If you know me well enough, then you know that I don’t take risks. I’m not exactly the brave, daredevil, bungee-jumping type of girl. I’m afraid of heights and flying- which is quite unfortunate, considering I love traveling. Thankfully I’ve come a long way since the summer of 2002, when I literally cried all the way from Cairo to London. The fact that I was howling and reading my Koran at the same time didn’t go down too well with the elderly British couple next to me.
I don’t eat exotic foods (if I can squish it with a flyswatter or make a leather handbag out of it, I’m not eating it), and I don’t dabble in recreational drugs, though I do have a worrying weakness for painkillers and cough syrup (ask me about Toplexil later), and several eyewitnesses can probably testify that they have pretty much the same effect on me as mind-altering substances.
I used to fear cockroaches, especially the flying ones, but if you’re in a family where two out of three will climb on a chair and scream at the cockroach below, someone has to step down and kill it with a slipper. That someone is usually me.
Nonetheless, it’s dawned on me lately that I’ve never been the one to shave my head, get a tattoo, jump off a cliff or dive into the deep unknown (I’m claustrophobic under water, so I don’t scuba dive). If anything, I’ve always been the kind of girl that plays it safe in a boring dependable way, which is sad when you look at my family.
In his youth, my father had quite the reputation for meeting confrontations head on. It’s not that he picked fights; it’s just that his large-as-a-cupboard frame, crushing handshake and could-make-DeNiro-cry glare tended to attract fights to him. Friends would call him for help whenever a fight was going on, and usually he would win. I’m sure he must have lost at least once or twice, but I have yet to meet anyone alive who will attest to that…. My dad’s friends love to tell me stories about him, while he sits blushing slightly, like the one about him playing a volleyball match and disagreeing with the referee, whereupon he slapped the referee so hard that the man went deaf in one ear (myth). Or the one where he got into a fight with a driver on Stanly Corniche, so to make a point he picked up the front of the driver’s car and dragged it for a bit (I’m sure this is a myth; I don’t care if two of his friends swear this happened). My dad had guts; he would literally dive into the deep end and save drowning swimmers from the deceptively strong tides of Agami. Sometimes, he would bring them back alive and other times he wouldn’t; but he had the guts to keep going back.
When she graduated from university, my mother took on a teaching job that took her to different parts of the world every year, from Prague to Belize to Egypt, all on her own with her family left behind. Growing up in a society where it’s completely normally to live with your family till you marry, my mother’s spontaneous adventures through Europe (driving to Greece with a friend in a beaten up car) or her Greyhound journey from the Grand Canyon to New York City with only $40 in her pocket is an adventure that most Egyptians will only dream of or watch in a Julia Roberts movie.
With parents like these, you’d expect me to be a tobacco-chewing, sailor-swearing hippy traveler, and yet I literally hide from confrontations and when I travel, I have an itinerary, budget and every meal, sight and expedition planned down to a T; so that absolutely nothing can go wrong. I am, as one friend called it, ‘an obsessively neat traveler.’
But now that I think about, maybe risks can be taken in different ways. Maybe I’ve never done anything reckless, crazy or highly adventurous before; but I do have courage (surviving breakup, moving across the world, independent woman of substance, blablabla.)
So now, I’m about to embark on a little adventure of my own. A trip to Barcelona and Paris, alone, unplanned, unmapped. Buy a camera, take photos, taste their tapas and cavas by the beach. Sit in La Segrada Familia in silence and sunbathe in the Gaudi Park. Finally make it to Paris; a dream I’ve had ever since I was twelve and watched An American in Paris. Tie a scarf around my neck like Syd Cherisse and sip café au lait by the Rive Gauche. Flirt and cuss in four languages. See the Tour Eiffel at night and walk through Montmartre.
It may be your average vacation, and you may have already been and done that several times before. But to be out of my comfort zone, without my friends, family, maps and itineraries to depend on, takes a lot of guts on my behalf. Perhaps adventures don’t happen to you if you sit around and wait all day. You make your adventures; and I am making mine.