Chin.Deep.In.Life.

Game Changer


 

Image: Pexels

First, to my faithful followers, sincere apologies for not posting in a few months. I’ve been focused on a few projects; compiling my next book, and completing required certifications to transition into a new career. The next several months will be equally busy, but at least the bigger commitments, have been sorted. I am now working setting up my business, as well as editing the final manuscript. The book will be on shelves by September. Good times ahead!

A few short days ago, America celebrated 243 years of Independence. It’s a national holiday. I spent the time with my sister. A first. Usually I don’t find myself in deep thoughts on this day, but this year was different. I reminisced on how much the past three years in NYC, has shaped and molded me. There is one important area of my life, I’m now in control of. I gained a new level of personal independence. Not in the terms you might immediately think of. I have been on my own for more than two decades. I am quite capable of taking care of myself. However, this particular area of my life kept me back from fully progressing.

Let me explain. A few short years ago, five to be exact, I felt I couldn’t live without a significant other. You see, as I have hinted to in other posts, I needed to be a part of a two-some to feel complete. I loved someone, who was no good for me, in any way. Circumstances brought me back to the USA, where the change, growth, and healing I desperately needed would start to take shape, both emotionally and physically.

Moving to another country and state, as big, energetic, and electric as NYC requires grit and determination. I knew I had it in me. I just didn’t know how hard it would be to fine-tune it. I had to gain a new level of individuality, which would take me to a place, I’ve never been, but urgently needed. I learned to do things on my own. I learned to love, not like, my own company.

So how did I gain this type of freedom? I went to places, and did things on my own. Coffee shops, concerts, movies, restaurants, museums. You name it, I did it. Alone. There are some who would say doing things alone is sad. Does it have to be? What is wrong with enjoying your own company? While I do relish time with friends and family, I also equally love time alone.

Once I changed my mentality, and in a way being forced to adapt, to the culture shock of moving from England to NYC, I became acutely aware of an astounding new level of freedom. A real game-changer! I became my own best friend. Truth is, not everyone will want to do some of the things I want to do, or be ready to step out of their own comfort zones. Am I willing to let these people hold me back, from doing the things I want to do? No.

One particular memorable example, was my trip to Thailand in November 2017. It was my first solo adventure. I traveled for more than 30 hours, to the mountains of northern Chiang Mai, volunteered for a week working with elephants, made new friends, and had a magical time. Once that was over, I would spend another few days, experiencing the sites and sounds of several cities, relying on my own instincts and decision making. I knew the person who left NYC for Thailand, was very different from the person who returned.  I had traveled alone before, but not for an extended period of time, mainly taking a flight from one continent to another.

I do not make light of how I arrived here. For so many, the idea of venturing out alone, travelling solo, or doing anything by yourself, is daunting, sometimes embarrassing. It’s easy to get caught up in what others might think if you are in a restaurant, movie etc. by yourself. And so, we deny ourselves wonderful experiences, waiting until a friend, family, or colleague is ready to do something with them. I don’t make many promises, but I can do this; should you chose to take one small step, outside of the place where you feel most comfortable, and risk doing something solo, it will invigorate, liberate, and free your soul!

In my case, I had to stop depending on being part of a couple to feel complete. “I had to do something I never did, to get what I never gotten” Tony Robbins. My question to you today is; what are some of the things preventing you from being independent in certain areas of your life? A small step in one direction will be the catalyst for change your soul craves. Start doing things you have been missing out on for years, because you are afraid.

Life is too short. I stopped waiting around for someone, to show up and change the trajectory of my own life, and circumstances. You and I, owe it to ourselves to live the greatest life we are capable to living. There are no do-overs

Until the next post. Take care of yourselves and your families.

Best,

Juan

 

 

 

 

 

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“We’re Gonna Have To Reheat The Soup”!


A week and a half ago, as I boarded the last leg of my flight home from Peru, I felt there was something different about me. You see, I had just successfully completed the four-day Inca Trail Trek, which culminates at Machu Picchu. I had experienced a shift. A transformation. There is no other way to describe it. Are you reasonably fit? Do you love the outdoors, can get lost in nature, and all things history related? Add the Inca Trail to your travel bucket list!

