your most treasured friends, it instantly feels like old times and nothing at all has changed! Not being on the other side of the world from all of those people is certainly one problem solved, but it’s a big giant see-saw now because I have left some of my most newly treasured friends who quickly became my family back in the UK !!

Because I am not in the habit of lying, when I said I’ve got a great job, in a great company and I work with intelligent and inspiring people I meant it. For those of you who may have forgotten being the new person is harrrrrd. I’m not regularly described as shy, but even an extrovert like myself still gets a little nervous, clumsy and awkward (one of my party tricks!) around new people (like the first day at school – I hope they like me!!) and although my job is similar to my job in the UK which I knew how to do mostly back to front (I would usually still do it front to back because it made more sense that way…) it’s all new systems and processes and as a perfectionist at work, it’s exhausting learning the nitty gritty and having to be patient (there’s the word!) while I’m in the taking notes, asking questions and seeing how long it takes for them to work out I’m pretty nuts phase.

Patience is the key. Patience to wait and see what happens, to not be hard on myself is the key to surviving this thing known as ‘reverse culture shock’ and successfully building my new exciting life at ‘home’. For those new to this program you might need to know patience is historically not something I have an oversupply of. I like things (all the types of things) to happen quickly, be as interesting (and as tasty) as possible and with as many LOL’s (friends, beers and Mexican food) as I can get away with while doing it (whatever ‘it’ may be!).

So, I wanted to share a little about this odd little concept of feeling outside your comfort zone IN your comfort zone (but still not outside of London Zone 1), so for those looking for my usual ‘optimistic twist’ this post is mostly just been a big fat whinge. I’m not going to sugar coat this one (I’m not Willy Wonka as they say!!) as I don’t have the strongest silver lining as yet – more of a scrap paper-y and torn cardboard kind of lining , but I come back to my previous ‘goodbye’ post that I am so lucky to have something that was so hard to say goodbye to and bloody excellent times to have fond memories of and beautiful people to miss. Although like the poor googlemaps man I’m here feeling a bit dazed, shaking my head and looking around to work out where I am (a common problem for any traveller) and what direction I need to go in (around and around a roundabout with a few speedbumps thrown in feels the way it is at the moment?!), as soon as I work it out, I’m hoping to be back running, lol-ing , instagram-ing and maniac-ing about the place before I can say ‘oh-but-in-London-we……’

 

 

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Goodbyes are Sucky

Goodbyes are sucky.

Goodbyes are really sucky, no matter which way you look at them (I guess I’ve never looked at one upside down, perhaps they are a little more fun if you are upside down?). When I say goodbyes, I don’t just mean ‘have a good day at work, see you tonight’ or ‘thanks for the hangs today, gotta make this train’ kind of goodbyes, I mean proper ‘I’m leaving the country, wont see you for a few years’ or ‘maybe this is the last time I will EVER see you’ kind of goodbyes. You know, the rough ones. The tear jerkers. They usually and not un-coincidently include your favourite humans. That’s one of the biggest contributing factors to their suckiness.

Airport goodbyes are even suckier. I’ve had more than my fair share of those. I’m emotional at the best of times, but add an airport scenario to it and it magnifies the suckiness to the power of a bazillion. There is the confusion of being excited because you/they are travelling and doing something damn exciting, but sadness because you aren’t going with them and won’t see them for god knows how long. You also are meant to be busy playing it cool at an airport. Everyone is pretending they are high flyers (especially if you are flying on your own) being as nonchalant as possible about the whole gig and an emotional goodbyes mess that whole look up.

What about goodbye protocol – Is it good for them to see you cry, or should you hide it? If it’s in public, some people don’t like a public cry (see previous blog!) Do you turn around? Do you just keep walking? I never know what the right thing to do here is. So much pressure. What do you even say? See you soon? (that’s usually what I go with and that piles on even more awkwardness).

I wouldn’t put goodbyes as a skill on my resume. I’m not very good at them and even with practice, I’m not improving. I get all awkward and start talking about other things, the real things I want to say get kind of stuck in my throat, I will do anything to avoid having that moment where we have to talk about the fact that this is IT, no more business as usual, gotta go for a long time, (maybe forever) moment.

I’ve been thinking about goodbyes a bit lately, this is because I am gearing up to have a whole bunch of them. I have already had to have a few that snuck up on me a little (even suckier!). I have a great big tribe of special humans (also described as favourites) that I will have to awkwardly and blatantly lie to when I say ‘see you soon’. The suckiness rating will be out of control and there will be tears from here to Sunday.

