Last year, when I told a few friends that my family and I were planning on visiting Tunisia, they were sincerely distressed. One of them, who worked for Europe’s Ministry of Defense said, “Honestly, if you actually went there, I would be worried every single day.” When your friend is essentially one of EU’s highest command bodyguards, you have to sit and listen.
My family tried to change plans. Malta? Cyprus? Tibet? After going back and forth, attempting for alternative arrangements but none of them fit our crazy schedules, it was almost as if we were destined for Tunisia this year. Before heading to a country placed as one of the highest on every list of terrorist alert zones, I taught my parents: “If anything happens,” I acted out move by move, “you just stay down and pretend you’re dead already.”
Time to freak out? We left for the airport anyway.
I remember when Charlie Hebdo attack happened ten minutes from where I live, followed by the November attack in Paris that also occurred right down the street; a world citizen’s perspective towards life doesn’t falter to fear, but transforms to fatalism. Not in a bleak, despondent, let-us-all-die-tomorrow kind of way, but rather a pre-destined, horribly designed, everything-happens-for-a-reason kind of way. The latter is good, virtually Buddhist, really. If we all believe that everything happens for a reason, all we’re left with is the attitude to enjoy every moment and live life to the fullest, right?
Thus, we landed in Tunis.
There’s nothing like visiting an Islamic country. Because it’s nothing like what you see on TV. Let’s replace wars, guns, bloodshed with: five prayer calls a day resonating in peace, animal markets where baby goats play with chicks and bunnies, store managers play the bargain game but let you walk away with a whopping 80% discounted jewelries in the end.
The idea isn’t to promote traveling to Islamic countries, because every place in the world is beautiful, you either need to scour the courage or open the perspective to inhale unique experiences. But traveling to Islamic countries, have always been, a splendid surprise.
Just when I thought I needed to prepare for bombs being set off again at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, the walk through opulent rooms filled with massive mosaic art plagued by numerous bullet holes through walls and sculptures was enough to give me chills down my back. Just when I began to doubt the kindness of a perfect stranger in the middle of the Sahara Desert, my parents and I took a giant leap of faith and trusted him to guide us through limitless sands where we gazed at starlight above the tranquil desert night sky. He sang as we listened. He chanted as we knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime hour.
This month, I’ll be sharing more of my journey in Tunisia. Whether the videos and articles inspire you to go, that’s not the question. But do ask yourself, am I afraid? Am I a risk taker? Will I go against everyone’s opinion and do what feels right? Or better yet, will I allow life to happen and accept what IS meant to be?
PS. At this point, many cities in the world are potentially dangerous due to terror alerts. In order to make smart travel decisions, speak to local guides and communicate with your travel agent like we did. Despite owning an adventurous spirit, there’s still something to be said about being safe than sorry.