To prepare, I joined a new gym in late December. The old one wasn’t doing it for me anymore. However, it wasn’t until January, that I got serious. I worked out 2-3 days per week. Day two of the trek is the most difficult. You NEED to be fit. I researched and watched videos. There wasn’t much I could do about altitude sickness. As it turned out, I am allergic to Sulpha, an ingredient in the only prescription available. I had to go the natural route. I arrived in Cusco a few days before I joined the group, and start of the trek. Travelers don’t know how, and if, the altitude will affect them, until you arrive. Cusco is 11 k+ feet above sea level, time to acclimatize is essential.

No Inca Trail Trek, considered one of the top ten treks in the world, would be possible without the tremendous effort of our Porters. I heard so many stories of how hard they work to make sure hikers have an amazing experience. I was not disappointed! One of the girls in my group, said she was expecting sandwiches. Nah! Initially, there was seven people in the group; four took on the Quarry Trail, and the rest of us, the Inca Trail. A team of twelve porters, who prefers to speak Quechua, the language of their ancestors, ranged from 18 years to 50+, an incredible chef, and a guide, were assigned to take care of our group of three. We felt particularly blessed.

Each morning, we were greeted with our choice of hot drinks at the door of our tent. As there were no shower facilities for three days, a bowl of hot water was also waiting for us. We had very early risings, but, the porters were already up at least an hour before, working to get breakfast ready. Following a filling meal, and once we were on our way, porters would dismantle the camp, and set out, always passing hikers along the way. Hours later, upon arrival to camp for lunch, we would be greeted with cheers and applause, for a job well done.  Once lunch was over, porters would wash, rinse, and repeat.

Llactapata Inca Ruins

Day one is often called “Training Day/Inca Flats”. The guide jokingly told us, once we got completed this day, we would most certainly make it through the others. Starting at km 82, the trail of 7.5 miles adventure, took us 8,629 ft above sea level, through some of the most magnificent views on the planet. Passing through quaint small, rural villages, admiring Inca ruins, and ending the day at Wayllabamba. I found out, if you see hikers heading back on donkeys, it’s most likely because they’ve been overcome by heat, exhaustion, or the altitude

Stunning views from Dead Woman’s Pass

Day two tests your mettle, perseverance, and commitment to the trek. We hiked uphill for more than four hours, to the formidable Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point on the trail at 13,829 ft. The air is even thinner at this level, oxygen is in short supply. I lost count of the number of times I stopped to catch my breath. The break at Dead Woman’s Pass was relatively short, temps were cold, so we had to keep moving. Next up, another three hours of downhill trekking over sharp, uneven, large rocks. After lunch, hours of uphill hiking took us to another pass; Abra de Runkuracay. The final hours of the day, would have us taking on savagely steep, sometimes dangerous, arduous downhill hiking. There is nothing, no safety barriers, nada, between you and a sheer drop to death (which has, unfortunately, happened to some). On this incredibly difficult day, you go from burning calves and hamstrings, to burning quads! By the time we arrived at camp around 6:30 pm, we were done for. Having been up since 5 am, hiking for more 10-12 hours. Sleep never really came that night. We camped at 12,829 ft, in frigid temperatures. I wore my extreme weather long johns, fleece pajamas, a puffy coat, hat, used a sleeping bag liner. ..all which did very little to starve off the temps! When I awoke the next day, it had rained the night before, I touched my hat, to find it mildly damp from condensation. Twice on this night, I woke up, struggling to catch my breath.

Example of the beautiful trails and Phuyupatamarka Ruins

Day three was more manageable. After the day before, we felt confident and empowered. As it turned out, we had to hike straight through after breakfast. The highest point for the day was almost 12k feet. We were so grateful to end the day at 2 pm at a ranger’s station. By this time, we had not showered for three days. I took the plunge with a cold shower in 50-degree weather. My team thought I was brave. No, just sticky! I was encouraged to see a few others doing it too. The last night meant a small ceremony, thank you’s, goodbyes, tips hand off, photo ops, and even a bit of dancing. I will never forget the porters. Ever.