BUT the reason it will be sucky is because I have so many absolutely amazing things to miss. So many beautiful people that have come my way here in London and made my time here (big call about to happen here….) the best in my life. I have memories of good times I will cherish forever, So many (maybe all the) lols and adventures to smile about when I am older. Only good things are hard to say goodbye to and to quote one of my favourite inspirational characters Winnie the Pooh ‘How lucky I am to have something that is so hard to say goodbye to’.

Goodbyes usually equal a hello too and hello’s knock my happiness socks right off. It’s inching close to two years (that flew by in a blink!) since I have seen a lot of faces I love so much and I cannot wait to have them right up next to me for hugs, cheek pinches and reunions over meal’s, beers or in the case of my god daughters I’m hoping for a reunion tea party and bounce on the trampoline.

I get to say hello to some of the non-human things I have been missing of late as well. I was doubting my nationality when I wasn’t craving Tim-Tams, Vegemite and shapes when I first arrived in the UK, but I am literally dreaming of the whole days spent on the beach, perfect prawns, wearing a bikini and thongs non-stop for a week (and not having to deal with the giggles of people around me when I say thongs), bike rides, (consistently) good coffee, trips to Woolies/Coles (in your swimmers and thongs of course!) to pick up more fresh bread rolls and a chook for dinner.

Finally, I am grateful that goodbyes now are only physical goodbyes. Technology keeps us close and stops people from becoming strangers. Sure it is not the same as being face to face, but if people are meant to stay as part of your life, distance won’t stop that from being the case.

So, if I have to say goodbye to you, it’s going to be awkward, I’ll try and avoid it (I will literally sneak out of places if I think I can get away with it!), procrastinate about it, talk incessantly (you might not notice as it is not that different to normal), I’m not going to know what to say, it won’t be heartfelt, but please don’t be offended and know that I hope someday we can have another hello and don’t be a stranger, you know I LOVE a chat and I love to keep my collection of great humans as large as possible.

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I’ll Cry if I Want To !

It might shock you to know that I cry a lot. I am not even one little bit ashamed of it (anymore). Ironically, it goes hand in hand with the laughing a lot thing. As they say, it is both a blessing and a curse to feel things so deeply and I am not ashamed of it (anymore). Don’t forget that tears are not always reserved for sadness. I would need to borrow alot of fingers and toes to count the number of times I have cried happy tears. I’ll cry because I am tired, because somebody showed compassion to me, because I saw a beautiful view (the first time I saw the Southern Alps in NZ, or when I first saw falling snow), I will cry and laugh at the same time and I will very very often laugh so hard I cry!

Despite it actually being a good thing to do, crying has a bad rep, (perhaps like the dentist I guess?). Especially for men. Sure some men fully endorse a cry and then some men genuinely don’t need to. I wholeheartedly support both of these policies. What I am strongly opposed to is the cultural pressure for men to hold back the tears because it threatens their masculinity and that they are seen to be emotionally weaker because they seemingly cannot control it. What a load of bollocks! It should be the opposite, that you are strong enough to show what you stand for and that you have morals, strong values and you have things in life that matter enough to you. Without emotions, we are just robots and being a robot sounds like zero fun to me. We need to stop teaching kids that tears are for the weak and shouldn’t be shared in front of people. What is possibly so threatening about a little drop of water sneaking out of your eye and rolling down your face?

Sure, not all tears are positive. Tears flow for sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes horrific, sometimes brutal reasons and nobody should have to experience that. They do also make us feel vulnerable because they are raw emotion and that’s very exposing. I also won’t say the big old howling, can’t breath, eyes get so puffy they almost close over kind of cry is my go to activity for lols and good times, but ‘they’ do say that most (a massive 9 out of 10) people feel better after a cry. When I say ‘they’ I mean the science-y and researcher-y ‘they’ and ‘they’ sure sound like they know that ‘they’ are talking about.

I have cried and cried and cried (in a huffy, puffy, hyperventilate-ry way) so much that there is literally nothing left. (Unfortunately it was not for the sake of research, but I don’t need to justify the reason either!!) After what feels like a flood of tears that go on so long that my audience start looking around for supplies to build an arc, finally when there is not one more tear, huff, quivering lip or sigh left, I can usually say, I feel better. Sure it won’t have fixed the problem, but it doesn’t feel as big anymore. Maybe it’s down to emotional release (as good old cliché ‘they’ say tears wash away the pain) or just exhaustion, but either way, what a magical power tears seem to have and I can’t see how holding that in could be good for you!

One of the things that makes me giggle is when people confess (or I just ask them) the seemingly ridiculous reasons they cry. I’m not just talking cutting onions, but something silly like losing it because you didn’t have enough silver tinsel to cover all of the Christmas tree and the red just doesn’t go with the purple or because your big sister called shotgun on the front seat of the car faster than you… You know, the big issues in life!

