"WHEN I ARRIVED BACK HOME I FELT SO DIFFERENT."
I traveled to Kashmir on my own; the group I was with came on another flight, but for some reason, I didn’t know which flight that was. My friends had all the bookings and knew where we had to go. I got stuck in the airport and I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know what to do. But the people there were super nice, very kind and friendly; because of this, my first impression of this place was amazing. The trip to Kashmir was actually two days, it wasn’t long, but it was very nice, I loved it very much.
While in Kashmir, we met a very nice guy named Shabir, who I still keep contact with. This guy literally hosted us for dinner at his fabric, where they make shawls and other kinds of clothing, he gave us a great discount on small gifts. It turned out he did that for us because, in the past, someone helped him when he was in a similar situation.
I found this really amazing! Kind of like paying it forward. So this really touched me [smiles].
He told us where to go and where not to go. He even made his nephew take us on a trip and they cover the gas and other expenses, basically like tour guides for free. He also planned our whole trip back to New Delhi, so I found this guy and his behavior amazing. This made me a better person, made me be nicer to people not just from Egypt, but anybody around Cairo who needs help getting somewhere.
Everybody felt his kindness, we were all like “this guy is very kind, weird kind” [laughs]. You know it’s becoming weird to be kind because this is not normal anymore. But then it turned out to be that he was kind because he was a kind person.
Despite always being attracted to India, I made this trip for two reasons:
First reason is that since I was a little girl I’ve loved traveling, going to new places and meeting new people. But I have always traveled within Egypt. My parents never had flexible schedules, so we could never do long trips outside Egypt, unless it was for work. So I never travelled for myself. I felt that if I kept on waiting for someone to come with me I would have never left.
So I took the decision that if no one is coming with me, I will just go. I will prepare something somehow and I’ll travel.
The second reason [brief pause] is that I have a hard time being out of my comfort zone [giggles], for real like very hard time. It went to an extent that if I wanted to go on an activity or an event and no one I knew was going, I would just skip it, I won’t feel comfortable going to that event. I felt like this was affecting me.
I don’t want to rely on people to do what I want to do.
Many times I tried to over come this, but at the end of the day the problem was still there, I couldn’t get out of my comfort zone. I even had a hard time socializing. For example, if I was with four people I knew, and another person came that I didn’t know, it’s fine, but if I was that other person coming to this group, it was very uncomfortable for me. This behavior bothered me a lot, because I like being sociable, but I wasn’t sociable. Like, I don’t want to change myself; it’s just that I don’t like feeling uncomfortable if I am not being sociable.
I felt that if I forced myself into such situation, where I would be totally alone with a group of strangers, it could help me. So I took it to the extreme, because I could have actually traveled with my best friend, but then I told her that I want to do this on my own. Because I knew that if she was with me, I would be having my comfort zone with me.
I went with a student organization to do social work with other international students, for 6 weeks. When I got there, there were already projects that had begun, and my group arrived late. I had a hard time with the people I met [laughs]. The people staying in the dorms already had their own group, which left me as an outsider. And as I’ve said I’m not the kind of person that starts being social. I don’t push friendships or relationships.
There was another Egyptian girl named Mai. When we saw each other for the first time we both hugged so hard as if we were best friends. I felt like I knew her for a very long time. To this day, we don’t know why this happened, it was weird, but in a very good way [smiles].
We both felt like, home.
After hugging and speaking for a while we introduced ourselves. This was on the second day, and I felt really strange being there, I guess I was homesick. So you can imagine we became really good friends.
Mai introduced me to the other people of my group, and it was because of her that I started to hang out with them. After that moment I enjoyed myself, whether I was in a conversation with the group or I wasn’t. So when we were all hanging out together, if I was included in the conversation I felt fine, and if I wasn’t I just enjoyed myself walking around, or talking with locals.
I decided to enjoy myself. I wasn’t going to put myself in awkward situations, because that’s what I travelled for, not to be like that. So the solution was to enjoy my own company, that if I started feeling uncomfortable I would just go somewhere else and not think about that. I really enjoyed walking around a new place on my own.
When I arrived back home I felt so different.
I don’t need someone to make me feel comfortable in the place anymore. I don’t have to know people, and I can be comfortable with that, with myself.
I realized that it’s normal to be alone, this is the normal state, is not normal to be around with people all the time, so it’s the opposite, it’s normal to be alone in the world or whatever, and sometimes you are surrounded with people you know.