We Made It

On Day four, we were awakened at 3:30 am, given sack breakfast, while the porters dismantled camp, and got ready to catch the 5am train back to Cusco. Once the Rangers checked documents, we were on our way, in the dark, using headlamps. About one hour into the trek, the large group of hikers ahead of us came to a stop. It had rained the night before, causing a large boulder  became loose, blocking the path. We sat around trading stories, listening to songs, as men worked for about an hour, to break it apart, and clear the way. Right before we got to the Sun Gate, our walking poles served no purpose. Everyone had to crawl on hands and knees up a steep hill (known as the Gringko Killer). Upon arrival at the famed Sun Gate, we let out a massive hoot and holler!

Machu Picchu; we had enjoyed gorgeous weather the previous three days, except for today. About twenty minutes after arrival at the Sun Gate, the heavens opened. Fog and mist abounded, making it hard to get decent shots. We certainly tried! We would walk another mile or two before arriving to the impressive Inca ruin. Everyone was in agreement; while the site was breathtakingly beautiful, the four-day journey there, is what we would remember forever. On our way down, we passed many tourists, who took the train and bus, huffing and puffing their way up to the Sun Gate. Some asked “How much further to the top?” I managed their expectations. Later, we laughed together at the questions; they really didn’t know what weariness felt like!

Many people attempt to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Some don’t finish. During my time there, one chap, who obviously underestimated how tough the trail would be, turned back on the first day. According to our guide; hikers suffer heart attacks, on several occasions, porters had to evacuate people in the middle of the night off the mountains, due to medical emergencies. The trail is often steep and dangerous, some have fallen to their deaths, which is harrowing! Several tourists, through total stupidity, ignore the safety strings at the Sun Gate; in efforts to take ultimate selfie, also fell to their deaths. The day I left, I asked family and friends to send me travel mercies, and the universe was listening.

There are other several traditional ways to get to Machu Picchu; the less difficult and shorter Quarry Trail (which also doesn’t have the views and as many ruins), and the combination of train and bus. Question is, where is the fun in that? You will miss the breathtaking views, amazing history, striking natural beauty, stunning scenery, which sets the Inca Trail apart! En route, we passed by so many Inca Ruins, which served as resting shelters for weary Inca travelers, look out points, ceremonial religious sites, and farms on the way to Machu Picchu, which was discovered in 1911, and subsequently restored.

The story is, the Incas built treacherous Inca Trail, not because it was the easiest way to get there (no, there are quicker, shorter routes), but because they believed one must work hard, and suffer before entering the most sacred city. Word is the Inca Trail was reserved for VIP’s of the times.

On the Inca Trail, you will most certainly go through several stages; the acclimatization and shock of “why did I sign up for this?” Just go with it, and live in the moment! Pain; your legs will hurt; you will suddenly be acutely aware of extra nerve endings. You might not be able to move after most long days of hiking, but it starts all over again the next day. There is also a small bit of guilt: “Why do normal people put themselves through this?”. Bargaining and acceptance; you’ve made it to Dead Woman’s Pass? Anything else is possible. Acceptance, and Triumph; you’ve come this far, Machu Picchu is the prize. You got this.

We would spend another full day in Cusco, seeing the sites, before parting company. Peru has a rather homey feeling about the place. I got to practice my limited Spanish, on some very accommodating locals. Now, how did I chose the title of this blog piece? We were late getting to camp a few times, which meant the porters would get behind schedule, by an hour at the most. So many photos to take of our surroundings. In other instances, going downhill was painful for a member of the group, so we went at a slower pace. The cooks and servers didn’t know what to do with us. On day two, we were later than usual. The server, Antonio, whose nickname is Antonio Banderas, took sight of us arriving at camp, and exclaimed “We are gonna have to reheat the soup!” We spent our Happy Hour that night, reliving the look on his face.

More than a week after I returned home, my knees were still aching. I didn’t care too much! I take the NYC subway stairs better now. I remain very grateful for all the moving parts, especially the hardworking people who gave so much, so I could have this once in a life time experience. I will never forget Peru. I wanted to end the hike on my birthday, it didn’t work out this way. Circumstances meant, I had to change my dates. I now know, the people and experience, made the trip exactly what it should be.

