Travel has many faces and there are many factors which, when combined, create the perfect trip. Ultimately though it’s all about the experiences, what you see, do and enjoy while on your trip that is most important. I’ve been very fortunate this year to have had the opportunity to do everything from ascending a glacier to black water tubing through a cave with millions of glow worms. As I racked my brain trying to pick my favorite experience of the year, the same image kept coming back and the answer was obvious – Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum is a desert valley cut into the sandstone and granite in south Jordan, just a couple of hours from Petra. The somewhat barren terrain doesn’t do justice to the colorful history this UNESCO World Heritage Site has enjoyed. Most notably the famous T.E. Lawrence used the wadi as a headquarters and much of the film Lawrence of Arabia was actually filmed in the desert. I’ve been to deserts before, but I wasn’t prepared for the soulful journey I would take in this true natural treasure.
It was hot, but thankfully almost time for the sun to set as I climbed into the back of the dusty Toyota truck that would take me on a desert safari. We raced around the valley, stopping to admire soaring canyon walls, centuries old petroglyphs and views that would make even the hardest heart weep.
It was just the four of us, me, my driver, guide and a bedouin who knew the area. After thirty minutes of driving through the sand and only getting stuck once, we stopped at a ridge to watch the colors of the desert change as the sun descended behind the rocks. We talked about life, love and everything in between. Casual comments, but ones tinged with complete honesty and candor. Gone were the fake smiles and pleasantries of the previous week and in their place a true rapport was born of the hot sands. I don’t know what it was about the desert, but it created a sense of camaraderie I wasn’t able to fashion in any other way.
Later that evening I wandered outside my tent at the Bedouin camp, nodded my head to a few guys enjoying rich coffee over a campfire, and walked out to the middle of a vast dry plain. And I looked up. There they were, millions of stars, radiating back down to earth with light incalculably old. In Wadi Rum I could see them all without infringement from modernity. I swiveled and almost lost my balance as I tried feebly to create a lasting image in my brain, fearful that I would forget the magnitude of the moment.
I can’t say that I slept particularly well that night, but it didn’t matter. Those short few hours in the desert had just become my favorite travel experience of the year, and one of the best of my life.
What was your favorite travel experience of the year?