One of my best was that I cried because it was windy at the beach. I’m not just talking a little boo-hoo, fairly passive little disappointed tear. I lost it completely. Apparently I had been looking forward to the beach and all it’s sunny, calm, salt water curing all wounds kind of glory all week and my life was completely ruined by the wind. You would have thought somebody cut off my arm from the way I was reacting. I think it was a long nap helped me more than the cry that day.

So, my wish for you is that you don’t have enough fingers and toes to count your happy tears and I hope they are the ones where you laugh and cry so much that you cant even remember why you are laughing and crying. I also hope you don’t have tears of grief or heartbreak, but if you must or need to, take the advice of someone more credible than me and never be ashamed!

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Gentle like a Bee

I’m not sure if I told you all that I was in Paris with my darling friend Penny recently. Paris was everything it should be; French, romantic, iconic and just lovely. We wandered the streets of Belleville like locals (until they started speaking French to us, that caught us out quick smart!!), dined on Steak and frites overlooking Saint Martins canals, lined up for Falafels in the Jewish district (not even joking it was the BEST falafel of my life! See L’As Du Fallafel), watched people watching people from a café in Montmarte , avoided the gypsies and the pigeon man in front of the Lourve and enjoyed a moment of tranquility listening to the angelic sounds of the nun’s of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (personal highlight and insiders tip for those reading at home!!).

Although those things are very excellent, one of the standouts of the weekend for me was a little conversation with a stranger. While sitting in the sunshine for breakfast at a café on the banks of the Seine overlooking the Notre Dame (that itself is pretty standout, but keep reading!!). He was a ‘real, proper Parisian’, which If you have been, you will know in Paris are just as difficult to find as a ‘real proper Londoner’ in London, especially in the tourist districts. He was quietly enjoying a Sunday morning coffee and cake while tap tap tapping away on his laptop next to us. Penny and I were deep in a conversation about goodness knows what ** while I munched on my croissant and sipped my macchiato, I looked over to see a bee on his cake. I instantly reacted by letting him know of his invader and nearly shooed it away by instinct. He just calmly said (in his perfect French accent!) ‘oh yes, but she is ok there. I can share with her, she wont eat much and it wont hurt me!’

I was really taken back by what he said and it was a great reminder to be tolerant, patient and calm. Although it was a bee, the same should apply to people. Sometimes we react defensively or selfishly out of instinct or self-protection when actually what they are doing will not hurt us at all. Sure you cannot let people just do whatever they want at cost to yourself, but if you are capable of giving kindness and gentleness to people, especially when they don’t deserve it, you will be better off because of it, it wont hurt you and it might just make a difference to them.

I can on occasions be a little hot headed (I hear you all gasp!) and as such, I am not necessarily always the best at this. Sure I will do what I can to squish in a little closer to the other commuters on the tube so that one more person can get home two minutes faster (and I feel like Mother Theresa herself !) and I try to spend time to be understanding and let things go when somebody has done something that may initially upset me, however I will also get irritated at having to dodge the tourists on London Bridge on my walk home and will be sure to make it known if my place in a line gets taken by a queue jumper (thank you very much Mr in line at Nero’s on Sunday!!). In reality, it doesn’t hurt me to just wait a few more minutes or in the case of the tourists, I should be letting them remind me that I live in a pretty epic city and I should take a leaf out of their book and slow down or even stop to admire the view of Tower Bridge for just a moment, instead of trying to beat my personal best time at getting home so I can cook myself dinner and spend time on my couch.

This was the other thing I admired about this guy. He was still in love with his city. He was out enjoying it, despite having lived there a while. He was proud of it and wanted to tell me exactly why he thought it was so great. We talked for some time over our coffee and I took a lot more than the fact that they have bee hives on the roof of the Notre Dame in the 30 minutes spent chatting to this lovely Parisian and I have already used this little interaction as a mental reminder to offer kindness and understanding rather than anger.

** The deep conversation was the ‘Proust Questionnaire’ .. one of my favourite ways to get to know more about a person!

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Tales of a Passport

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I am a person who can be described as ‘quite attached to’ her passport. I recently got a new passport as my old one expired and I wasn’t excited about this at all. This was not only because it cost me close to 450 Aussie dollars, but because my old one is just fine thank you very much. Sure, it’s starting to get a bit ratty and damaged, but so am I with 10 years and more than a few long haul flights added to my life. I was mortified when they cut my passport in front of me – so flippantly damaging a document I have protected better than I have protected myself or any other possession for the last decade.