Many of my work colleagues, upon my return asked: “Why do you want to go hiking on a vacation?” Of course, admittedly, they enjoy all-inclusives when travelling. I didn’t give much of an explanation, because we are obviously very different people! I’ve got Mount Kilimanjaro in my cross hairs now, with more time to prepare of course! We will see.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Honor of Black History Month


Cape Coast Today: Slaves Departure Point

Dear Readers,

Yes, I am fully aware that BHM is relatively an American tradition. And yes, I meant to post the article below a few days ago. It’s been a busy month. Getting ready pursue a different path,  more in line with my life’s calling.

I will never forget my trip to the Motherland. Having spent two weeks among some of the most beautiful and kind-hearted people I have ever met. The visit to the slave castles, left an indelible impression on my soul. How I wished that I had more time to return again, and again. I plan on returning to Africa, until then I have memories.  So, there was no doubt in my mind, when I found this piece below, what I would share to honor this month, and what it represents to me, as a black woman.

Read on.

“Soooo you mean to tell me that someone down your ancestry line survived being chained to other human bodies for several months in the bottom of a disease-infested ship during the Middle Passage, lost their language, customs and traditions, picked up the English language as best they could while working free of charge from sunup to sundown as they watched babies sold from out of their arms and women raped by ruthless slave owners.

Took names with no last names, no birth certificates, no heritage of any kind, braved the Underground Railroad, survived the Civil War to enter into sharecropping…

Learned to read and write out of sheer will and determination, faced the burning crosses of the KKK, everted their eyes at the black bodies swinging from ropes hung on trees…

Fought in World Wars as soldiers to return to America as boys, marched in Birmingham, hosed in Selma, jailed in Wilmington, assassinated in Memphis, segregated in the South, ghettoed in the North, ignored in history books, sterotyped in Hollywood…

and in spite of it all someone in your family line endured every era to make sure you would get here and you receive one rejection, face one obstacle, lose one friend, get overlooked, and you want to quit? How dare you entertain the very thought of quitting. People you will never know survived from generation to generation so you could succeed. Don’t you dare let them down!!

Give this to your young people who don’t know their history and want to get weak!

It is NOT in our DNA to quit!” – Author Unknown

 Until the next post, take care of yourselves and your families.

Best,

 Juan

 

 

 

I Don’t Need a Man. Do You?!


Image: Pexels

I tried to think of the last time I found a piece which resonated with me so much, I just couldn’t wait to share! Let’s face it, single or coupled, the advertisements cannot be avoided. During the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, advertisers would have us believe, we are missing out, if we are not part of a couple. Personally, I have made a conscious effort not to rush, or force love. The last situation-ship taught me what I don’t want, and it was a LOT. Right now, life has other glorious, sweet plans for me.

So, what about you? If you are a woman, and have already found your warrior, then I am willing to bet, you know someone still looking. Please do me a favor?  Ask your girlfriends to read the article below, it explains so much.

The article touched me on a cellular level. If you’re a woman, who has been unlucky in love, I implore you to truly READ it. Let its meaning flow over and through you. I hope you find light, strength, courage, and belief in the fact, that if you are still searching for love, it can and will happen for you. Sometimes, you don’t need a man, you need a damn warrior!

Intrigued? Read on, Kate Rose does a phenomenal job here!

To my sweet wild woman, I know why it hasn’t worked out with anyone else—you don’t need a man, but a goddamn warrior. You are the strength of Turkish coffee at sunrise darlin’ and don’t try to pretend that you’re not. You are one of the wild ones, and no matter how you tried to hide that fact, you can’t be anything other than what you are—and that’s okay. You are just as you are supposed to be, magnificently wild in all of your chaotic beauty. I know you’ve had your heart broken and I know that you don’t understand why it always seems to never work out, but I’ve finally figured it out:

You don’t need a man, you need a goddamn warrior.

