2022: The Year of Travelling Not So Dangerously
I am sitting on the roof terrace of my co-working and co-living hostel in southern Morocco, sipping mint tea. The joyful sounds of children playing football on the narrow streets drift in, and the haunting Adhan – the Islamic call to pubic prayer – is floating in the air. In the distance, the sea sparkles like millions of little diamonds in the brilliant sunshine.
My heart is filled with contentment, joy and gratitude. How lucky I am to be in this wonderful and warm place while London, where I am usually based, is freezing. How lucky I am to be able to travel freely and frequently.
As 2022 comes to the end, I look back to the year and have to congratulate myself. In terms of travel, I have done particularly well: I had 10 trips abroad this year, covering six new countries: Malta, Georgia, Armenia, Gibraltar, Israel and Helsinki!
I started the year in Malta: I took my daughters there for Christmas and the New Year.
At the end of February, I headed to Morocco for a surfing and yoga retreat in a village called Taghazout, where I am currently staying. After everyone left, I travelled around the country on my own and enjoyed the experience immensely.
In April, I travelled to Italy for a week, at first attending a film festival in Pordenone, a small quaint town outside Venice, as a panellist, and then participating in a Sky TV debate about the Ukraine war in front of a large audience in Bari, in southern Italy.
My second trip to Italy, three weeks later, was also a mixture of work and fun. I started in Parma, in the north, then Milan, then Udine for another film festival! After that, I made my way to Tuscany to join a ‘working party’ at an eco wine yard, organized by my Italian journalist friend Pio. I didn’t realize that I was the main speaker at the party/gathering until the day before. All excellent fun!
In June, my twice-delayed trip to Georgia (the country) finally materialized. Like the Moroccan trip, it started off as an organized trip – a hiking trip to the Upper Caucasus Mountains. It was tough: rain, challenging terrain and long hikes, but I loved it.
After that, I travelled around the country on my own, meeting all sorts of fascinating people I have been introduced to. I also hopped over by train to Armenia.
I would say this Georgia and Armenia trip was the highlight of my travel this year. Both countries are fascinating, culturally rich and off-the-beaten-track; people from both countries are very hospitable, and things were not always easy when travelling in those parts of the world. Interestingly, challenges always make the travel more rewarding.
In the summer, I went to Munich for an old friend’s wedding and travelled around southern Germany for a bit, taking advantage of the cheap train deal.
Soon after that, I spent three pleasant weeks in southern Spain, mostly staying with a friend. I did carry on working while away.
I would have content with the amount of travel for the year. However, when an American friend who is based in Amman told me that he might have to move to Africa for another project, I decided to visit him before his move. I also fit in Israel, a country I had long intended to visit.
Then, I realized I still got some airline credit. So I squeezed in a long weekend in Helsinki.
Now, as planned, I am back in Morocco for three weeks. I love to spend the festive season somewhere sunny and warm.
I did travel more than usual in 2022, partly because I am in between book projects.
Where did I get my travel bug? I guess I was beaten by it when I was still stuck at my rocket factory, unable to see the great world beyond. Now I am out of my confinement, I just want to make the most of my freedom.
There is an old Chinese saying: Read ten thousand books and travel ten thousand miles. I love both reading and travelling with equal passion since both are great ways to broaden one’s mind and enrich one’s life. When you travel, you encounter other cultures, which allow you to look at your own with a fresh perspective. And you meet all sorts of interesting people, which is always a source of immense joy for me. Of course, you try new foods when you are abroad, another attraction for a foodie like me. So I guess I’ve become a wanderlust. I love this word – you wander with lust.
The sun is sliding behind the western hills and the air cooler. I am going to join the others to play volleyball on the beach, while watching sunset. I look forward to the New Year and many more new travels!