My last passport was my first passport as well and you tend to think fondly of anything that was your ‘first’. Perhaps now it should be called my ‘inaugural passport’. I remember trotting off to Aussie Post during my lunch break as a 22 year old, making sure my hair and make up looked ok (I still ended up with lumpy hair!!), so I could get my application in and get myself off on my very first overseas adventure. Ironically and now hysterically I took myself very seriously and thought I was a bit too ‘old and mature’ for a Contiki trip, but nevertheless I was excited beyond belief about finally leaving the shores of our big old Island and jetting off to see how the others live.

It is amazing to think back now about how much has changed because of this one little 35 odd page book that came completely empty save for my lumpy hair and intentionally sour faced photo. It is now filled with stamps, visa’s and dates which are all memories and stories from adventures in different corners of the world. It more than keeps a record of the entry and exits, but represents the places I have visited, the things I have seen and learnt about the world as well as myself, the amazing people I have met, the weird and wonderful foods I have eaten and all of the places I have left a tiny piece of my heart.

I compare the inaugural photo with it’s successor (somehow STILL with lumpy hair!!) and instead of thinking about how excited I was about the anticipation of my upcoming adventure, the guy at the photo shop had to take about 5 shots because I literally could not stop smiling, laughing and looking around. This could very likely be because I am that kind of smiley easily distracted person regardless of the activity, but I think the fact that I love my life and that as the saying says ‘I will never be the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world’ is one of the reasons I cannot wipe the smile off my face and that the girl in my inaugural passport photo, could never have imagined the fun that was ahead and the adventures she had to look forward to. She would never in her wildest dreams have imagined a life so great, a life so full.

So, based on that, I now look at my new passport a little more fondly and think ‘oh the places we will go’.

First stop, Paris, because as Audrey says ‘Paris is ALWAYS a good idea’.14408994_10154973830031490_1019860392_n

 

Poké if you want to.

I was just chatting away to my big sister just now and telling her I was having a grand old time sunning myself in the park and she asks me if I am catching Pokémon. I don’t really know much about this Pokémon Go craze, except that it makes me feel like a bit of a dinosaur cause all the kids are off doing it and I don’t really understand.

My sister carries on to tell me that people who catch Pokémon are called Pokérs. I don’t know if I quite believe her, because big sisters are always trying to stitch up their younger siblings, but lets roll with that identifier all the same.

When I say I don’t understand Pokémon Go, I have had a few brief educational seminars over a pint with some of my friends who are known to be Pokérs. I understand the basic principal, that you cruise around in the real world, looking like you are lining up a photo on your phone catching virtual pets (are they pets?!). What you do once you have one, I couldn’t tell you, but I keep hearing that ‘you’ve gotta catch ‘em all’.

Now despite the fact that I had a Tamagotchi as a 10 year old and got a bit into Harry Potter as a teenager (may or may not have lined up to get one of the first releases of one of the books) and fully endorse a pomegranate and kale superfood low GI salad concoction, I do have a tendency to resist a fad out of stubbornness. I cannot say I relate to this obsession and understand how it has taken over so quickly. I saw a sign the other day that said ‘Pokémon in this store are for customers only’ and was interested that this seemed like such a normal every day thing to see, despite this having no relevance only weeks ago.

I have been very fascinated by the divide between ‘Pokérs’ and ‘Non-Pokérs’ with a ‘Non- Pokér’ recently saying to a group of people ‘am I the only one who isn’t into this bloody Pokémon thing’?? I have also noticed that ‘Non-Pokérs’ tend to give the ‘Pokérs’ a bit of a hard time and are quite judgmental of their game – a few meme’s spring to mind instantly.

In saying all of this, I fully endorse anything that makes you happy. Although I personally would rather sit in the park and try to catch sun-rays and pats from other people dog’s than catch Pokémon, I say go for it, spend your Sunday morning doing whatever it is that delights your soul. We are all passionate about and spend our time doing something that a those around us don’t understand – be it travel, food, drinking, filming, napping, any kind of sport (eg walking 100km non-stop like somebody I know this weekend – NUTS!!) or even blogging, we are all different and that is an absolutely excellent thing. Conversation would be fairly monotonous if we all did the same thing and just agreed with each other all the time. There is nothing more lovely to see in somebody than a smile (picture it, so genuine, often slightly dorky) on their face, the way there is a little more enthusiasm in their voice or little spark in their eye when they talk about something that’s fun for them, that they love or that they are really really into. We should do more of that stuff than the things and not care at all what other people think.

I’m off now to have a cold drip coffee and top up my supply of Coconut oil and matcha powder, hope you get your Pikachu !!