It doesn’t matter if this warrior drives a Jeep or a shiny sports car, and it won’t matter if he wears silk or cotton—it will not even matter if he works in a high-rise, or on the night shift. What is going to matter is that when it comes to taking bets on your heart, he is going to be high stakes—all the way. This warrior of yours will crave your strength, and your intensity. He’s going to look at you and not see something to tame, but something to just fuckin’ admire. This warrior of yours won’t be someone that you can manipulate or play with as you have in the past, so honey, don’t even try—and trust me, you’re going to love him even more because of it.

Because you aren’t just a woman, you’re a goddamn goddess.

Your fierceness is going to bring him to his knees every single time he looks into your gorgeous eyes, but the difference is, unlike the others, he isn’t going to be scared off. No, this time, you will have finally met your match—because a simple man for you just won’t do.

You need someone to match the fire in your eyes with his own. Not only that, my little wild thing, but this warrior of yours is going to want to encourage the flames instead of trying to douse them with his own insecurities.  Because for you, a warrior is the only man who will ever live in the wild with you. He may not have to slay any dragons to earn your love, but he would still walk through fire if it meant seeing that amazing smile that you hold in reserve for only him.

This is the thing, free spirit, this warrior you seek…. he’s seeking you too. For he’s had failed relationships that have left him wondering if maybe he was meant to be alone for the rest of his journey—and you’re going to change all of that for him. You both have been travelling along on your separate journeys and have been doing an okay job at it, but that about to change too. Because baby, when you and this warrior of yours meet and collide—it’s going to be a love set on fire.

Don’t try to run this time—I know your heart has been broken before, and that you’re not used to things working out, but this time it’s different. Give yourself time to see that.

This warrior of yours needs to see that it’s possible for someone to see all of his wild, and still be there when he craves his freedom and ventures off into this world for a bit. You won’t always need to follow him, just as he won’t always follow you. Let yourself stay wild, even when all you want to do is curl up in that spot along his side and forget the rest of the world exists.

Let yourself still wander naked under the full moon, and drink moonshine with the stars. Let yourself feel the pull of the wind on your heart, and the sun toward a new journey. Because this warrior is going to love you because of your wild—and he’ll want you to keep it.

You’ll be in this together now, this amazing, crazy, chaotic, wonderfully heartbreaking life—because it takes a warrior to love a goddess. And it takes a goddess to show a warrior what real love is. So, pack up your insecurities and your ideas about picket fences, because that was never you anyway. You were born knowing that you were destined for more, and now is the time for you to see what all those dreams look like.

There is no stopping a love like this, so promise me you’ll hold out just a little bit longer. Have a little bit of hope, and always give love just one more try, because I promise you my sweet wild woman—the love that you seek is seeking you as well” – Author Kate Rose

I have always believed  that one day, each of us will meet the person, who makes us realize why it never worked out with anyone else. Until then? Live life on your terms. No apologies. Doing what makes your heart sing!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

#courage


Sometimes a picture, quote, or someone else’s words manages to encapsulate our thoughts, better than we can, for the moment.

I hope your year is off to an amazing start!

Until the next post, take care of yourself and your families.

 

Best,

 

Juan

#nofear


Photo: Google Images

I kid you not, I blinked, and 2018 is now a distant memory! Where does time disappear to? Yea, I know, rhetorical question, but really? It seems as if all we do, is work, eat, and sleep, with some measure of fun, thrown in between here and there. The fact is, you and I will never see today again. Humbling.

Is this what life is all about? What are we supposed to do, with our allotted time? Work for decades, and spend the rest of it “enjoying retirement?” I personally don’t think so. Disclaimer : it’s absolutely fine, if my views are not shared by the majority. There is nothing wrong with working for decades, getting married, having children, setting them free, retire, and then live…if that is what you want. I just know, there was a time, I would do and give anything to have this type of existence. Until life handed me a new set of dreams.

Over the past few years, I’ve been striving to live a life of no fear. While I’m not totally fearless, I’m closer than I’ve ever been. I have taken risks and done some remarkable things. No, I am not gloating, nor am I patting myself on the back. Every time I write a post of this nature, I’m reminded just how far I have traveled, and what it took, to get me here.

A lot can happen in a year! For me, 2018 has been a year of experiences, I soon won’t forget

Let’s get back to the business at hand. You see, our brains are like a filing cabinet; always shuffling old experiences to make sense, of the constant barrage of incoming ones. When we encounter an unknown, fear often prevails, because we simply don’t have any experience to either reconcile or associate it with. Often, we have two choices; we can run away, as the outcome is not known, or the braver warriors stand up, venture into uncharted territories, and often win!

So, my question is, as somehow you happened upon this post, what are you afraid of? What would you be able to achieve, if your life was filled with less fear? Which mountains would you climb? Would your dreams be turned into reality? Goals, once barely within reach, now fully realized, if you stood your ground, when challenged?

How do we get closer to living the life we want, do things we only dream of, and become more fulfilled? Unless your goal is to be in the same place next year, as you are now, then consider these suggestions: laugh, embrace, and challenge the unknown.

Laughter has been shown to banish anxiety and stress and replace fear. It is a testament of our courage, which is stronger than fear. The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” have never been more applicable. True, it’s foolhardy to think laughter will erase the issue or fear permanently. However, we all need a strong helping of humor in our lives every day, and at least for a moment, it changes the makeup of our brains, which tells us to run in the opposite direction, when we are faced with the unknown. Humor strengthens our ability to confront our fears.

Embrace the Unknowns: usually, going off the beaten path, and embracing things we are not comfortable with, often leads to some of the most life affirming experiences we can ever! May I be so bold as to suggest that sticking to the same routines, day after day, because we are afraid to venture out of our comfort zones, is very stifling. Quite a few of us are in the same place, as this time last year. Not me. I’m more scared of not growing, learning, and purely existing.

Face the challenge; I love this quote “If you ever find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to question how you got there!” Makes sense? If you are not progressing, you are not being challenged. I’ll never tell anyone to carelessly throw caution to wind. No! Know your limits. If you find it comfortable watching life go by from the shadows, this post isn’t for you. But if it struck a chord within your thirsty soul, what will it take to quench the thirst, and set it on fire?

I’ve been blessed with some rather amazing and incredible highs in 2018. Of course, there have been lows. As I’ve told my friends and those I work with; do not waste another moment mourning the failures of this past year. Nothing can change it now. If you want a different existence in 2019 and beyond, but find yourself afraid to go after it, take this with you into the new year: ”Everything we want, is on the other side of fear

Step out in faith. You got this. The universe wants to give you your heart’s desires!

Wishing you and yours, every happiness and blessing you desire, and deserve in the year ahead.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

 

تغذية طبيعتي التجوال!


Our group, watching the Sunset in Wadi Rum

I just returned from a truly epic thirteen-day adventure through the spectacular, history-steeped landscapes of Jordan and Egypt. We wandered the ancient city of Petra, bathed in the Dead Sea, experienced firsthand the true hospitality and friendliness of the Bedouin people. Saw the great Giza pyramids in Cairo, toured this land of mighty pharaohs, and returned with amazing memories of a land and people, hardly ever depicted in the news.  I spent a few extra days solo in Egypt, which has not seen the last of my face!

Coincidentally, less than a week before I was due to leave, a friend from the UK was vacationing in Petra. He posted about the recent flash floods, which killed more than 20 people, including school children, whose bus was swept away by the floods. Tourists were evacuated from the same gorge, I was planning on exploring with the group. It was the worse flash flood related deaths; the country had experienced in more than 50 years. As for Egypt, well, we all know what happened in recent years. One cannot escape a certain amount of uneasiness, that the media portrays.  I had looked forward to this vacation for months. It is not often that I would get to see two ancient wonders of the Middle Ages and modern world in one trip. I had faith it would all be okay. It turned out more than okay. It was spectacular!

أهلا وسهلا بك إلى الأردن

I arrived in Jordan a day early to ward off jet-lag and see the sights not included on the itinerary.  The hotel was simple and functional. The following evening, we had a group meeting, where the leader asked everyone to introduce themselves; I got serious travel envy when I heard two members had visited 114 and 86 countries! The rest of the trip would was spent living out of suitcases, with never more than two nights in the same place. I adored the people of Jordan, who, thankfully, lived up to their reputation for being hospitable, kind and helpful. Everywhere we went, locals, with wide smiles on their faces often shouted: “Welcome to Jordan!”