Happy Sunday people!

xx

 

Picture Perfect Jordan

I have what’s known as cover photo choice dilemma. It’s a delightful problem to have and it’s a problem most commonly suffered by lucky people who travel a lot and indulge in a little (too much?) photography. I’m happily overcome with this issue and as mentioned before, happily infected with the travel bug.

One of my recent big trips, also happens to be one of the most photogenic destinations I’ve been to was Jordan. If you’ve been paying attention (and I would never judge you if you confess that you have not), you’ll recall I’ve mentioned this before and moreso I mentioned how excited I was!!

Although I am very often described as an ‘excitable type’, I am always nervous to get too excited about upcoming trips as I think this has the propensity to heighten the expectations and lead to disappointment. With disappointment not being something I am a fan of, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Jordan lived up to and exceeded my expectations – and I suspect that even if I had researched it to death, I’d still be saying that!

This low expectation thing for me (ironically as a Travel Agent) extends to pre-planning and research of a destination in detail, again so I can continually be in awe of what I am doing/seeing and learning about a place. This is one of the reasons I book group tours. Small group adventure tours to be more precise. I’ll confess, I barely even read the itinerary of the tour I booked, I saw that it went to Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and a few other surprises (Jerash, Amman and Madaba) and said yep that sounds perfect. I picked a tour with ‘On the Go Tours’ as I had been recommended them by a friend who had travelled them and thought that Jordan was a place I might like the 4 star comforts, without having to be on a 40 seat coach with 70 year olds taking photos with their Ipads or hungover 18 year olds. I got all of this as well as a little company for this solo social traveller!

As always, I don’t have the attention span to sit and tell you all about the in-s and out-s of our itinerary and to be fair, no matter how knowledgeable our local guide was, I couldn’t tell you what year Moses was buried at Mount Nebo, but I can give you a few of my highlights and insights and of course a few snaps I took along the way!

  • Stuff in Jordan is really really really old. We were bandy-ing around words like ‘BC’ , ‘old testament’, ‘Stone age’, ‘Iron Age’ ect – you literally cannot comprehend it sometimes and furthermore, that it is so accessible, you can walk right up and touch ancient artefact and mosaics
  • Jordan is really really quiet at the moment. With the current ‘situation’ in the Middle East, tourists are hesitant to visit Jordan. There has been a decrease in visitors (and bear in mind Tourism is the industry they rely most on) of 80%. Although I understand somewhat why people are skipping it for places perceived to be safer, I can promise you I never once felt unsafe. We drove right up to the Syrian border and past some of the refugee camps where some of the 2 million refugees they have taken in live and not once did I feel threatened or uneasy. In light of this, it did mean that for a majority of the time, we had place what felt like to ourselves – there were even times in Petra (granted not directly in front of the infamous treasury building), that there was not a soul around other than us, so if you ask me, now is the BEST time to go!
  • Jordanian people are some of the friendliest, most curious and gentlest people I have ever met. As a people lover with a genuine curiosity for different cultures, I feel like you might suggest I say this every time I visit a new country, but I can vouch for myself (and I often do), that in Jordan, they couldn’t be more deserving of this title. Jordanian culture deems nothing is too private, so be warned, they will ask you just about anything! Unlike in many touristic countries, those working on market stalls, will accept no thank you from and then just have a little chat (or tell you how far you have  left to go up the 500 steps up to the (amazing) monastery in Petra while you are huffing and puffing and considering stopping to buy a scarf just as an excuse for a rest after all). I never once felt harassed at tourist sites to buy – quite unbelievable for a country with one of the ‘Seven New wonders of the World’.
  • As a woman, I never felt uncomfortable at all in Jordan. Both in the smaller towns and the big cities. I always dress conservatively when in a Muslim country, not just because it helps to minimize any unwanted attention as a western woman, but because it is respectful. I do have to say however, that this did not seem to be a major factor on this trip. Women are very liberated in Jordan and can do/wear/go anywhere they wish.
  • It’s not a cheap destination (especially if you like a drink), but it couldn’t be more worth it! My big tip again is to book a tour where there are a few things included and your guide can help with the tipping and buying of entry tickets as it’s hard work and potentially more expensive otherwise. Our guide took us to places where the food was a little cheaper (amazing local food to try as well!) and told us when to stock up a on alcohol before heading to the pricier destinations.
  • The Dead Sea is amazing, weird and something you absolutely have to experience.

You can check out the full itinerary we did here. Its unusual to come back from a trip and feel like I had enough time and saw everything I wanted to see, but I found this to be true when I came back from Jordan. I loved it eleventy billion out of ten and my genuine recommendation is to get yourself to Jordan soon and to run, don’t walk !