Highlights

Mt Nebo: the spot where the prophet Moses saw the ‘promised land’ and is supposedly buried. We had time to explore sanctuary and view the remarkable mosaics of the 4th century church. Luckily enough, we were blessed with glorious weather, which gave us magnificent views over the Dead Sea, to Israel, and neighboring countries. I reveled in the experience, as I stood in the same are the prophet Moses did, thousands of years ago. You can’t help but wonder how he and the Israelites felt overlooking this majestic place

The Dead Sea: considered the lowest point on earth, at 420 meters below sea level. A few of us, covered our entire bodies with nutrient-rich natural mineral mud bath, which is supposed to have healing properties. A good soak in the sea, with a delicious meal, is a must. I wished we had more time here!

Petra: most arguably, the highlight of any visit to Jordan. The magnificent Jewel of Jordan, and lost city of the biblical Nabateans, an impressive series of tombs and dwellings hidden behind ornate facades carved directly into the rock, and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. We left the hotel at 7:30 am, and never made it back until around 5:30, having walked some 20+km.

I’ve seen hundreds of photos, of this magnificent wonder of the world. However, when I walked through the passageway and came upon the stunning vision of the Treasury, all I could think of was the song “This is what you came for”.  I challenged myself to climb 800+ steps to the Monastery, and another 600+ to the Hill of Higher Sacrifice. It was very tiring, my feet ached, I wanted to turn back, BUT, once I got to the top of both places, nothing to could prepare me for the obvious sense of accomplishment, elation,  surprise, and of course the views!

Meeting Raami : and having my photo taken with him. He is the son of Marguerite, the author of Married to a Bedouin. In summary, she was from NZ visiting Jordan many years ago with a friend, when she met Mohammad. They fell in love, she moved to Petra, married him, and lived a cave. They had three children. She wrote a book about her experience. I purchased a copy, which was signed by her. So, freaking cool!

Wadi Rum:  the extraordinary desert scenery and rugged moonscape of huge sandstone mountains. This Wadi Rum is full of weird and beautiful lunar-like rock formations, and traces of ancient civilizations can be seen in the many carved inscriptions found throughout the area. We arrived at camp shortly before sunset, which we watched together as a group. We then enjoyed a delicious dinner cooked in an earthen oven by our Bedouin hosts, and slept in a simple desert tent. My heart was overflowing by this point in the journey. I didn’t know I had to make room for even more joy as the journey continued.

This following day, the group boarded a ferry to cross over into Egypt.  I was particularly nervous about this part of the trip, as I suffer from sea sickness. I didn’t need to worry, I had taken precautions, prepared, and fared very well. We arrived into Egypt around 1:30 am, where we were met by our Egyptian guide, Ahmed. It was close to 3 am, by the time we fell into bed, nestled in beautiful beach huts, on the Red Sea.

Egypt: Land of Pharaohs and Gods

I didn’t know, prior to this trip, that the men in Egypt, are notorious flirts, and the country is listed as one of the top ten most aggressively flirtatious countries! I see why now 😊.

Dahab: before heading off to Cairo, we spent two nights in Dahab; once a Bedouin fishing village, but now a very popular tourist town. While I was not keen to explore the 100-meter-deep, Blue Hole, which is second only to Australia, for some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, Dahab will always be remembered as having some of the best food I’ve eaten on the trip, and impeccable customer service.

Cairo: a short one-hour plane ride took us to Cairo. Sure, I’d heard about the traffic situation in this chaotic city. The experience on the other hand, was out of this world!  One-word TRAFFIC LIGHTS. I saw about four lights, and two pedestrian crossings, in all the days I spent in the city. My guide told me that they are only found at major intersections. I did see a few traffic Police directing traffic, otherwise, it’s every man and woman for themselves. To cross the street, you simply motion for the drivers to stop, and take a risk. Car horns serve as traffic lights.

The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx: yet again, I was transported to a time, when I gazed in wonder and awe at the photos posted on travel sites and in groups.  These marvelous structures have managed to stand tall for 4500+ years, and maintained their mystique and power. Being up close to these tombs is amazing. I chose not to enter the largest tomb during this visit, preferring instead to take the time allotted to us, to walk around them outside. What can I say about the Pyramids?! Just visit, if you haven’t been already!

The Egyptian Museum: a building which boasts the world’s great collections of antiquities. Of course, I couldn’t come this far without paying a bit extra to see the mummy room. No visit to the museum is complete without it.  The recovered tomb of Tutankhamun is among some of the treasures of this place; the gold jewelry to the famous golden death mask and his gilded sarcophagi. Egypt is now building the world’s largest museum, set to open in about two years. Interestingly enough, there are thousands of items in the current museum’s basement, that has never been seen by the public, but will be displayed in the new space. Another reason for me to return to this historically steeped country!

I had two days on my own, one of which I spent in Alexandria. In America, I would never jump into a vehicle with two strangers, who happen to be men, drive 2.5 hours each way, and spend an entire day in their company. I didn’t feel any fear. I had talked to the guide for months before my arrival, researched him, got referrals, and even though he sent his colleagues to be my guides for the day, there was nothing for me to fear.

Alexandria: Egypt’s second largest city, main port, and once the capital. We headed underground and delve into the mysteries of the Kom ash-Shuqqafa catacombs. A donkey fell into a shaft thousands of years ago, and incidentally, led to the discovery of this Roman burial site,  the largest of its kind in Egypt. I was taken to Pompey’s Pillar, Mohammad Ali Mosque, Alexandria Lighthouse, which at one point, was a wonder of the Middle Ages. The last stop was the Alexandria Library; one cannot visit this amazing city and not step foot inside the strikingly beautiful building, which holds over 8 million books, with 200 more being collected every day.

Islamic Cairo Tour: I decided to spend my last day, touring the city’s renowned Islāmic sites. Highlights of which includes Citadel of Salah Ed-Din. Located high atop Cairo, the Citadel boasts magnificent views of the city, the famous Sultan Hassan Mosque, which dates to the 13th century, and considered to be one of the masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture. The Mohamed Ali Mosque, one of Cairo’s most visible landmarks, is not to be missed. The last stop was to the local bazaar, Khan el-Khalili, one of the world’s largest bazaars, dating back to 1382.

I had the most magical time visiting these two wonderful countries, with warm welcoming people, whose only wish was to make sure we had a great time, only asking one thing of us; to be ambassadors and spread the word that the Jordan and Egypt are open for business, and safe to visit. I live in NYC for the time being, and felt ten times safer on my vacation, than I do in NYC!

There are some things to be aware of; in Jordan, your hotel will most likely be near a mosque. Every morning, apart from when we were in the desert, we were awoken at 4:30 am, by the prayer calls.

Egypt’s traffic is not be trifled with, especially in Cairo! When visiting the tourist sites, you’ll be harassed by local vendors, trying to make a living. Tipping is always expected. The men are incredibly flirtatious, I did find this harmless. No one takes stock of the time…if you prepare for your visit, with these caveats in mind, and stay open-minded to having a wonderful time, you will have one of the best vacations of your life.

I’m so grateful that I didn’t let the media influence my decision to visit two incredible countries, meet some amazing people, receive the best customer service I’ve ever had, and form new friendships. I’ll be back to Egypt, as I only scratched the surface of this magical and mythological place.

Jordan and Egypt, tour guides Mohammed, Ahmed, Sherif, Mido, and Dalia, and the people I met in the group I traveled with, thanks for the memories!

I’ve already made plans to travel to South America, India, Nepal, and Iran next year. Life is meant for living. A few years ago, I discovered my passion for travelling, haven’t stop. Have no intention of doing so. If you are planning a visit, or thinking of doing so, and have questions, please either post them below, or send me a message using the contact form above. I’ll be more than happy to help

I’ll be back with my last post of 2018!

Until then, take care of yourselves, and your families.

Best,

Juan

 

 

 

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